History of the decline and fall of the roman empire edward Gibbon, Esq



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fullius as unhistoric, (vol. ii. p. 78, et seq.,) and he establishes the

principle that the census comprehended all the confederate cities which

had the right of Isopolity.--M.]
[Footnote 24: Appian. de Bell. Civil. l. i. Velleius Paterculus, l. ii.

c. 15, 16, 17.]


[Footnote 25: Maecenas had advised him to declare, by one edict, all his

subjects citizens. But we may justly suspect that the historian Dion was

the author of a counsel so much adapted to the practice of his own age,

and so little to that of Augustus.]

Chapter II: The Internal Prosperity In The Age Of The Antonines.--Part II.
Till the privileges of Romans had been progressively extended to all

the inhabitants of the empire, an important distinction was preserved

between Italy and the provinces. The former was esteemed the centre of

public unity, and the firm basis of the constitution. Italy claimed the

birth, or at least the residence, of the emperors and the senate. [26]

The estates of the Italians were exempt from taxes, their persons from

the arbitrary jurisdiction of governors. Their municipal corporations,

formed after the perfect model of the capital, [261] were intrusted, under

the immediate eye of the supreme power, with the execution of the laws.

From the foot of the Alps to the extremity of Calabria, all the natives

of Italy were born citizens of Rome. Their partial distinctions were

obliterated, and they insensibly coalesced into one great nation, united

by language, manners, and civil institutions, and equal to the weight of

a powerful empire. The republic gloried in her generous policy, and was

frequently rewarded by the merit and services of her adopted sons. Had

she always confined the distinction of Romans to the ancient families

within the walls of the city, that immortal name would have been

deprived of some of its noblest ornaments. Virgil was a native of

Mantua; Horace was inclined to doubt whether he should call himself

an Apulian or a Lucanian; it was in Padua that an historian was found

worthy to record the majestic series of Roman victories. The patriot

family of the Catos emerged from Tusculum; and the little town of

Arpinum claimed the double honor of producing Marius and Cicero, the

former of whom deserved, after Romulus and Camillus, to be styled the

Third Founder of Rome; and the latter, after saving his country from the

designs of Catiline, enabled her to contend with Athens for the palm of

eloquence. [27]
[Footnote 26: The senators were obliged to have one third of their own

landed property in Italy. See Plin. l. vi. ep. 19. The qualification was

reduced by Marcus to one fourth. Since the reign of Trajan, Italy had

sunk nearer to the level of the provinces.]


[Footnote 261: It may be doubted whether the municipal government of the

cities was not the old Italian constitution rather than a transcript

from that of Rome. The free government of the cities, observes Savigny,

was the leading characteristic of Italy. Geschichte des Romischen

Rechts, i. p. G.--M.]
[Footnote 27: The first part of the Verona Illustrata of the Marquis

Maffei gives the clearest and most comprehensive view of the state of

Italy under the Caesars. * Note: Compare Denina, Revol. d' Italia, l.

ii. c. 6, p. 100, 4 to edit.]


The provinces of the empire (as they have been described in the

preceding chapter) were destitute of any public force, or constitutional

freedom. In Etruria, in Greece, [28] and in Gaul, [29] it was the first

care of the senate to dissolve those dangerous confederacies, which

taught mankind that, as the Roman arms prevailed by division, they might

be resisted by union. Those princes, whom the ostentation of gratitude

or generosity permitted for a while to hold a precarious sceptre, were

dismissed from their thrones, as soon as they had per formed their

appointed task of fashioning to the yoke the vanquished nations.

The free states and cities which had embraced the cause of Rome

were rewarded with a nominal alliance, and insensibly sunk into real

servitude. The public authority was every where exercised by the

ministers of the senate and of the emperors, and that authority was

absolute, and without control. [291] But the same salutary maxims of

government, which had secured the peace and obedience of Italy were

extended to the most distant conquests. A nation of Romans was gradually

formed in the provinces, by the double expedient of introducing

colonies, and of admitting the most faithful and deserving of the

provincials to the freedom of Rome.
[Footnote 28: See Pausanias, l. vii. The Romans condescended to restore

the names of those assemblies, when they could no longer be dangerous.]


[Footnote 29: They are frequently mentioned by Caesar. The Abbe Dubos

attempts, with very little success, to prove that the assemblies of Gaul

were continued under the emperors. Histoire de l'Etablissement de la

Monarchie Francoise, l. i. c. 4.]


[Footnote 291: This is, perhaps, rather overstated. Most cities retained

the choice of their municipal officers: some retained valuable

privileges; Athens, for instance, in form was still a confederate city.

(Tac. Ann. ii. 53.) These privileges, indeed, depended entirely on the

arbitrary will of the emperor, who revoked or restored them according to

his caprice. See Walther Geschichte les Romischen Rechts, i. 324--an

admirable summary of the Roman constitutional history.--M.]
"Wheresoever the Roman conquers, he inhabits," is a very just

observation of Seneca, [30] confirmed by history and experience. The

natives of Italy, allured by pleasure or by interest, hastened to enjoy

the advantages of victory; and we may remark, that, about forty years

after the reduction of Asia, eighty thousand Romans were massacred in

one day, by the cruel orders of Mithridates. [31] These voluntary

exiles were engaged, for the most part, in the occupations of commerce,

agriculture, and the farm of the revenue. But after the legions were

rendered permanent by the emperors, the provinces were peopled by a race

of soldiers; and the veterans, whether they received the reward of their

service in land or in money, usually settled with their families in

the country, where they had honorably spent their youth. Throughout the

empire, but more particularly in the western parts, the most fertile

districts, and the most convenient situations, were reserved for the

establishment of colonies; some of which were of a civil, and others of

a military nature. In their manners and internal policy, the colonies

formed a perfect representation of their great parent; and they were

soon endeared to the natives by the ties of friendship and alliance,

they effectually diffused a reverence for the Roman name, and a desire,

which was seldom disappointed, of sharing, in due time, its honors and

advantages. [32] The municipal cities insensibly equalled the rank and

splendor of the colonies; and in the reign of Hadrian, it was disputed

which was the preferable condition, of those societies which had issued

from, or those which had been received into, the bosom of Rome. [33] The

right of Latium, as it was called, [331] conferred on the cities to which

it had been granted, a more partial favor. The magistrates only, at the

expiration of their office, assumed the quality of Roman citizens; but

as those offices were annual, in a few years they circulated round the

principal families. [34] Those of the provincials who were permitted to

bear arms in the legions; [35] those who exercised any civil employment;

all, in a word, who performed any public service, or displayed any

personal talents, were rewarded with a present, whose value was

continually diminished by the increasing liberality of the emperors. Yet

even, in the age of the Antonines, when the freedom of the city had

been bestowed on the greater number of their subjects, it was still

accompanied with very solid advantages. The bulk of the people acquired,

with that title, the benefit of the Roman laws, particularly in the

interesting articles of marriage, testaments, and inheritances; and the

road of fortune was open to those whose pretensions were seconded by

favor or merit. The grandsons of the Gauls, who had besieged Julius

Caesar in Alcsia, commanded legions, governed provinces, and were

admitted into the senate of Rome. [36] Their ambition, instead of

disturbing the tranquillity of the state, was intimately connected with

its safety and greatness.


[Footnote 30: Seneca in Consolat. ad Helviam, c. 6.]
[Footnote 31: Memnon apud Photium, (c. 33,) [c. 224, p. 231, ed Bekker.]

Valer. Maxim. ix. 2. Plutarch and Dion Cassius swell the massacre to

150,000 citizens; but I should esteem the smaller number to be more than

sufficient.]


[Footnote 32: Twenty-five colonies were settled in Spain, (see Plin.

Hist. Nat. iii. 3, 4; iv. 35;) and nine in Britain, of which London,

Colchester, Lincoln, Chester, Gloucester, and Bath still remain

considerable cities. (See Richard of Cirencester, p. 36, and Whittaker's

History of Manchester, l. i. c. 3.)]
[Footnote 33: Aul. Gel. Noctes Atticae, xvi 13. The Emperor Hadrian

expressed his surprise, that the cities of Utica, Gades, and Italica,

which already enjoyed the rights of Municipia, should solicit the title

of colonies. Their example, however, became fashionable, and the empire

was filled with honorary colonies. See Spanheim, de Usu Numismatum

Dissertat. xiii.]


[Footnote 331: The right of Latium conferred an

exemption from the government of the Roman praefect. Strabo states this

distinctly, l. iv. p. 295, edit. Caesar's. See also Walther, p. 233.--M]
[Footnote 34: Spanheim, Orbis Roman. c. 8, p. 62.]
[Footnote 35: Aristid. in Romae Encomio. tom. i. p. 218, edit. Jebb.]
[Footnote 36: Tacit. Annal. xi. 23, 24. Hist. iv. 74.]
So sensible were the Romans of the influence of language over national

manners, that it was their most serious care to extend, with the

progress of their arms, the use of the Latin tongue. [37] The ancient

dialects of Italy, the Sabine, the Etruscan, and the Venetian, sunk into

oblivion; but in the provinces, the east was less docile than the west

to the voice of its victorious preceptors. This obvious difference

marked the two portions of the empire with a distinction of colors,

which, though it was in some degree concealed during the meridian

splendor of prosperity, became gradually more visible, as the shades

of night descended upon the Roman world. The western countries

were civilized by the same hands which subdued them. As soon as the

barbarians were reconciled to obedience, their minds were open to any

new impressions of knowledge and politeness. The language of Virgil

and Cicero, though with some inevitable mixture of corruption, was so

universally adopted in Africa, Spain, Gaul Britain, and Pannonia, [38]

that the faint traces of the Punic or Celtic idioms were preserved

only in the mountains, or among the peasants. [39] Education and study

insensibly inspired the natives of those countries with the sentiments

of Romans; and Italy gave fashions, as well as laws, to her Latin

provincials. They solicited with more ardor, and obtained with more

facility, the freedom and honors of the state; supported the national

dignity in letters [40] and in arms; and at length, in the person of

Trajan, produced an emperor whom the Scipios would not have disowned for

their countryman. The situation of the Greeks was very different from

that of the barbarians. The former had been long since civilized and

corrupted. They had too much taste to relinquish their language, and

too much vanity to adopt any foreign institutions. Still preserving the

prejudices, after they had lost the virtues, of their ancestors, they

affected to despise the unpolished manners of the Roman conquerors,

whilst they were compelled to respect their superior wisdom and power.

[41] Nor was the influence of the Grecian language and sentiments

confined to the narrow limits of that once celebrated country. Their

empire, by the progress of colonies and conquest, had been diffused from

the Adriatic to the Euphrates and the Nile. Asia was covered with Greek

cities, and the long reign of the Macedonian kings had introduced a

silent revolution into Syria and Egypt. In their pompous courts, those

princes united the elegance of Athens with the luxury of the East, and

the example of the court was imitated, at an humble distance, by the

higher ranks of their subjects. Such was the general division of the

Roman empire into the Latin and Greek languages. To these we may add a

third distinction for the body of the natives in Syria, and especially

in Egypt, the use of their ancient dialects, by secluding them from the

commerce of mankind, checked the improvements of those barbarians. [42]

The slothful effeminacy of the former exposed them to the contempt,

the sullen ferociousness of the latter excited the aversion, of the

conquerors. [43] Those nations had submitted to the Roman power, but they

seldom desired or deserved the freedom of the city: and it was remarked,

that more than two hundred and thirty years elapsed after the ruin of

the Ptolemies, before an Egyptian was admitted into the senate of Rome.

[44]
[Footnote 37: See Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 5. Augustin. de Civitate Dei,

xix 7 Lipsius de Pronunciatione Linguae Latinae, c. 3.]
[Footnote 38: Apuleius and Augustin will answer for Africa; Strabo

for Spain and Gaul; Tacitus, in the life of Agricola, for Britain; and

Velleius Paterculus, for Pannonia. To them we may add the language of

the Inscriptions. * Note: Mr. Hallam contests this assertion as regards

Britain. "Nor did the Romans ever establish their language--I know not

whether they wished to do so--in this island, as we perceive by that

stubborn British tongue which has survived two conquests." In his note,

Mr. Hallam examines the passage from Tacitus (Agric. xxi.) to which

Gibbon refers. It merely asserts the progress of Latin studies among the

higher orders. (Midd. Ages, iii. 314.) Probably it was a kind of court

language, and that of public affairs and prevailed in the Roman

colonies.--M.]


[Footnote 39: The Celtic was preserved in the mountains of Wales,

Cornwall, and Armorica. We may observe, that Apuleius reproaches an

African youth, who lived among the populace, with the use of the Punic;

whilst he had almost forgot Greek, and neither could nor would speak

Latin, (Apolog. p. 596.) The greater part of St. Austin's congregations

were strangers to the Punic.]


[Footnote 40: Spain alone produced Columella, the Senecas, Lucan,

Martial, and Quintilian.]


[Footnote 41: There is not, I believe, from Dionysius to Libanus, a

single Greek critic who mentions Virgil or Horace. They seem ignorant

that the Romans had any good writers.]
[Footnote 42: The curious reader may see in Dupin, (Bibliotheque

Ecclesiastique, tom. xix. p. 1, c. 8,) how much the use of the Syriac

and Egyptian languages was still preserved.]
[Footnote 43: See Juvenal, Sat. iii. and xv. Ammian. Marcellin. xxii.

16.]
[Footnote 44: Dion Cassius, l. lxxvii. p. 1275. The first instance

happened under the reign of Septimius Severus.]
It is a just though trite observation, that victorious Rome was herself

subdued by the arts of Greece. Those immortal writers who still command

the admiration of modern Europe, soon became the favorite object of

study and imitation in Italy and the western provinces. But the elegant

amusements of the Romans were not suffered to interfere with their sound

maxims of policy. Whilst they acknowledged the charms of the Greek, they

asserted the dignity of the Latin tongue, and the exclusive use of the

latter was inflexibly maintained in the administration of civil as well

as military government. [45] The two languages exercised at the same time

their separate jurisdiction throughout the empire: the former, as the

natural idiom of science; the latter, as the legal dialect of public

transactions. Those who united letters with business were equally

conversant with both; and it was almost impossible, in any province, to

find a Roman subject, of a liberal education, who was at once a stranger

to the Greek and to the Latin language.
[Footnote 45: See Valerius Maximus, l. ii. c. 2, n. 2. The emperor

Claudius disfranchised an eminent Grecian for not understanding Latin.

He was probably in some public office. Suetonius in Claud. c. 16. *

Note: Causes seem to have been pleaded, even in the senate, in both

languages. Val. Max. loc. cit. Dion. l. lvii. c. 15.--M]
It was by such institutions that the nations of the empire insensibly

melted away into the Roman name and people. But there still remained, in

the centre of every province and of every family, an unhappy condition

of men who endured the weight, without sharing the benefits, of society.

In the free states of antiquity, the domestic slaves were exposed to the

wanton rigor of despotism. The perfect settlement of the Roman empire

was preceded by ages of violence and rapine. The slaves consisted,

for the most part, of barbarian captives, [451] taken in thousands by the

chance of war, purchased at a vile price, [46] accustomed to a life

of independence, and impatient to break and to revenge their fetters.

Against such internal enemies, whose desperate insurrections had more

than once reduced the republic to the brink of destruction, [47] the most

severe [471] regulations, [48] and the most cruel treatment, seemed almost

justified by the great law of self-preservation. But when the principal

nations of Europe, Asia, and Africa were united under the laws of

one sovereign, the source of foreign supplies flowed with much less

abundance, and the Romans were reduced to the milder but more tedious

method of propagation. [481] In their numerous families, and particularly

in their country estates, they encouraged the marriage of their slaves.

[482] The sentiments of nature, the habits of education, and the possession

of a dependent species of property, contributed to alleviate the

hardships of servitude. [49] The existence of a slave became an object of

greater value, and though his happiness still depended on the temper

and circumstances of the master, the humanity of the latter, instead

of being restrained by fear, was encouraged by the sense of his own

interest. The progress of manners was accelerated by the virtue or

policy of the emperors; and by the edicts of Hadrian and the Antonines,

the protection of the laws was extended to the most abject part of

mankind. The jurisdiction of life and death over the slaves, a power

long exercised and often abused, was taken out of private hands, and

reserved to the magistrates alone. The subterraneous prisons were

abolished; and, upon a just complaint of intolerable treatment, the

injured slave obtained either his deliverance, or a less cruel master.

[50]
[Footnote 451: It was this which rendered the wars so sanguinary,

and the battles so obstinate. The immortal Robertson, in an excellent

discourse on the state of the world at the period of the establishment

of Christianity, has traced a picture of the melancholy effects of

slavery, in which we find all the depth of his views and the strength of

his mind. I shall oppose successively some passages to the reflections

of Gibbon. The reader will see, not without interest, the truths which

Gibbon appears to have mistaken or voluntarily neglected, developed by

one of the best of modern historians. It is important to call them to

mind here, in order to establish the facts and their consequences with

accuracy. I shall more than once have occasion to employ, for this

purpose, the discourse of Robertson. "Captives taken in war were, in all

probability, the first persons subjected to perpetual servitude; and,

when the necessities or luxury of mankind increased the demand for

slaves, every new war recruited their number, by reducing the vanquished

to that wretched condition. Hence proceeded the fierce and desperate

spirit with which wars were carried on among ancient nations. While

chains and slavery were the certain lot of the conquered, battles were

fought, and towns defended with a rage and obstinacy which nothing but

horror at such a fate could have inspired; but, putting an end to the

cruel institution of slavery, Christianity extended its mild influences

to the practice of war, and that barbarous art, softened by its humane

spirit, ceased to be so destructive. Secure, in every event, of personal

liberty, the resistance of the vanquished became less obstinate, and the

triumph of the victor less cruel. Thus humanity was introduced into the

exercise of war, with which it appears to be almost incompatible; and it

is to the merciful maxims of Christianity, much more than to any other

cause, that we must ascribe the little ferocity and bloodshed which

accompany modern victories."--G.]


[Footnote 46: In the camp of Lucullus, an ox sold for a drachma, and a

slave for four drachmae, or about three shillings. Plutarch. in Lucull.

p. 580. * Note: Above 100,000 prisoners were taken in the Jewish

war.--G. Hist. of Jews, iii. 71. According to a tradition preserved by S.

Jerom, after the insurrection in the time of Hadrian, they were sold as

cheap as horse. Ibid. 124. Compare Blair on Roman Slavery, p. 19.--M.,

and Dureau de la blalle, Economie Politique des Romains, l. i. c. 15.

But I cannot think that this writer has made out his case as to the

common price of an agricultural slave being from 2000 to 2500 francs,

(80l. to 100l.) He has overlooked the passages which show the ordinary

prices, (i. e. Hor. Sat. ii. vii. 45,) and argued from extraordinary and

exceptional cases.--M. 1845.]


[Footnote 47: Diodorus Siculus in Eclog. Hist. l. xxxiv. and xxxvi.

Florus, iii. 19, 20.]


[Footnote 471: The following is the example: we shall see whether the word

"severe" is here in its place. "At the time in which L. Domitius was

praetor in Sicily, a slave killed a wild boar of extraordinary size. The

praetor, struck by the dexterity and courage of the man, desired to see

him. The poor wretch, highly gratified with the distinction, came to



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