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treatment of early Roman history, though it will be constantly moving, will not advance; it will not be stationary, but neither will it be progressive; it will be unfixed and changeable, but without receiving any improvement; and it will perpetually revolve in the same hopeless circle. Like the search after the philosopher's stone, or the elixir of life, it will be constantly varying its aspect, under the treatment of different professors of the futile science; but truth and certainty, the aim of all rational employment of the intellect, will always be equally distant. Each new system of the early Roman constitution will be only (to use Paley's words) one guess among many; whereas, he alone discovers who proves. There is indeed no doubt that long habit, combined with a happy talent, may enable a person to discern the truth where it is invisible to ordinary minds, possessing no peculiar advantages. (32) This may be observed, not only in historical researches, but in every other department of knowledge. In order, however, that the truth so perceived should recommend itself to the convictions of others, it is a necessary condition that it should admit of proof which they can understand. Newton might have perceived, by a rapid and intuitive sagacity, the connexion between the fall of an apple and the attraction of the earth to the sun; but unless he could have demonstrated that connexion by arguments which were intelligible and satisfactory to the scientific world, his discovery would have been useless, except as a mere suggestion. In like manner, we may rejoice that the ingenuity and learning of Niebuhr should have enabled him to advance many novel hypotheses and conjectures respecting events in the early history, and respecting the form of the early constitution, of Rome.(33) But unless he can support those hypotheses by suf
ille me, cum ejus sententiam exquirerem, quod ego ipse constitueram, ampliandum esse monuit, donec vel reliquæ horum librorum partes vel Livii libri inter primam et tertiam decadem deperditi, vel alia rei expediendæ adjumenta reperiantur.'-Exc. ad Cic. de Rep. p. 535.
(32) See Niebuhr's remarks, Hist. vol. iii. p. 321, and compare vol. i. p. 176.
(33) These are what he calls his discoveries. Thus in the preface to the second volume of his history, he describes his continuous study, for sixteen months, of the early history of the commonwealth, and he
ficient evidence, they are not entitled to our belief. It is not enough for a historian to claim the possession of a retrospective second-sight, which is denied to the rest of the world; of a mysterious doctrine, revealed only to the initiated. Unless he can prove as well as guess; unless he can produce evidence of the fact, after he has intuitively perceived its existence, his historical system cannot be received. The oases of truth which he discerns amidst the trackless expanses of fiction and legend, may be real; but until their existence can be verified by positive testimony, we have no certainty that these 'green spots in memory's waste,' may not be mere mirage and optical delusion. It is an excellence in a historian of antiquity, who has sufficient data to proceed upon, that he should form a vivid conception of the events described; that he should live, as it were, among the persons whose acts he recounts; and that he should carry his reader back into the bygone times in which his drama is placed. On the other hand, it is a fault in the modern writers who first narrated Roman history that they should have related the events as if they had never happened.(34) But when there is a want of solid evidence, we do not render the history true, by treating the events as if they were real.
§ 5 It is therefore proposed, in the following pages, to make a systematic examination of the external evidences of the early Roman history, and to inquire how far the received accounts are supported by the testimony of credible witnesses. It seems to be often believed, and at all events it is perpetually assumed
proceeds thus: My sight grew dim in its passionate efforts to pierce into the obscurity of the subject; and unless I was to send forth an incomplete work, which sooner or later would have had to be wholly remodelled, I was compelled to wait for what time might gradually bring forth. Nor has he been niggardly, but, though slowly, has granted me one discovery after another.'-p. vi. In vol. iii. p. 318, he treats his own historical divination as equivalent to the Greek μαντεία.
(34) Niebuhr, Lect. vol. i. p. 87, remarks, that in Rollin's time, Roman history was written as if its events had in reality never taken place. In Hist. vol. iii. p. 159, he states that his object is to clear up the history of Rome (so far as his powers and the existing resources allow) in such a manner that it may become no less familiar and perceptible than that of modern times, in which we have not lived ourselves. Compare ib. p. 338.
in practice, that historical evidence is different in its nature from other sorts of evidence. Until this error is effectually extirpated, all historical researches must lead to uncertain results. Historical evidence, like judicial evidence, is founded on the testimony of credible witnesses. Unless these witnesses had personal and immediate perception of the facts which they report, unless they saw and heard what they undertake to relate as having happened, their evidence is not entitled to credit. As all original witnesses must be contemporary with the events which they attest, it is a necessary condition for the credibility of a witness that he be a contemporary; though a contemporary is not necessarily a credible witness. Unless therefore a historical account can be traced, by probable proof, to the testimony of contemporaries, the first condition of historical credibility fails. (35)
The notion that the rules of historical evidence are of so pliable a nature as to accommodate themselves to circumstances, has caused a greater laxity to exist with respect to the history of antiquity; inasmuch as its evidence is often imperfect, and derived from traditionary and hearsay sources. This laxity seems to be justified by the doctrine of taking the best evidence which can be obtained; where however that evidence is wholly uncertain, we must be careful not to treat it as certain, because none other can be procured. But whatever may be its origin, a habit of applying different rules of evidence to ancient and modern history, and of having a lax code for the former, and a strict code for the latter, has unquestionably grown up. In sifting the evidence for a modern fact, we proceed with some
(35) Il n'y a pas beaucoup plus de différence entre la fausse monnoie et la bonne qu'entre un témoin qui a ouï dire et un témoin qui a vu.' Bayle, Dict. Drusius. Note Q.-With this passage, the following verse of Plautus corresponds :
'Pluris est oculatus testis unus quam auriti decem.'
An auritus testis in this verse is not an ear-witness, but a person who repeats a story which he has heard, whose evidence is hearsay. Respecting the difference between original and hearsay evidence, and the causes of the inferiority of the latter, see the author's Treatise on the Methods of Observation and Reasoning in Politics,' c. 7, § 3-12, and 19.
approach to judicial strictness; we identify and enumerate the witnesses, we examine their true character, motives, position, and means of information, and we hence estimate their credibility. We scrutinize their respective depositions, leaving as little as possible to conjecture and surmise; and upon the balance of testimonies, so sifted and weighed, we decide the result. But as soon as we enter the region of antiquity, and especially when we ascend to its earlier periods, we discard all these safeguards for historical truth, and we admit the smallest fragment of evidence, anonymous, hearsay, traditionary, written down centuries after the occurrence of the events, by strangers in time and even in nation; testimonies uncertified and unauthenticated, not fulfilling any of the fundamental conditions of credibility; as sufficient to establish the most important facts.
The object of the following inquiry will be to apply to the early Roman history the same rules of evidence which are applied, by common consent, to modern history, and to try it by the tests by which the reality of modern facts is determined. With this view, we shall first endeavour to ascertain the general character of the sources from which the extant narrative of the early centuries of Rome has been derived, and to discover how it came to assume the form in which it has been delivered to modern times. When this part of our task has been accomplished, it will be necessary to proceed one step further, and to examine the extant narrative, in order to try how far its internal character and composition, and its external attestation, agree. It has been truly remarked that a critical inquiry into the credibility of the early Roman history can scarcely be separated from a positive exposition of the facts out of which that history is formed.(36) A detailed examination of the narrative of the early history, such as we have received it, with a constant reference to the principles above set forth, will at least tend to bring the question to a clear and intelligible issue, and to remove the uncertainty in which the student of this period finds
(36) See Schwegler, ib. p. 141.
himself enveloped, amidst conflicting opinions advanced on opposite sides with equal confidence. Even if he should be led at last to the conclusion that historical certainty, for the period in question, is unattainable, he will at least have the satisfaction of avoiding a fruitless search after a non-existent object, and an attempt to discover a treasure which time has already destroyed.