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poetry. “Romulus was a god, the son of a god, Numa'a man, but connected with superior beings.” And yet in another place he
says that Numa was not a theme of song like Romulus; nor does he, whatever particular expressions may seem to imply, appear to be prepared to deny the existence of either. If the tradition, however, about them both is in all its parts poetical fiction, the fixing the pretended duration of their reigns can only be explained by ascribing it either to mere caprice, or to numerical speculations."
It would not comport with the design of this article to enter upon an examination of the opinions and arguments of those historians whose authority, in connection with that of Niebuhr, has been appealed to in proof of the uncertainty of the early Roman history. Of Niebuhr it may be affirmed that his investigations have not always been able to abide the test of critical examination, and respecting the most distinguished of the other writers he has himself
observed : “ The soul of his book is skepticism : he does nothing but deny and upset.” That much of what is related of the early Roman heroes and events is fabulous no one doubts. It was evidently regarded as such by the most judicious of the ancient historians. That Romulus ascended to beaven on the wings of the lightning, that Numa received divine revelations from a goddess, that Jupiter thundered from the right or left at the bidding of an augur, that an ox spoke, or that a priest cut through a flint-stone with a razor, is of course incredible.*. Such stories evidently originated in that love of the marvellous which is native to the human mind, and which exists in a high degree among every rude and superstitious people. Like other heathen nations, the Romans were disposed to connect their ancestors with the gods, and to ascribe to them supernatural power. But this disposition cannot convert the walls of their city into air, nor annihilate the civil and religious institutions which existed among them, and which can be proved to have descended from the earliest times. The admis
Respecting the credibility of Livy, Müller has the following remark. “The relation of prodigies proves nothing against his judgment: he reports what the ancient world believed, and what he perhaps was willing the Roman people should continue to believe." Allg. Geschichte, I. 182. Heerens Handbuch, 386, 382.
sion of Niebuhr at the commencement of his work, that long before any historical record of particular individuals occurs in those ages,
the forms under which the commonwealth existed may be recognized with certainty, is both true and important. Whatever views may be entertained respecting the early periods of Roman history, there are certain points which cannot be questioned. Rome had a beginning. The city itself
, with its civil and religious institutions, must have had a founder, or founders. The popular belief ascribed the origin of the city and its government to a man by the name of Romulus, while holy Numa was celebrated, first in poetical lays, and then in sober history, as the author of the national religion. If it is contended that the names of those chiefs are not genuine, that the hero who built the walls of the city was not called Romulus, and that his successos neither bore the name of Numna, nor received the additional title of Pompilius on account of the religious processions which he instituted, it may be replied that a name is of small importance. If it is affirmed that no such men existed, still the city and its institutions remain, and neither sprang spontaneously out of the earth. Their existence must be accounted for, and until some more plausible conjecture is started, it is safe to speak of Romulus as the founder of the city, and of Numa as the author of the national religion. Accordingly this has been the practice of the most judicious historians, even of those who have been often skeptical in regard to the narrations of the ancient writers. The following remarks respecting the sources of the first periods of Roman history will commend themselves to the good sense of the reader. “ The earliest history of Rome is as incapable as that of Athens, or of any other city of antiquity, of being reduced to strictly historical truth; since it rests for the most part on traditions which were delivered by the poets and orators. That in connection with fiction they contain also truths, is proved in the clearest manner by the political institutions whose origin they relate, and which reach back with certainty to those times. To wish to draw a well defined boundary line between the mythical and the historical periods, is to misunderstand the nature of mythology.” “The traditions of the fathers were in part preserved in historical songs; (of a larger epic we hear nothing ;) in this sense there existed a poetical history; but the history is by no means on this account to be regarded as merely poetical. Even at so early a period, the traditions respecting the institu
tions of Numa have no poetical characteristics."* For an obvious reason, our brief examination of the Roman history in reference to the subject of discussion, has been commenced with the preceding remarks on the credibility of the scurces from which the earliest portions of that history are drawn. A suspicion that the whole had been founded on a false assumption was certainly to be forestalled or removed.
II. Character of the Early Romans. In all inquiries respecting the character of the early Romans, it is doubtless necessary to make allowance for that veneration for antiquity, and that pride of ancestry, which dispose men to lavish indiscriminate praises on their forefathers. After every reasonable deduction, however, it will still remain a truth as well established as any in history, that under the monarchy and in the first ages of the republic, the Romans were remarkable for their morality. Laudatory as the expression is, it was not without some reason that Ammianus called ancient Rome "the home of all the virtues. The character of the early Romans was almost the very opposite of that of the Greeks, and altogether diverse from the refined degeneracy of the modern Italians. Stern integrity, incorruptible love of justice, simplicity of life, and sincerity of manners—these are the qualities which we admire in the ancestors of Rome. The tribute of Sallust to the fathers of Rome, in which he affirms that in peace and war good morals were cultivated; that justice prevailed among them not so much by means of laws as from natural impulse; that quarrels, discords, and animosities found a place only in
* This writer returns to Niebuhr the compliment on the score of skepticism which the latter had paid to Beaufort. Of Niebuhr's work he remarks : “Rather a critique than a his. tory, with a constant effort to overthrow what had been previously received. Acuteness is not always acute in discern. ing truth (Scharfsinn ist nicht immer Wahrheitsinn); and we do not so readily give credit to a work which is not only opposed to the prevailing view of Antiquity itself ; (occasionally inferences from particular passages do not carry this opposition so far as the general spirit of the work ;) but also, as the author himself confesses, (II. S. 5,) contrary to all analogy in history.” Handbuch, 384.
regard to enemies; that citizens strove with citizens only in virtue ; that frugality, and fidelity to friends reigned at home; and that their magnificence was displayed only in the sacrifices to the gods ;* may perhaps be suspected of having had its origin in love of country, and a natural veneration for his ancestors. But the testimony of Polybius to the excellent character of the Romans is not liable to the same charge. This historian had thoroughly studied the character of the Roman people and the genius of their institutions. It has been affirmed that he understood them both the better for having been obliged to learn them as a foreigner. But however this may be, his judgment respecting them is worthy of the more confidence inasmuch as it was not biassed by the unavoidable partiality of a native. “ Such is the impulse to noble deeds,” says that writer, " and the virtuous emulation, which are produced by the institutions that exist among them. Moreover, in regard to the acquisition of wealth, the manners and customs of the Romans are superior to those of the Carthaginians. For with the latter nothing is base provided it is likely to be attended with gain; whereas in the estimation of the former, nothing is more disgraceful than to receive a bribe, or to acquire property by any unfair means. While they esteem wealth an honor to him who obtains it in a proper way, they consider gain secured by unlawful practices as a reproach. This is proved by the fact that among the Carthaginians offices are obtained by the unconcealed use of bribes, while among the Romans, the penalty for this is death. Since, therefore, different rewards of excellence are proposed by the two nations, it were reasonable to expect that the method of attaining these rewards would likewise be different.”+ The Roman senate was the refuge of nations, the arbitrator of causes, the avenger of wrongs, and the deliverer of the oppressed. “The Holy Spirit,” says Bossuet, “has not disdained to praise, in the book of Maccabees, the distinguished prudence, and vigorous counsels of this wise assembly, in which no one arrogated to himself an authority not warranted by reason, and all whose members labored for the public good without partiality and without jealousy.”! The simplicity ac
* Bell. Cat. § 8. 9.
+ Hist. VI. 54. [ Discours sur L 'Histoire Universelle, II. 269. It is not necessary to quarrel with the bishop respecting the canonical authority of the books of Maccabees; any more than it was
companied by morality, energy and dignity, which characterized the earlier Romans are described by Müller in several passages.*
The tragical story of Lucretia shows clearly what were the early Roman ideas of conjugal fidelity. Matrons enjoyed peculiar honor. According to Plutarch it was two hundred and thirty years before a divorce occurred at Rome. Other writers say five hundred and twenty. The virtues of the Roman women are traced by Plutarch to the regulations of Romulus and Numa. “Romulus also enacted, some laws; amongst the rest that severe one, which forbids the wife in any case to leave her husband, but gives the husband power to divorce his wife, in case of her poisoning his children, or counterfeiting his keys, or being guilty of adultery. But if on any other occasion he put her away, she was to have one moiety of his goods, and the other was to be consecrated to Ceres; and whoever put away his wife was to make an atonement to the gods of the earth.”+ “ But Numa, though he preserved entire to the matrons all the honor and respect that were paid them by their husbands in the time of Romulus, when they endeavored by kindness to compensate for the rape, yet obliged them to behave with great reserve, and to lay aside all impertinent curiosity. He taught them to be sober, and accustomed them to silence, entirely to abstain from wine, I and not to speak even of the most necessary affairs except in the presence of their husbands. When a woman once appeared in the forum to plead her own cause, it is reported that the senate ordered the oracle to be consulted,
for Burke to defend the inspiration of Ecclesiasticus, which he quotes against the French revolutionists on the ground that it furnished at least the authority of “a great deal of sense and truth."
* Allg. Geschichte, I. 177, 178, 240, 241.
I "Romulus made the drinking of wine as well as adultery a capital crime in women. For he said, adultery opens the door to all sorts of crimes, and wine opens the door to adultery. The severity of this law was softened in succeeding ages; the women who were overtaken in liquor were not condemned to die, but to lose their dowers.” To this note of Langhorne add the following: “In the Samnite war wine was still sprin. kled
upon the altars by drops, and Mecianus was not blamed for putting his wife to death because she drank without his knowledge. Müllers Allg. Geschichte, I. 243.