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what this strange event portended to the city. Nay, what is recorded of a few infamous women is proof of the obedience and meekness of the Roman matrons in general. For as our historians give us an account of those who first carried war into the bowels of their country, or against their brothers, or were guilty of parricide; so the Romans relate that Spurius Carvilius was the first among them that divorced his wife, when no such thing had happened before for two hundred and thirty years from the building of Rome: and that Thalaea, the wife of Pinarius, was the first that quarrelled, having a dispute with her mother-in-law Gegania, in the reign of Tarquin the Proud. So well framed for the preserving of decency and a propriety of behavior were this lawgiver's regulations with respect to marriage.” “Yet farther, Numa's strictness as to virgins tended to form them to that modesty which is the ornament of their sex."*
In connection with the domestic virtues resulting from the family institutions of the Romans may be mentioned the absence of a heinous crime, examples of which are not uncommon in almost every other. To the crime of parricide Romulus appointed no punishment, because, as Plutarch affirms,t he called all murder parricide, and regarded the murder of a parent by his child as impossible. And in fact no instance of the kind occurred at Rome for nearly six hundred years. Of the specific virtues which contributed to the prevalence of general morality among the early Romans, none was more important than that sacred regard for the preservation of public and private faith, especially for the solemn obligations of an oath, for which that people were distinguished. Its salutary influence was felt in all the relations of private life, and in all the affairs of state. To say nothing of the many illustrious examples of individual fidelity, and of the punishment not only of perjury, but even of an artful evasion of the real meaning of a contract, two or three instances of a more general character will show the hold which this feeling had on the public mind. At one time, in the midst of a sedition, the army having determined not to follow the Consuls, proposed to kill them in order to free themselves from the oath by which they were bound to obey them, and were only prevented by being shown that it
* Comparison of Lycurgus and Numa.
was not by a crime that they could expect to rid themselves of the obligations which an oath imposed.* At another time, when the troops had mutinously refused to pursue the flying enemy, Fabius persisted in his determination not to lead them to the conflict, for which they were afterwards clamorous, till they had first sworn to leave the field of battle victorious. “Once in the field,” said he," the soldiers have failed in their duty to the Roman Consul; their obligations to the gods they will never violate.”+ “We have no need of a levy," said the Consul Quinctius, who had been elected in the room of Valerius slain in battle, “ since, at the time when P. Valerius armed the people for the recovery of the capital, they all took the oath that they would assemble at the coinmand of the Consul, and would not depart without his order. We decree, therefore, that all who took the oath appear in arms to-morrow at the lake Regillus.” In vain the tribunes urged that the people were absolved from the oath, since Valerius was dead, and Quinctius, now in his place, was then only a private man. The consciences of the people were not to be so satisfied. For that disregard of the gods, which Livy testifies prevailed in his own time, had not yet commenced; nor had they yet learned by ingenious devices, and verbal quibbles, to shun the performance of the thing promised. So great was the force of the early institutions, and so permanent the habits resulting from them, that even in the midst of the corruptions of later times which had overthrown the republic and were ruining the empire, the oath, always the nerve of the military discipline, is called by the Emperor Maximus, in his address to the army, " the sacred mystery of the Roman government." Without accumulating a redundancy of evidence in favor of the early Romans, the testimony may be closed with the following tribute to those stern prototypes of the Puritans. “ The austere frugality of the ancient republicans, their carelessness about the
* Liv. II. 32.
+ Consulem Romanum miles semel in acie fefellit, Deos nunquam fallet." Ib. II. 45.
# Sed nondum haec, quae nunc tenet seculum negligentia Deùm venerat : nec interpretando sibi quisque jusjurandum et leges aptas faciebat ; sed suas potius mores ad eos accom. modabat. Ib. III. 20.
και φυλασσοντές τον στρατιωτικον όρκον ός έστι της Ρωμαίων αρχής σεμνον μυστήριον.
possession and the pleasures of wealth, the strict regard for law among the people, their universal steadfast loyalty during the happy centuries when the constitution, after the pretensions of the aristocracy had been curbed, was flourishing in its full perfection—the sound feeling which never amid internal discord allowed of an appeal to foreign interference the absolute empire of the laws and customs, and the steadiness with which, nevertheless, whatever in them was no longer expedient was amended—the wisdom of the constitution, and of the laws-the ideal perfection of fortitude realized in the citizens and in the state--all these qualities unquestionably excite a feeling of reverence, which cannot be equally awakened by the contemplation of any other people. Theirs was no state of unnatural constraint, such as existed under the laws of Sparta, where, in the opinion of other Greeks, the contempt of death was natural, because death burst an intolerable yoke: it was a system, on the contrary, which fostered a rich growth of true individual happiness, of manly enjoyment free from sensuality. Other constitutions, perhaps no less perfect, produce a less imposing effect upon us from the honor they pay to wealth : nations of manifold capacities and buoyant spirit cannot escape faults, from which singleness of aim is the only preservative: and in the events of times past we are more sensible of faults than of deficiencies. Thus it is quite natural, that, even setting aside the splendor wherewith power and victories are always surrounded, we should look up admiringly to the Romans of the good times of the republic."* It is undoubtedly true, as the same writer affirms, that the virtues of the early Romans were carried to excess. Strength of development was a prominent characteristic of their moral qualities. Hence their bravery bordered on presumption, their frugality on parsimony, and their temperance on the extreme of rigorous self-derial. They were just even to severity, and their piety was ready to degenerate into superstition. Their faults too, as might be expected of such a people
, were strongly marked. But their virtues were virtues still. They were noble qualities, which, clustering as they did in masculine beauty and strength around the Roman character, imparted to it a dignified and commanding excellence. When it is asserted that these virtues prepared the way for their own destruction, more is said than can be proved. The Roman
* Niebuhr's Rome, p. XXII.
virtues remained while the causes which produced them continued to operate ; when these causes were removed, it was a matter of course that the effects which had followed from them should cease.
III. Source of the Roman virtues. When effects like those which have been pointed out are contemplated, it is natural to ask for their origin. What gave to the Roman character that strength and vigor whose stern and rugged features during the prosperous days of the republic everywhere appear? From what source did the Roman institutions derive whatever of superiority they possessed? Was it from the diffusion of knowledge among the people? Was the foundation of Roman greatness laid in a superior system of common school education ? That the virtues which adorned the Roman character were not produced, fostered, and perfected by a well digested scheme of intellectual instruction accompanied by lectures on moral philosophy is certain, because at Rome no such system existed. The Romans were never distinguished for their love of learning, and in those periods of their history when the people were most virtuous, they were not instructed even in the rudiments of science. Plutarch blames Numa for making no provision for the education of children. According to that writer the object of this prince was to change the fierce
and warlike disposition of the people, and to induce them to live in a state of peace. But whatever good effects his institutions may have had, this primary object of the lawgiver was not accomplished. The failure, his biographer thinks, was occasioned by the want of a thorough system of general education.* It is true, that as the extent, the power, and the
"" However, in the education of the boys, in the regulation of their classes, and laying down the whole method of their exercises, their diversions, and their eating at a common table, Lycurgus stands distinguished, and leaves Numa only upon a level with ordinary lawgivers. For Numa left it to the option or convenience of parents to bring up their sons to agriculture, to ship-building, to the business of a brazier, or the art of a musician. As if it were not necessary for one design to run through the education of them all, and for each individual to have the same bias given him ; but as if they were all like
wealth of the republic were increased, the subject of education, as was natural, attracted more and more attention. In the number and the intellectual qualifications of teachers there was a great advance, and useful information became more generally diffused.
But it must be remembered that the virtuous habits of the Romans were established, and the foundations of their empire laid, long before any considerable amount of knowledge existed in the nation. It was therefore neither to the cultivation of the arts and sciences by the higher classes, nor to the general diffusion of knowledge by means of popular education, that this noble people were indebted for their moral greatness, and their political supremacy. To what then shall the superiority of their character, with its magnificent results, be traced ? It is not enough to say with Niebuhr_that Roman greatness was owing for the most part to fate. For, the nobleness of the Roman character, the integrity, the fidelity, the patriotism, the general morality which prevailed in the early periods of the republic, are not to be resolved, any more than other effects, into the absolute sovereignty of God. Indeed the same writer remarks, that one great object of Polybius in composing his history was to convince the Greeks that the greatness of Rome was not founded on any fatality, but was the result of wise institutions, and a noble character. Shall we then suppose with De Pauw,* that the chief source of the prosperity of Rome was the Grecian
passengers in a ship, who, coming each from a different employment and with a different intent, stand upon their common defence in time of danger, merely out of fear for themselves or their property, and on other occasions are attentive only to their private ends. In such a case common legislators would have been excusable, who might have failed through ignorance or want of power ; but should not so wise a man as Numa, who took upon him the government of a state so lately formed, and not likely to make the least opposition to any thing he proposed, have considered it his first care, to give the children such a bent of education, and the youth such a mode of exercise, • as would prevent any great difference or confusion in their manners, that so they might be formed from their infancy, and persuaded to walk together, in the same paths of virtue ?" Comparison of Numa and Lycurgus.
Recherches Philosophiques sur les Grecs, II. 65.