A History of Roman Literature - From the Earliest Period to the Death of Marcus Aurelius
by Charles Thomas Cruttwell
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The position of Seneca, both as a philosopher and as a man of letters, is extremely important, and claims attentive consideration in both these relations. As a philosopher he is usually called a Stoic. In one sense this appellation is correct. When he places himself under any banner it is always that of Zeno. Nevertheless it would be a great error to regard him as a Stoic in the sense in which Brutus, Cato, and Thrasea, were Stoics. Like all the greatest Roman thinkers he was an Eclectic; he belonged in reality to no school. He was the successor of such men as Scipio, Ennius, and Cicero, far more than of the rigid thinkers of the Porch. He himself says, "Nullius nomen fero." [6] The systematic teachers of the Roman school, as distinct from those who were rather patriots than philosophers, had become more and more liberal in their speculative tenets, more and more at one upon the great questions of practice. Since the time of Cicero philosophic thought had been flowing steadily in one direction. It had learnt the necessity of appealing to men's hearts rather than convincing their intellects. It had become a system of persuasion. Fabianus was the first who clearly proposed to himself, as an end, to gain over the affections or to arouse the conscience. He was succeeded, under Tiberius, by Sotion the Pythagorean and Attalus the Stoic, [7] of both of whom Seneca had been an ardent pupil. Demetrius the Cynic, in a ruder way, had worked for the same object. [8] In this gradual convergence of diverse schools metaphysics were necessarily put aside, and ethics occupied the first and only place. Each school claimed for itself the best men of all schools. "He is a Stoic," [9] says Seneca, "even though he denies it." The great conclusions of abstract thought brought to light in Greece were now to be tested in their application to life. "The remedies of the soul have been discovered long ago; it is for us to learn how to apply them." Such is the grand text on which the system of Seneca is a comment. This system demands, above all things, a knowledge of the human heart. And it is astonishing how penetrating is the knowledge that Seneca displays. His varied experience opened to him many avenues of observation closed to the majority. His very position, as at once a great statesman and a great moralist, naturally attracted men to him. And he used his opportunities with signal adroitness. But his ability was not the only reason of this peculiar insight. Cicero was as able; but Cicero had it not. His thoughts were occupied with other questions, and do not penetrate into the recesses of the soul. The reason is to be found in the circumstances of the time. For a man to succeed in life under a regime of mutual distrust, which he himself bitterly compares to the forced friendship of the gladiatorial school, a deep study of character was indispensable. Wealth could no longer be imported: [10] it could only be redistributed. To gain wealth was to despoil one's neighbour. And the secret of despoiling one's neighbour was to understand his weakness: if possible, to detect his hidden guilt. Not Seneca only but all the great writers of the Empire show a marked familiarity with the pathology of mind.

Seneca tells us that he loves teaching above all things else; that if he loves knowledge it is that he may impart it. [11] For teaching there is one indispensable prerequisite, and two possible domains. The prerequisite is certainty of one's self, the domains are those of popular instruction and of private direction. Seneca tries first of all to ensure his own conviction. "Not only," he says, "do I believe all I say, but I love it." [12] He tries to make his published teachings as real as possible by assuming a conversational tone. [13] They have the piquancy, the discursiveness, the brilliant flavour of the salon. They recall the converse of those gifted men who pass from theme to theme, throwing light on all, but not exhausting any. But Seneca is the last man to assume the sage. Except pedantry, nothing is so alien from him as the assumption of goodness. "When I praise virtue do not suppose I am praising myself, but when I blame vice, then believe that it is myself I blame." [14]

Thus confident but unassuming, he proceeds to the communication of wisdom. And of the two domains, while he acknowledges both to be legitimate, [15] he himself prefers the second. He is no writer for the crowd; his chosen audience is a few selected spirits. To such as these he wished to be director of conscience, guide, and adviser in all matters, bodily as well as spiritual. This was the calling for which, like Fenelon, he felt the keenest desire, the fullest aptitude. We see his power in it when we read his Consolations; we see the intimate sympathy which dives into the heart of his friend. In the letters to Lucilius, and in the Tranquillity of the Soul, this is most conspicuous. Serenus had written complaining of a secret unhappiness or malady, he knew not which, that preyed upon his mind and frame, and would not let him enjoy a moment's peace. Seneca analyses his complaint, and expounds it with a vivid clearness which betrays a first-hand acquaintance with its symptoms. If to that anguish of a spirit that preys on itself could be added the pains of a yearning unknown to antiquity, we might say that Seneca was enlightening or comforting a Werther or a Rene. [16]

Seneca's object, therefore, was remedial; to discover the malady and apply the restorative. The good teacher is artifex vivendi. [17] He does not state principles, he gives minute precepts for every circumstance of life. Here we see casuistry entering into morals, but it is casuistry of a noble sort. To be effective precepts must be repeated, and with every variety of statement. "To knock once at the door when you come at night is never enough; the blow must be hard, and it must be seconded. [18] Repetition is not a fault, it is a necessity." Here we see the lecturer emphasising by reiteration what he has to say.

And what has he to say? His system taken in its main outlines is rigid enough; the quenching of all emotion, the indifference to all things external, the prosecution of virtue alone, the mortification of the body and its desires, the adoption of voluntary poverty. These are views not only severe in themselves, but views which we are surprised to see a man like Seneca inculcate. The truth is he does not really inculcate them. In theory rigid, his system practises easily. It is more full of concessions than any other system that was ever broached. It is the inevitable result of an ambitious creed that when applied to life it should teem with inconsistencies. Seneca deserves praise for the conspicuous cleverness with which he steers over such dangerous shoals. The rigours of "virtue unencumbered" might be preached to a patrician whose honoured name made obscurity impossible; but as for the freedmen, capitalists, and nouveaux riches [19] of all kinds, who were Seneca's friends, if poverty was necessary for virtue, where would they be? Their greatness was owing solely to their wealth. Thus he wisely offered them a more accommodating doctrine, viz., that riches being indifferent need not be given up, that the good rich man differs from the bad in spirit, not in externals, &c., palliatives with which we are all familiar. To take another instance. The Stoic system forbade all emotion. Yet we find the philosopher weeping for his wife, for his child, for his slave. But he was far too sensible not to recognise the nobleness of such expressions of feeling; so he contents himself with saying "indulgeantur non imperentur." [20]

In reading the letters we are struck by the continual reference to the insecurity of riches, the folly of fearing death, torture, or infamy, and are tempted to regard these as mere commonplaces of the schools. They had, however, a melancholy fitness at the time they were uttered, which we, fortunately, cannot realise. A French gentleman, quoted by Boissier, [21] declared that he found the moral letters tedious until the reign of terror came; that then, being in daily peril of his life, he understood their searching power. At the same time this power is not consistent; the vacillation of the author's mind communicates itself to the person addressed, and the clear grasp of a definite principle which lent such strength to Zeno and the early Stoics is indefinitely diluted in the far more eloquent and persuasive reflections of his Roman representative.

Connected with the name of Seneca is a question of surpassing interest, which it would be unjust to our readers to pass entirely by. We allude to the belief universal in the Church from the time of Jerome until the sixteenth century, and in spite of strong disproof, not yet by any means altogether given up, that Seneca was personally acquainted with St. Paul, [22] and borrowed some of his noblest thoughts from the Apostle's teaching. The first testimony to this belief is given by Jerome, [23] who assigns, as his sole and convincing reason for naming Seneca among the worthies of the Church that his correspondence with Paul was extant. This correspondence, which will be found in Haase's edition of the philosopher, is now admitted on all hands to be a forgery. But we might naturally ask; Does it not point to an actual correspondence which is lost, the traditional remembrance of which gave rise to its later fictitious reproduction? To this the answer must be: Jerome knew of no such early tradition. All he knew was that the letters existed, and on their existence, which he did not critically investigate, he founded his claim to admit Seneca within the Church's pale.

The problem is by no means so simple as it appears. It involves two separate questions: first, a historical one which has only an antiquarian interest, Did the philosopher know the Apostle? secondly, a more important one for the history of religious thought, Do Seneca's writings contain matter which could have come from no source but the teaching of the first Christians.

As regards the first question, the arguments on both sides are as follows:—On the one hand, Gallio, who saw Paul at Corinth, was Seneca's brother, and Burrus, the captain of the praetorian cohort, before whom he was brought at Rome, was Seneca's most intimate friend. What so likely as that these men should have introduced their prisoner to one whose chief object was to find out truth? Again, there is a well authenticated tradition that Acte, once the concubine of Nero, [24] and the only person who was found to bury him, was a convert to the Christian faith; and if converted, who so likely to have been her converter as the great Apostle? Moreover, in the Epistle to the Philippians, St. Paul salutes "them that are of Caesar's household," and it is thought that Seneca may here be specially intended. On the other side it is argued that the phrase, "Caesar's household," can only refer to slaves and freedmen: to apply it to a great magistrate at a time when as yet noblemen had not become body- servants or grooms of the chamber to the monarch, would have been nothing short of an insult; that Seneca, if he had heard of Paul or of Paul's Master, would naturally have mentioned the fact, communicative as he always is; that fear of persecution certainly need not have restrained him, especially since he rather liked shocking people's ideas than otherwise; that everywhere he shows contempt and nothing but contempt for the Jews, among whom as yet the Christians were reckoned; in short, that he appears to know nothing whatever of Christians or their doctrines.

As to this latter point there is room for difference of opinion. It is by no means clear that Christianity was unknown to the court in Nero's reign. We find in Suetonius [25] a notice to the effect that Claudius banished the Jews from Rome for a sedition headed by Chrestus. How Suetonius knew well enough that Christus, not Chrestus, was the name of the Founder of the new religion; it is therefore reasonable to suppose that in this passage he is quoting from a police-magistrate's report dating from the time of Claudius. Again, it is certain that under Nero the Christians were known as an unpopular sect, on whom he might safely wreak his mock vengeance for the burning of the city; and it is equally certain that his abominable cruelty excited a warm sympathy among the people for the persecuted. [26] The Jews were well known; hundreds practised their ceremonies in secret; even as early as Horace [27] we know that Sabbaths were kept, and the Mosaic doctrines taught to noble men and women. The penalties inflicted on these innocent victims must have been at least talked of in Rome, and it is more than probable that Seneca must have been familiar with the name of the despised sect. [28] So far, therefore, we must leave the question open, only stating that while the balance of probability is decidedly against Seneca's having had any personal knowledge of the Apostle, it is in favour of his having at least heard of the religion he represented.

With regard to the second question, whether Seneca's teaching owes anything to Christianity, we must first observe, that philosophy to him was altogether a question of practice. Like all the other thinkers of the time he cared nothing for consistency of opinion, everything for impressiveness of application. He was Stoic, Platonist, Epicurean, as often as it suited him to employ their principles to enforce a moral lesson. Thus in his Naturales Quaestiones, [29] where he has no moral object in view, he speaks of the Deity as Mens Universi, or Natura ipsa, quite in accordance with Stoic pantheism. But in the letters to Lucilius, which are wholly moral, he uses the language of religion: "The great soul is that which yields itself up to God;" [30] "All that pleases Him is good;" [31] "He is a friend never far off;" [32] "He is our Father;" [33] "It is from Him that great and good resolutions come;" [34] "He is worshipped and loved;" [35] "Prayer is a witness to His care for us." [36] There is no doubt in these passages a strong resemblance to the teaching of the New Testament. There are other points of contact hardly less striking. The Stoic doctrine of the soul affirms the cessation of existence after death. So Zeno taught; but Chrysippus allowed the souls of the good an existence until the end of the world, and Cleanthes extended this privilege to all souls alike. Seneca sometimes speaks as a Stoic, [37] and denies immortality: sometimes he admits it as an ennobling belief; [38] sometimes he declares it to be his own conviction, [39] and uses the beautiful expression, so common in Christian literature, that the day of death is the birth-day of eternity. [40] The coincidence, if it is nothing more than a coincidence, is marvellous. But before assuming any closer connection we must take these passages with their respective contexts, and with the principles which, whether consistently maintained or not, undoubtedly underlie his whole teaching. We must remember that if Seneca had known the Gospel, the day he first heard of it must have been an epoch in his life. [41] And yet we meet with no allusion which could be construed into an admission of such a debt. And besides, the expressions in question do not all belong to one period of the philosopher's life; they occur in his earliest as well as in his latest compositions, though doubtless far more frequently in the latter. Hence we may explain them partly by the natural progress in enlightenment and gentleness during the century from Cicero to Seneca, and partly also by the moral development of the philosopher himself. [42] Resemblances of terms, however striking, must not count for more than they are worth. It is more important to ask whether the spirit of Seneca's teaching is at all like that of the Gospel. Are his ideas Christian? We meet with strong recommendations to charity, kindness, benevolence. To a splenetic acquaintance, out of humour with the world, he cries out, ecquando amabis? "When will you learn to love?" [43] But with him charity is not an end; it is but a means to fortify the sage, to render him absolutely self-sufficient. Egoism is at the bottom of this high precept; [44] and this at once removes it from the Christian category. And the same is true of his account of the wise man's relations to God. They are based on pride, not humility; they make him an equal, not a servant, of the Deity: Sapiem cum dis ex pari trivit; [45] and again, Deo socius non supplex. [46] Nothing could be further from the New Testament than this. If therefore Seneca borrowed anything from Christianity, it was the morality, not the doctrines, that he borrowed. But this is no sooner stated than it is seen to be altogether inconceivable. To suppose that he took from it precepts of life and neglected the higher truths it announced, is to regard him as foolish or blind. With his intense yearning to penetrate to the mysteries of our being, it is impossible that the only solution of them offered as certain to the world should have been neglected by him as not worth a thought. [47]

We therefore conclude that Seneca received no assistance from the preachers of the new religion, that his philosophy was the natural development of the thoughts of his predecessors in a mind at once capacious and smitten with the love of virtue. He cannot be regarded as an isolated phenomenon; he was made by the ages, as he in his turn helped to make the ages that followed; and if we possessed the writings of those intermediate thinkers who busily wrought among the citizens of Rome, striving by persuasion, precept, and example, to wean them from their sensuality and violence, we should probably see in Seneca's thoughts a less astounding individuality than we do.

It has often been said that he prepared the way for Christianity. But even this is hard to defend. In his enunciation of the brotherhood of man, [48] of the unholiness of war, [49] of the sanctity of human life, [50] of the rights of slaves, [51] and their claims to our affection, [52] in his reprobation of gladiatorial shows, he holds the place of a moral pioneer, the more honourable, since none of those before him, except Cicero, had had largeness of heart enough to recognise these truths. By his fierce attacks on paganism, [53] for which (not being a born Roman) he has no sympathy and no mercy, he did good service to the pure creed that was to follow. By his contempt of science, [54] in which he asserts we can never be more than children, he paved the way for a recognition of the supremacy of the moral end; but at the same time his own mind is sceptical quite as much as it is religious. He resembles Cicero far more than Virgil. The current after Augustus ran towards belief and even credulity. Seneca arrests rather than forwards it. His philosophy was the proudest that ever boasted of its claims, "Promittit ut parem Deo faciat." [55] His popularity was excessive, especially with the young and wealthy members of the new nobility of freedmen. The old Romans avoided him, and his great successors in philosophy, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, never even mention his name.

As a man of letters Seneca wielded an incalculable influence. What Lucan did for poetry, he did for prose, or rather, he did far more; while Lucan never superseded Virgil as a model except for expression, Seneca not only superseded Cicero, but set the style in which every succeeding author either wrote, tried to write, or tried not to write. To this there is one exception—the younger Pliny. But Florus, Tacitus, Pliny the elder, and Curtius, are deeply imbued with his manner and style. Quintilian, though anxiously eschewing all imitation of him, continually falls into it; there was a charm about those short, incisive sentences which none who had read them could resist; as Tacitus well says, there was in him ingenium amoenum et temporis eius auribus accommodatum. It is in vain that Quintilian goes out of his way to bewail his broken periods, his wasted force, his sweet vices. The words of Seneca are like those described in Ecclesiastes, "they are as goads or as nails driven in." There is no possibility of missing their point, no fear of the attention not being arrested. If he repeats over and over again, that is after all a fault that can be pardoned, especially when each repetition is more brilliant than its predecessor. And considering the end he proposed to himself, viz., to teach those who as yet were "novices in wisdom," we can hardly regard such a mode of procedure as beside the mark. Where it fails is in what touches Seneca himself, not in what touches the reader. It is a style which does injustice to its author's heart. Its glitter strikes us as false because too brilliant to be true; a man in earnest would not stop to trick his thoughts in the finery of rhetoric; here as ever, the showy stands for the bad. We do not intend to defend the character of the man; if style be the true reflex of the soul, as in all great writers without doubt it is, we allow that Seneca's style shows a mind wanting in gravity, that is, in the highest Roman excellence. His is the bright enthusiasm of display, not the steady one of duty; but though it be lower it need not be less real. There are warriors who meet their death with a song and a gay smile; there are others who meet it with stern and sober resolve. But courage calls both her children. Christian Europe has been kinder and juster to Seneca than was pagan Rome. Rome while she copied, abused him. Neither as Spaniard nor as Roman can he claim the name of sage. The higher philosophy is denied to both these nations. But in brilliancy of touch, in delicious abandon of sparkling chat, all the more delightful because it does us good in genial human feeling, none the less warm, because it is masked by quaint apophthegms and startling paradoxes, Seneca stands facile princeps among the writers of the Empire. His works are a mine of quotation, of anecdote, of caustic observations on life. In no other writer shall we see so speaking a picture of the struggle between duty and pleasure, between virtue and ambition; from no other writer shall we gain so clear an insight into the hopes, fears, doubts, and deep, abiding dissatisfaction which preyed upon the better spirits of the age.




We have dwelt fully on Seneca because he is of all the Claudian writers the one best fitted to appear as a type of the time. There were, however, several others of more or less note who deserve a short notice. There is the historian DOMITIUS CORBULO, [1] who wrote under Caligula (39 A.D.) a history of his campaigns in Asia, and to whom Pliny refers as an authority on topographical and ethnographical questions. He was executed by Nero (67 A.D.) and his wealth confiscated to the crown.

Another historian is QUINTUS CURTIUS, whose date has been disputed, some placing him as early as Augustus, in direct contradiction to the evidence of his style, which is moulded on that of Seneca, and of his political ideas, which are those of hereditary monarchy. Others again place him as late as the time of Severus, an opinion to which Niebuhr inclined. But it is more probable that he lived in the time of Claudius and the early years of Nero. [2] His work is entitled Historiae Alexandri Magni, and is drawn from Clitarchus, Timagenes, and Ptolomaeus. It consisted of ten books, of which all but the first two have come down to us. He paid more attention to style than matter, showing neither historical criticism nor original research, but putting down everything that looked well in the relating, even though he himself did not believe it.

Spain was at this time very rich in authors. For more than half a century she gave the Empire most of its greatest names. The entire epoch has been called that of Spanish Latinity. L. JUNIUS MODERATUS COLUMELLA was born at Gades, probably [3] near the beginning of our era. His grandfather was a man of substance in that part of the province, and a most successful farmer; it was from him that he imbibed that love of agricultural pursuits which led him to write his learned and elegant treatise. This treatise, which has come down to us entire, and consists of twelve books, was intended to form part of an exhaustive treatment of the subject of agriculture, including the incidental questions (_e.g._ those of religion) [4] connected with it. It was expanded and improved from a smaller essay, of which we still possess certain fragments. The work is written in a clear, comprehensive way, drawn not only from the best authorities, but from the author's personal experience. Like a true Roman (it is astonishing how fully these provincials entered into the mind of Rome) he descants on the dignity of the subject, on the lapse from old virtue, on the idleness of men who will not labour on their land and draw forth its riches, and on the necessity of taking up husbandry in a practical business-like way. The tenth book, which treats of gardens, is written in smooth verse, closely imitated from the _Georgics_. It is in fact intended as a fifth _Georgic. Virgil had said [5] with reference to gardens:

"Verum haec ipse equidem spatiis exclusus iniqnis Praetereo, atque aliis post me memoranda relinquo."

These words are an oracle to Columella. "I should have written my tenth book in prose," he says, "had not your frequent requests that I would fill up what was wanting to the Georgics got the better of my resolution. Even so, I should not have ventured on poetry if Virgil had not indicated that he wished it to be done. Inspired, therefore, by his divine influence, I have approached my slender theme." The verses are good, though their poetical merit is somewhat on the level of a university prize poem. They conclude thus:

"Hactenus arvorum cultus Silvine docebam Siderei referens vatis praecepta Maronis."

Among scientific writers we possess a treatise by SCRIBONIUS LARGUS (47 A.D.) on Compositiones Medicae, which is characterised by Teuffel as "not altogether nonsensical, and in tolerable style, although tinged with the general superstition of the period." The critic Q. ASCONIUS PEDIANUS (3-88 A.D.) is more important. He devoted his life to an elaborate exegesis of the great Latin classics, more particularly Cicero. His commentary on the Orations, of which we possess considerable fragments, [6] is written with sound sense, and in a clear pointed style. Some commentaries on the Verrine Speeches which bear his name, are the work of a much later hand, though perhaps drawn in great part from him. Another series of notes, extending to a considerable number of orations, was discovered by Mai, [7] but these also have been retouched by a later hand.

An interesting treatise on primitive geography, manners and customs (Chronographia) which we still possess, was written by POMPONIUS MELA, of Tingentera in Spain. Like Curtius he has obviously imitated Seneca; his account is too concise, but he intended and perhaps carried out elsewhere a fuller treatment of the subject.

The two studies which despotism had done so much to destroy, oratory and jurisprudence, still found a few votaries. The chief field for speaking was the senate, where men like Crispus, Eprius Marcellus, and Suillius the accuser of Seneca, exercised their genius in adroit flattery. Thrasea, Helvidius, and the opposition, were compelled to study repression rather than fulness. As jurists we hear of few eminent names: Proculus and Cassius Longinus are the most prominent.

Grammar was successfully cultivated by VALERIUS PROBUS, who undertook the critical revision of the texts of the Latin classics, much as the Alexandrine grammarians had done for those of Greece. He was originally destined for public life, but through want of success betook himself to study. After his arrival at Rome he gave public lectures on philology, which were numerously attended, and he seems to have retained the affection of all his pupils. His oral notes were afterwards edited in an epistolary form. The work De Notis Antiquis, or at least a portion of it, De Iuris Notis, has come down to us in a slightly abridged form; also a short treatise called Catholica, treating of the noun and verb, though it is uncertain whether this is authentic. [8] Another work on grammar is attributed to him, but as it is evidently at least three centuries later than this date, several critics have supposed it to be by a second Probus, also a grammarian, who lived at that period.

We shall conclude the chapter with a notice of an extraordinary book, the Satires, which pass under the name of PETRONIUS ARBITER. Who he was is not certainly known; but there was a Petronius in the time of Nero, whose death (66 A.D.), is recorded by Tacitus, [9] and who is generally identified with him. This account has often been quoted; nevertheless we may insert it here: "His days were passed in sleep, his nights in business and enjoyment. As others rise to fame by industry, so he by idleness; and he gained the reputation, not like most spendthrifts of a profligate or glutton, but of a cultured epicure. His words and deeds were welcomed as models of graceful simplicity in proportion as they were morally lax and ostentatiously indifferent to appearances. While proconsul, however, in Bithynia he showed himself vigorous and equal to affairs. Then turning to vice, or perhaps simulating it, he became a chosen intimate of Nero, and his prime authority (arbiter) in all matters of taste, so that he thought nothing delicate or charming except what Petronius had approved. This raised the envy of Tigellinus, who regarded him as a rival purveyor of pleasure preferred to himself. Consequently he traded on the cruelty of Nero, a vice to which all others gave place, by accusing Petronius of being a friend to Scaevinus, having bribed a slave to give the information, and removed the means of defence by hurrying almost all Petronius's slaves into prison. Caesar was then in Campania, and Petronius, who had gone to Cumae, was arrested there. He determined not to endure the suspense of hope and fear. But he did not hurry out of life; he opened his veins gently, and binding them up from time to time, chatted with his friends, not on serious topics or such as might procure him the fame of constancy, nor did he listen to any conversation on immortality or the doctrines of philosophers, but only to light verses on easy themes. He pensioned some of his slaves, chastised others. He feasted and lay down to rest, that his compulsory death might seem a natural one. In his will he did not, like most of the condemned, flatter Nero, or Tigellinus, or any of the powerful, but satirized the emperor's vices under the names of effeminate youths and women, giving a description of each new kind of debauchery. These he sealed and sent to Nero." Many have thought that in the Satires we possess the very writing to which Tacitus refers. But to this it is a sufficient answer that they consisted of sixteen books, far too many to have been written in two days. They must have been prepared before, and perhaps the most caustic of them were selected for the emperor's perusal. The fragment that remains is from the fifteenth and sixteenth books, and is a mixture of verse and prose in excellent Latinity, but deplorably and offensively obscene. Nothing can give a meaner idea of the social culture of Rome than this production of one of her most accomplished masters of self-indulgence. As, however, it is important from a literary, and still more from an antiquarian point of view, we add a short analysis of its contents.

The hero is one Encolpius, who begins by bewailing to a rhetor named Agamemnon the decline of native eloquence, which his friend admits, and ascribes to the general laxity of education. While the question is under discussion Encolpius is interrupted and carried off through a variety of adventures, of which suffice it to say that they are best left in obscurity, being neither humorous nor moral. Another day, he is invited to dine with the rich freedman Trimalchio, under whom, doubtless, some court favourite of Nero is shadowed forth. The banquet and conversation are described with great vividness. After some preliminary compliments, the host, eager to display his learning, turns the discourse upon philology; but he is suddenly called away, and topics of more general interest are introduced, the guests giving their opinions on each in a sufficiently interesting way. The remarks of one Ganymedes on the sufferings of the lower classes, the insufficiency of food, and the lack of healthy industries, are pathetic and true. Meanwhile, Trimalchio returns, orders a boar to be killed and cooked, and while this is in preparation entertains his friends with discussions on rhetoric, medicine, history, art, &c. The scene becomes animated as the wine flows; various ludicrous incidents ensue, which are greeted with extemporaneous epigrams in verse, some rather amusing, others flat and diffuse. The conversation thus turns to the subject of poetry. Cicero and Syrus are compared with some ability of illustration. Jests are freely bandied; ghost stories are proposed, and two marvellous fables related, one on the power of owls to predict events, the other on a soldier who was changed into a wolf. The supernatural is then about to be discussed, when a gentleman named Habinnas and his portly wife Scintilla come in. This lady exhibits her jewels with much complacency, and Trimalchio's wife Fortunata, roused to competition, does the same. Trimalchio has now arrived at that stage of the evening's entertainment when mournful views of life begin to present themselves. He calls for the necessary documents, and forthwith proceeds to make his will. His kind provision for his relatives and dependants, combined with his after-dinner pathos, bring out the softer side of the company's feelings; every one weeps, and for a time festivities are suspended. The terrible insecurity of life under Nero is here pointedly hinted at.

The will read, Trimalchio takes a bath, and soon returns in excellent spirits, ready to dine again. At this his good lady takes umbrage, and something very like a quarrel ensues, on which Trimalchio bids the musicians strike up a dead march. The tumult with which this is greeted is too much for many of the guests. Encolpius, the narrator, leaves the room, and the party breaks up.

Encolpius on leaving Trimalchio's meets a poet, Eumolpus, who complains bitterly of poverty and neglect. A debate ensues on the causes of the decline in painting and the arts; it is attributed to the love of money. A picture representing the sack of Troy gives occasion for a mock-tragic poem of some length, doubtless aimed at Nero's effusions. The poet is pelted as a bore, and has to decamp in haste. But he is incorrigible. He returns, and this time brings a still longer and more pretentious poem. Some applaud; others disapprove. Encolpius, seized with a fit of melancholy, thinks of hanging himself, but is persuaded to live by the artless caresses of a fair boy whom he has loved. Several adventures of a similar kind follow, and the book, which towards the end becomes very fragmentary, ends without any regular conclusion. Enough has been given to show its general character. It is something between a Menippean satire and a Milesian fable, such as had been translated from the Greek long before by Sisenna, and were to be so successfully imitated in a later age by Apuleius. The narrative goes on from incident to incident without any particular connexion, and allows all kinds of digressions. Poetical insertions are very frequent, some original, others quoted, many of considerable elegance. From its central and by many degrees most entertaining incident the whole satire has been called The Supper of Trimalchio. We have a few short passages remaining from the lost books, and some allusions in these we possess enable us to reconstruct to some extent their argument. It does not seem to have contained anything specially attractive. If only the book were less offensive, its varied literary scope and polished conversational style would make it truly interesting. As it is, the student of ancient manners finds it a mine of important and out-of-the-way information.


NOTE I.—The Testamentum Porcelli.

Connected with the Milesian fables were the Testamentum Porcelli, short jeux d'esprit, generally in the form of comic anecdotes, as a rule licentious, but sometimes harmless, and intended for children. A specimen of the unobjectionable sort is here given. St Jerome, who quotes it, says (contra Rufinum, i. 17, p. 473) "Quasi non cirratorum turba Milesiarum in scholis figmenta decantet et testamentum suis Bessorum cachinno membra concutiat, atque inter scurrarum epulas nugae istiusmodi frequententur."

"Testamentum Porcelli.

"Incipit testamentum porcelli.

"M. Grunnius Corocotta porcellus testamentum fecit; quoniam manu mea scribere non potui, scribendum dictavi. Magirus cocus dixit 'veni huc, eversor domi, solivertiator, fugitive porcelle, et hodie tibi dirimo vitam.' Corocotta porcellus dixit 'si qua feci, si qua peccavi, si qua vascella pedibus meis confregi, rogo, domine coce, vitam peto, concede roganti.' Magirus cocus dixit 'transi, puer affer mihi de cocina cultrum, ut hunc porcellum faciam cruentum.' Porcellus comprehenditur a famulis, ductas sub die xvi. kal. luceminas, ubi abundant cymae, Clibanato et Piperato consulibus, et ut vidit se moriturum esse, horae spatium petiit et cocum rogavit ut testamentum facere posset, clamavit ad se suos parentes, ut de cibariis suis aliquid dimitteret eis. Quid ait:

"'Patri meo Verrino Lardino do lego dari glandis modios xxx. et matri meae Veturinae Scrofae do lego dari Laeonicae siliginis modios xl. et sorori meae Quirinae, in euius votum interesse non potui, do lego dari hordei modios xxx. et de meis visceribus dabo donabo sutoribus saetas, rixoribus capitinas, surdis auriculas, causidicis et verbosis linguam, bubulariis intestina, isiciariis femora, mulieribus lumbulos, pueris vesicam, puellis caudam, cinaedis musculos, cursoribus et venatoribus talos, latronibus ungulas, et nec nominando coco legato dimitto popiam et pistillum, quae mecum attuleram: de Tebeste usque ad Tergeste liget sibi collo de reste, et volo mihi fieri monumentum aureis litteris scriptum:' M. Grunnius Corocotta porcellus vixit annis DCCCC.XC.VIIII.S. quod si semissem vixisset, mille annos implesset, 'optimi amatores mei vel consules vitae, rogo vos ut cam corpore meo bene faciatis, bene condiatis de bonis condimentis nuclei, piperis et mellis, ut nomen meum in sempiternum nominetur, mei domini vel consobrini mei, qui in medio testamento interfuistis, iubete signari.'

"Lardio signavit, Ofellicus signavit, Cyminatus signavit, Tergillus signavit, Celsinus signavit, Nuptialisus signavit.

"Explicit testamentum porcelli sub die xvi. kal. lucerninas Clibanato et Piperato consulibus feliciter."

Such ridiculous compositions were extremely popular in court circles during the corrupter periods of the Empire. Suetonius (Tib. 42) tells us that Tiberius gave one Asellius Sabinus L1400 for a dialogue in which the mushroom, the beccaficoe, the oyster, and the thrush advanced their respective claims to be considered the prince of delicacies. To this age also belong the collection of epigrams on Priapus called Priapea, and including many poems attributed to Virgil, Tibullus, and Ovid. They are mostly of an obscene character, but some few, especially those by Tibullus and Catullus which close the series, are simple and pretty. It is almost inconceivable to us how so disgusting a cultus could have been joined with innocence of life; but as Priapus long maintained his place as a rustic deity we must suppose that the hideous literalism of his surroundings must have been got over by ingenious allegorising, or forgotten by rustic veneration.

NOTE 2.—On the MS. of Petronius.

From Thomson's Essay on the Post-Augustan Latin Poets, from the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana (Roman Literature).

Fragments of Petronius had been printed by Bernardinus de Vitalibus at Venice in 1499, and by Jacobus Thanner at Leipsig in 1508; but in the year 1632, Petrus Petitus, or as he styled himself, Marinus Statilius, a literary Dalmatian, discovered at Traw a MS. containing a much more considerable fragment, which was afterwards published at Padua and Amsterdam, and ultimately purchased at Rome for the library of the King of France in the year 1703. The eminent Mr. J. B. Gail, one of the curators of this library, politely allowed M. Guerard, a young gentleman of considerable learning employed in the MS. department, to afford us the following circumstantial information respecting this valuable codex, classed in the library as 7989:—"It is a small folio two fingers thick, written on very substantial paper, and in a very legible hand. The titles are in vermillion; the beginnings of the chapters, &c. are also in vermillion or blue. It contains the poems of Tibullus, Propertius and Catullus, as we have them in the ordinary printed editions; then appears the date of the 20th Nov. 1423. After these comes the letter of Sappho, and then the work of Petronius. The extracts are entitled 'Petronii Arbitri satyri fragmenta et libro quinto decimo et sexto decimo,' and begin thus: 'cum (not 'num,' as in the printed copies) in alio genere furiarum declamatores inquietantur,' &c. After these fragments, which occupy twenty-one pages of the MS. we have a piece without title or mention of its author, which is The Supper of Trimalcio. It begins thus: 'Venerat iam tertius dies,' and ends with the words. 'tam plane quam ex incendio fugimus.' This piece is complete by itself, and does not recur in the other extracts. Then follows the Moretum, attributed to Virgil, and afterwards the Phoenix of Claudian. The latter piece is in the character of the seventeenth century, while the rest of the MS. is in that of the fifteenth." The publication of this fragment excited a great sensation among the learned, to great numbers of whom the original was submitted, and by far the majority of the judges decided in favour of its antiquity. Strong as was this external evidence, the internal is yet more valuable; since it is scarcely possible to conceive a forgery of this length, which would not in some point or other betray itself. The difficulty of forging a work like the Satyricon will better appear, when it is considered that such attempts have been actually made. A Frenchman, named Nodot, pretended that the entire work of Petronius had been found at Belgrade in the siege of that town in 1688. The forged MS. was published; but the contempt it excited was no less universal than the consideration which was shown to the MS. of Statilius. Another Frenchman, Lallemand, printed a pretended fragment, with notes and a translation, in 1800, but no one was deceived by it.




With the extinction of the Claudian dynasty we enter on a new literary epoch. The reigns of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian produced a series of writers who all show the same characteristics, though necessarily modified by the tyranny of Domitian's reign as contrasted with the clemency of those of his two predecessors. Under Vespasian and Titus authors might say what they chose; both these princes disdained to curb freedom of speech or to punish it even when it clamoured for martyrdom. Yet such was the reaction from the excitement of the last epoch, that no writer of genius appeared, and only one of the first eminence in learning. There now comes into Roman literature an unmistakable evidence of reduced talent as well as of decayed taste. Hitherto power at least has not been wanting; but for the future all is on a weaker scale. Only the two great names of Juvenal and Tacitus redeem the ninth century of Rome from total want of creative genius. All other writers move in established grooves, and, as a rule, imitate or feebly rival some of the giants of the past. Learning was still cultivated with assiduity if not with enthusiasm; but the grand hopeful spirit, sure of discovering truth, which animates the erudition of a better age, has now given place to a querulous depreciation even of the labour to which the authors have devoted their lives. This is conspicuous from the first in the otherwise noble pages of the elder PLINY, and is the secret of that want of critical insight which, in a mind so capaciously stored, strikes us at first as inexplicable.

This laborious and interesting writer was born at Como [1] in the year 23 A.D. He came, it is not known exactly when, to Rome and studied under the rhetorical grammarian Apion, whom Tiberius in mockery of his sounding periods had called "the drum" (tympanum). Till his forty-sixth year Pliny's genius remained unknown. An allusion in his work to Lollia Paulina has given rise to the opinion that he was admitted to the court of Caligula, but the grounds for this conclusion are manifestly insufficient. His nephew states that he composed his treatise On Doubtful Words [2] to escape the jealousy of Nero, who suspected him of less unambitious pursuits. But the evidence of the younger Pliny serves better to establish facts than motives; he is always anxious to swell the importance of his friends; and it is far more likely from Pliny's own silence that he remained in comparative obscurity until Nero's death. At the age of twenty-two he served his first campaign in Africa, and soon after in Germany under Lucius Pomponius, who gave him a cavalry troop, and seems to have befriended him in various other ways. His promotion was perhaps due to the treatise On Javelin-throwing [3] which be wrote about this time. He showed his gratitude towards Pomponius at a later date by writing his life.

Pliny had always felt a strong interest in science, and determined as soon as opportunity offered to make its advancement the object of his life. With this end in view he made careful observations of all the countries he visited, and used his military position to secure information that otherwise might have been hard to obtain. He inspected the source of the Danube and travelled among the Chauci on the shores of the German Ocean. He visited the mouths of the Eber and Weser, the North Sea and the Cimbrian Chersonese, and spent some time among the Roman provinces west of the Rhine. While in Germany he had a vision in which he saw or thought he saw the shade of Drusus, which appeared to him by night and bade him tell the history of all the German wars. Accordingly, he collected materials with industry, and worked them up into a large volume, which is now unfortunately lost. At twenty-nine he left the army and returned to Rome, where he studied for the bar. But his talents were not suitable for forensic display, and he found a more lucrative field in teaching grammar and rhetoric. At what time he was sent out as procurator to Spain is uncertain, but when he returned he found Vespasian on the throne. Pliny, who had known him in Germany, and had been on intimate terms with his son Titus, was now received with the greatest favour. Every morning before day-break, when the busy Emperor rose to finish his correspondence before the work of the day began, he called Pliny to his side, and the two friends chatted awhile together in the plain, homely fashion that Vespasian much preferred to the measured style of court etiquette. Nor was his favour confined to familiar intercourse. He made him admiral of the fleet stationed at Misenum and charged with guarding the Mediterranean ports. It was while here that news was brought him of the eruption of Vesuvius. He sailed to Resina determined to investigate the phenomenon, and, as his nephew in a well-known letter tells us, paid the price of his scientific curiosity with his life. The letter is so charming, and affords so good an example of Pliny the younger's style, that we may be excused for inserting: it here. [4]

"He was at Misenum in command of the fleet. On the 24th August (79 A.D.), about 1 P.M., my mother pointed out to him a cloud of unusual size and shape. He had then sunned himself, had his cold bath, tasted some food, and was lying down reading. He at once asked for his shoes, and mounted a height from which the best view might be obtained. The cloud was rising from a mountain afterwards ascertained to have been Vesuvius; its form was more like a pine-tree than anything else. It was raised into the air by what seemed its trunk, and then branched out in different directions; the reason probably was that the blast, at first irresistible, but afterwards losing strength or unable to counteract gravity, spent itself by spreading out on either side. The cloud was either bright, or dark and spotty, according as earth or ashes were thrown up. As a man of science he determined to inspect the phenomenon more closely. He ordered a light vessel to be prepared, and offered to take me with him. I replied that I would rather study; as it happened, he himself had set me something to write. He was just starting, when a letter was brought from Rectina imploring aid for Naseus who was in imminent danger; his villa lay below, and no escape was possible except by sea. He now changed his plan, and what he had begun, from scientific enthusiasm he carried out with self-sacrificing courage. He launched some quadriremes, and embarked with the intention of succouring not only Rectina but others who lived on that populous and picturesque coast. Thus he hurried to the spot from which all others were flying, and steered straight for the danger, so absolutely devoid of fear that he dictated an account with full comments of all the movements and changing shapes of the phenomenon, each as it presented itself. Ashes were now falling on the decks, and became hotter and denser as the vessel approached. Scorched and blackened pumice-stones and bits of rock split by fire were mingled with them. The sea suddenly became shallow, and fragments from the mountain filled the coast seeming to bar all further progress. He hesitated whether to return; but on the master strongly advising it, he cried, 'Fortune favours the brave: make for Pomponianus's house.' This was at Stabiae, and was cut off from the coast near Vesuvius by an inlet, which had been gradually scooped out by encroachments of the sea. The owner was in sight, intending, should the danger (which was visible, but not immediate) approach so near as to be urgent, to escape by ship. For this purpose he had embarked all his effects and was waiting for a change of wind. My uncle, whom the breeze favoured, soon reached him, and, embracing him with much affection, tried to console his fears. To show his own unconcern he caused himself to be carried to a bath; and having washed, sat down to dinner with cheerfulness or (what is equally creditable to him) with the appearance of it. Meanwhile from many parts of the mountain broad flames burst forth; the blaze shone back from the sky, and a dark night enhanced the lurid glare. To soothe his friend's terror he declared that what they saw was only the deserted villages which the inhabitants in their flight had set on fire. Then he retired to rest, and there can be no doubt that he slept, since the sound of his breathing (which a broad chest made deep and resonant), was clearly heard by those watching at the door. Soon the court which led to the chamber was so choked with cinders and stones that longer delay would have made escape impossible. He was aroused from sleep, and went to Pomponianus and the rest who had sat up all night. They debated whether to stay indoors or to wander about in the open. For on the one hand constant shocks of earthquake made the houses rock to and fro, and loosened their foundations; while on the other, the open air was rendered dangerous by the fall of pumice- stones, though these were light and very porous. On the whole they preferred the open air, but what to the rest had been a weighing of fears had to him been a balancing of reasons. They tied cushions over their heads to guard them from the falling stones. Though it was now day elsewhere it was here darker than the darkest night, though the gloom was broken by torches and other lights. They next walked to the sea to try whether it would admit of vessels being launched, but it was still a waste of raging waters. He then spread a linen cloth, and, reclining on it, asked several times for water, which he drank; soon, however, the flames and that sulphurous vapour which preceded them put his companions to flight and compelled him to arise. He rose by the help of two slaves, but immediately fell down dead. His death no doubt arose from suffocation by the dense vapour, as well as from an obstruction of his stomach, apart which had been always weak and liable to inflammation and other discomforts. When daylight returned, i.e. after three days, his body was found entire, just as it was, covered with the clothes in which he had died; his appearance was that of sleep rather than of death."

This interesting letter, which was sent to Tacitus for insertion in his history, gives a fine description of the eruption. Another, still more graphic, is given in a later letter of the same book. [5] A third [6] informs us of the extraordinary studiousness and economy of time practised by the philosopher, which enabled him in a life by no means long to combine a very active business career with an amount of reading and writing only second to that of Varro. Pliny's admiration for his uncle's unwearied diligence makes him delight to dwell on these particulars:

"After the Vulcanalia (the 23d of August) he always began work at dead of night, in winter at 1 A.M., never later than 2 A.M., often at midnight. He was most sparing of sleep; at times it would catch him unawares while studying. After his interview with Vespasian was over, he went to business, then to study for the rest of the day. After a light meal, which like our ancestors he ate by day, he would in summer, if he had any leisure, lie in the sun, while some one read to him and he made notes or extracts. He never read without making extracts; no book, he said, was so bad but that something might be gained from it. After sunning himself he would take a cold bath, then a little food, then a short nap. Then, as if it were a new day, he studied till supper. During this meal a book was read, he all the while making notes. I remember once, when the reader mispronounced a word, that one of our friends compelled him to repeat it. My uncle asked him if he had not understood the word. On his replying, yes, my uncle said sharply, 'Then why did you interrupt him? we have lost more than ten lines;' so frugal was he of his time. He rose from supper before dark in summer, before 7 P.M. in winter; and this habit was law to him. Such was his life in town; but in the country his one and only interruption from study was the bath. I mean the actual bathing; for while he was being rubbed he always either dictated, or listened to reading. On a journey, having nothing else to do, he gave himself wholly to study; at his side was an amanuensis, who in winter wore gloves, that his master's work might not be interrupted by the cold. Even in Rome he always travelled in a sedan. I remember his chiding me for taking a walk, saying, "you might have saved those hours"—for every moment not given to study he thought lost time. By this application he contrived to compose that vast array of volumes which we possess, besides bequeathing to me 160 rolls of selected notes, each roll written on both sides and in the smallest possible hand, which practically doubles their number. To call myself studious with his example before me is absurd; compared with him, I am an idle vagabond."

In the earlier part of this letter, Pliny gives a list of his uncle's works. Besides those mentioned in the text, we find a treatise on eloquence called Studiosus, and a continuation of the history of Aufidius Bassus in thirty books, dedicated to the emperor Titus. The Natural History, in thirty-seven books, is the sole monument of Pliny's industry that has descended to us. The fortunes of this portentous work have greatly varied; while in the Middle Ages it was reverenced as a kind of encyclopaedia of all secular knowledge, in our own day, except to antiquarians, it is an unknown book. Many who know Virgil almost by heart have never read through its tiresome and conceited preface. Yet there is an immensity of interesting matter discussed in the work. Independently of its vast learning, for it contains, according to its author's statement, twenty thousand facts, and excerpts or redactions from two thousand books or treatises, its range of subjects is such as to include something attractive to every taste. Strictly speaking, many topics enter which do not belong to natural history at all, e.g., the account of the use made of natural substances in the applied sciences and the useful or fine arts; but as these are decidedly the best-written parts of the work, and full of chatty, pleasant anecdotes, we should be much worse off if they had been omitted. The confused arrangement also, which mars its utility as a compendium of knowledge, may be due in great measure to the indefinite state of science at the time, to the gaps in its affinities which the discovery of so many new sciences has helped to fill up, and the consequent mingling together of branches which are separate and distinct.

It is questionable whether Pliny ever had any originality. If he had, it was stamped out long before he began his book by the weight of his cumbrous erudition. He cannot compare his materials, nor select them, nor analyse them, nor make them explain themselves by lucid arrangement. Nor has his review of human knowledge taught him the great truth that science is progressive, that each age corrects the errors of the past, and prepares the way for the improvements of the next. Seneca, with all his affected contempt for science, learnt the lesson of it better than Pliny. He has in the first place no fixed canon of truth. One thing does not seem to him more probable than another. A statement has only to come forward under the testimony of a respectable ancient, and it is at once put down as a fact. Here, however, we must make a distinction, for fear of invalidating Pliny's authority beyond what is just. It is only in strictly scientific matters that this credulity and lack of penetration is found. Where he deals with historical, biographical, or agricultural questions, he is a competent, and for the most part trustworthy, compiler. His work is a most valuable storehouse for the antiquarian or historian of ancient literature or art, and generally for the current opinions on nearly every topic. Though genuinely devoted to learning, he has still enough of the "old Adam" of rhetoric about him to complain of the dryness of his material, and its unsuitableness for ornamental treatment; but this cannot surprise us, when we remember that even Tacitus with infinitely less reason bewailed the monotony of the events he had taken upon him to record.

What partly accounts for Pliny's uncritical credulity is the unsatisfactory theory of the universe which he adopts, and with commendable candour sets before us at the outset. [7] He is a materialistic pantheist. The world is for him deity, self-created and eternal, incomprehensible by man, moving ceaselessly without reference to him. So far there is nothing unscientific, except the hypothesis of self- creation; but he goes on to imply that the laws of its action, being incomprehensible, need not be regular, at any rate, as we consider regularity. The things which militate against our experience may be the result of other laws, or of chance contingencies of which no account can be given. Hence he never rejects a fact on the ground of its being marvellous. The most ludicrous and inconceivable monstrosities find an easy place in his system. He does not attach any superstitious meaning to them; on the contrary, he ridicules the idea that omens or portents are sent by the gods, but he has no touchstone by which to test the rare but possible results of real experience as distinguished from the figments of the imagination or ordinary travellers' stories. In the zoological part he gives the reins to his love of the marvellous; all kinds of absurdities are narrated with the utmost gravity; and his accounts descended through the mediaeval period as the accredited authority on the subject. In the literature of Prester John will be seen many a reflection from the writings of Pliny; in the fables of the Arabian Nights many more, with characteristic additions equally creditable to human weakness or ingenuity. It is truly lamentable to reflect that while the rational and on the whole truthful descriptions of Aristotle and Theophrastus were extant and accessible, Pliny's nonsense should in preference have gained the ear of mankind.

As a stylist Pliny recalls two very different writers, Seneca and Cato. In those parts where he speaks as a moralist (and they are extremely numerous), he strives to reproduce the point of Seneca; in those where he treats of husbandry, which are perhaps the most naturally written in the work, his stern brevity often recalls the old censor. Like Seneca, he considers physical science as food for edification; continually he deserts his theme to preach a sermon on the folly or ignorance of mankind. And like Cato he is never weary of extolling the wisdom and virtues of the harsh infancy of the Republic, and blaming the degeneracy of its feeble and luxurious descendants who refuse to till the soil, and add acre to acre of their overgrown estates.

Pliny has a strong vein of satire, and its effect is increased by a certain sententious quaintness which gives a racy flavour to many otherwise dull enumerations of facts. But his satire is not of a pleasing type; it is built too much on despair of his kind; his whole view of the universe is querulous, and shows a mind unequal to cope with the knowledge it has acquired.

He was considered the most learned man of his day, and with reason. He at least knew the value of first-hand acquaintance with the original authorities, instead of drawing a superficial culture from manuals and abridgments, or worse still, the empty declamations of the rhetorical schools. And after all it is his age which must bear the blame of his failure rather than himself. For while he was not great enough to rise above his surroundings and investigate, compare, and conclude on a method planned by himself, he was just the man who would have profited to the full by being trained in a sound public system of education, and perhaps, had he lived in the Ciceronian period, would have risen to a much higher place as a permanent contributor to the journal of human knowledge.

Among the younger contemporaries of Pliny, the most celebrated is M. FABIUS QUINTILIANUS (35-95 A.D.), [8] a native of Calagurris in Spain, but educated in Rome, and long established there as a popular and influential public professor of eloquence. He was intrusted by Domitian with the education of his two grand-nephews, an honour to which he owed his subsequent elevation to the consulship. His time had been so fully occupied with lecturing as to allow no leisure for publishing anything until the closing years of his career. This gave him the great advantage of being a ripe writer before he challenged the judgment of the world; and, in truth, Quintilian's knowledge and love of his subject are thorough in the highest degree. His first essay was a treatise on the causes of the decay of eloquence, [9] and the last (which we still possess) a work in twelve books on the complete training of an orator. [10] This celebrated work, to which Quintilian devoted the assiduous labour of two whole years, interrupted only by the lessons given to his royal pupils, represents the maturest treatment of the subject which we possess. The author was modest enough to express a strong unwillingness to write it, either fearing to come forward as an author so late in life, or judging the ground preoccupied already. However, it was produced at last, and no sooner known than it at once assumed the high position that has been accorded to it ever since. The treatment is exhaustive; as much more thorough than the popular treatises of Cicero as it is more attractive than the purely technical one of Cornificius. At the same time it has the defects inseparable from the unreal age in which its author lived. While minutely providing for all the future orator's formal requirements, it omits the material one without which the finished rhetorician is but a tinkling cymbal, how to think as an orator. No one knew better than Quintilian that this comes from zest in life, not from rules of art. There will be more stimulus given to one who pants for distinction in the delightful pages of Cicero's Brutus, than in all that Quintilian and such as he ever wrote or ever will write. But this is not the fault of the man; as a formal rhetorician of good principle, sound orthodoxy, and love for his art, Quintilian stands high in the list of classical authors.

He begins his orator's training from the cradle. He rightly ascribes the greatest importance to early impressions, even the very earliest; illustrating his position by the influence of Cornelia who trained her sons to eloquence from childhood, and other similar cases known to Roman history. A good nurse must be selected; an eloquent one would, doubtless, be hard to find. The boy who is destined to greatness has now outgrown the nursery, and the great question arises, Is he to be sent to school? With the Romans as with us this difficulty admitted of two solutions. The lad might be educated at home under tutors, or he might be sent to learn the world at a public school. Those who at the present day shrink from sending their children to school generally profess to base their unwillingness on a fear lest the influence of bad example may corrupt the purity of youth; Quintilian on the very same ground, strongly recommends a parent to send his son to school. By this means, he says, his tender years will be saved from the daily contamination which the scenes of home life afford. A sad commentary on the state of Roman society and the pernicious effects of slave-labour!

After school, the youth is to attend the lectures of a rhetorician. This is of course a matter of great importance, and in the second book the writer handles its various bearings with excellent judgment. Having described the duties of the professor and his pupil, and the various tasks which will be gone through, he proceeds in the next book to discuss the different departments of oratory. In this great subject he follows Aristotle, here, as always, going back to the most established authorities, and adapting them with signal tact to the changed requirements of a later age and a different nation. The points connected with this, the central theme of the treatise, carry us through the five next books. They are the most technical in the work, and not adapted for general reading. The eighth begins the interesting topic of style, which is continued in the ninth, where trope, metaphor, amplification, and other figurae orationis are illustrated at length. Throughout these books there are a large number of quotations, and continual references to the practice of celebrated masters in the art, besides frequent introduction of passages from the poets and historians. But it is in the tenth book that these are concentrated into one focus. To acquire a "firm facility" (exis) of speech it is necessary to have read widely and with discernment. This leads him to enumerate the Greek and Roman authors likely to be most useful to an orator. The criticisms he offers on the salient qualities of almost all the great classics may seem to us trite and common-place. They certainly are not remarkable for brilliancy, but they are just and sober, and have stood the test of ages, and perhaps their apparent dulness results from their having been always familiar words. Their utility to the student of literature is so considerable, that we have thought it worth while to append a translation of them to the present chapter. [11]

The eleventh book chiefly turns on memory, which the Romans cultivated with extreme diligence, and several remarkable instances of which have been noticed in the course of this work. It was to them a much more vital excellence than to us, who have adopted the practice of using rough notes or other assistance to it. Delivery, too, is in the eleventh book fully discussed; and these chapters will be read with interest as showing the extreme and minute care bestowed by the Romans on the smallest details of action as means of producing effect. Generally, their oratory was of a vehement type. Gesture was freely used, and the voice raised to its fullest pitch. Trachalus had such a noisy organ that it drowned the pleaders in the other courts. Even after the decay of freedom the fiery gestures that had been once its language were not discarded; at the same time perfect modulation and symmetry were aimed at, so that even in the most empresse passages decorum was not violated. The systematized rhetorical training at present general in France, and practised by all who aspire to arouse the feeling of an assembly, is probably the nearest, though it may be but a faint, equivalent of the vigorous action of the Roman courts. The twelfth book treats of the moral qualifications necessary for a great speaker. Quintilian insists strongly on these. The good orator must be a good man. The highest talents are nothing if distorted by evil thoughts. We thus see that he took a worthy view of his profession, and would never have degraded it to be the instrument of tyranny or a means of saturating the ears of the idle with seductive and complaisant theories of life, by which a spurious popularity is so cheaply obtained. He was a high-minded man "quantum licuit;" i.e., as far as a debased age allowed of high-mindedness. His domestic life was clouded by sorrow. His first wife died at the early age of nineteen, leaving him two sons, the younger of whom only lived to the age of seven, and the elder (for whose instruction he wrote the book, and whose precocious talent and goodness of disposition he recounts with pardonable pride) only survived his brother about four years. His death was an irremediable blow, which the orator bewails in the preface to his sixth book. The passage is instructive as revealing the taste of the day. The paternal regret clothes itself in such a profusion of antithesis, trope, and hyperbole, that, did we not know from other sources the excellence of his heart, we might fancy he was exercising his talents in the sphere of professional advertisement. Before his endowment as professor, which appears to have brought him about L800 a year, he had occasionally pleaded in the courts; he appears to have written declamations in various styles, but those now current under his name are improperly ascribed to him.

Among his pupils was the younger Pliny, who alludes to him with gratitude in one of his letters; [12] he was well thought of during his life, and is frequently mentioned by Statius, Martial, and Juvenal, both as the cleverest of rhetoricians, and the best and most trusted of teachers; [13] by Juvenal also as a bright instance of good fortune very rare among the brethren of the craft. [14]

The style of Quintilian is modelled on that of Cicero, and is intended to be a return to the usages of the best period. He had a warm love for the writers of the republican age, above all for Cicero, whom he is never tired of praising; and he preached a crusade against the tinsel ornaments of the new school whose viciousness, he thought, consisted chiefly in a corrupt following of Seneca. It was necessary, therefore, to impugn the authority of his brilliant compatriot, and this he appears to have done with such warmth as to give rise to the opinion that he had a personal grudge against him. Some critics have noticed that Quintilian, even when blaming, often falls into the pointed antithetical style of his time. This is true. But it was unavoidable; for no man can detach himself from the mode of speaking common to those with whom he lives. It is sufficient if he be aware of its worse faults, point out their tendency, and strive to avoid them. This undoubtedly Quintilian did.

Among prose writers of less note we may mention LICINIUS MUCIANUS, CLUVIUS RUFUS, who both wrote histories; and VIPSTANUS MESSALA, an orator of the reactionary school, who, like Quintilian, sought to restore a purer taste, and devoted some of his time to historical essays on the events he had witnessed. M. APER and JULIUS SECUNDUS are important as being two of the speakers introduced into Tacitus's dialogue on oratory, the former taking the part of the modern style, the latter mediating between the two extreme views, but inclining towards the modern. All these belonged to the reigns of Vespasian and Titus, and lived into the first years of Domitian.

An important writer for students of ancient applied science is SEX. JULIUS FRONTINUS, whose career extends from about 40 A.D. to the end of the first century. He was praetor urbanus 70 A.D., and was employed in responsible military posts in Gaul and Britain. In the former country he reduced the powerful tribe of the Lingones, in Britain, as successor to Petilius Cerealis, he distinguished himself against the Silures, showing, says Tacitus, qualities as great as it was safe to show at that time. He was thrice consul, once under Domitian, again under Nerva (97 A.D.), and lastly under Trajan (100 A.D.), when he had for colleague the emperor himself. He died 103 A.D. or perhaps in the following year. Pliny the younger knew him well, and has several notices of him in his letters. Throughout his active life he was above all things a man of business: literature and science, though he was a proficient in both, were made strictly subservient to the ends of his profession. His character was cautious but independent, and he is the only contemporary writer we possess who does not flatter Domitian. The work on gromatics, which originally contained two books, has descended to us only in a few short excerpts, which treat de agrorum gualitate, de controversiis, de limitibus, de controversiis aquarum. This was written early in the reign of Domitian. Another work of the same period was a theoretical treatise on tactics, alluded to in the more popular work which we possess, and quoted by Vegetius who followed him. In this he examined Greek theories of warfare as well as Roman, and apparently with discrimination; for Aelian, in his account of the Greek strategical writers, assigns Frontinus a high place. The comprehensive manual called Strategematon (sollertia ducum facta) is intended for general reading among those who are interested in military matters. The books are arranged according to their subjects, but in the distribution of these there is no definite plan followed. Many interpolations have been inserted, especially in the fourth and last book which is a kind of appendix, adding general examples of strategic sayings and doings (strategematica) to the specifically-selected instances of the strategic art which are treated in the first three. Its introduction, as Teuffel remarks, is written in a boastful style quite foreign to Frontinus, and the arrangement of anecdotes under various moral headings reminds us of a rhetorician like Valerius Maximus, rather than of a man of affairs. The entire fourth book appears to be an accretion, perhaps as early as the fourth century. The last treatise by Frontinus which we possess is that De Aquis Urbis Romae, or with a slightly different title, De Aquaeductu, or De Cura Aquarum, published under Trajan soon after the death of Nerva. In an admirable preface he explains that his invariable custom when intrusted with any work was to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the subject in all its bearings before beginning to act; he could thus work with greater promptitude and despatch, and besides gained a theoretical knowledge which might have escaped him amid the multitude of practical details. Frontinus's account of the water-supply of Rome is complete and valuable: recent explorers have found it thoroughly trustworthy, and have been aided by it in reconstructing the topography of the ancient city. [15] The architecture of Rome has been reproached with some justice for bestowing its finest achievements on buildings destined for amusement, or on mere private dwellings. But if from the amphitheatres, the villas, the baths, we turn to the roads, the sewers, and the aqueducts, we shall agree with Frontinus in deeply admiring so grand a combination of the artistic with the useful. A practical recognition of some of the great sanitary laws seem to have early prevailed at Rome, and might well excite our wonder, if such things had not been as a rule passed by in silence by historians. Recent discoveries are tending to set the early civilisation of Rome on a far higher level than it has hitherto been able to claim.

The style of Frontinus is not so devoid of ornament as might be expected from one so much occupied in business; but the ornament it has is of the best kind. He shuns the conceits of the period, and goes back to the republican authors, of whom (and especially of Caesar's Commentaries) his language strongly reminds us. We observe that the very simplicity which Quintilian sought in vain from a lifelong rhetorical training is present unsought in Frontinus; a clear proof that it is the occupation of life and the nature of the man, not the varnish of artistic culture, however elaborately laid on, that determines the main characteristics of the writer.

No other prose authors of any name have come down to us from this epoch. A vast number of persons are flatteringly saluted by Statius and Martial as orators, historians, jurists, &c.; but these venal poets had a stock of complimentary phrases always ready for any one powerful enough to command them. When we read therefore that Tutilius, Regulus, Flavius Ursus, Septimius Severus, were great writers, we must accept the statement only with considerable reductions. Victorius Marcellus, the friend to whom Quintilian dedicates his treatise, was probably a person of some real eminence; his juridical knowledge is celebrated by Statius. The Silvae of Statius and the letters of Pliny imply that there was a very active and generally diffused interest in science and letters; but it is easy to be somebody where no one is great. Among grammarians AEMILIUS ASPER deserves notice. [16] He seems to have been living while Suetonius composed his biography of grammarians, since he is not included in it. He continued the studies of Cornutus and Probus of Berytus, and was best known for his Quaestiones Virgilianae (of which several fragments still remain), and his commentaries on Terence and Sallust. LARGUS LICINIUS, the author of Ciceromastix, may perhaps be referred to this time. The reiterated commendation of Cicero occurring in Quintilian may have roused the modernising party into active opposition, and drawn out this brochure. History and philosophy both sunk to an extremely low ebb; no writers on these subjects worthy of mention are preserved.


Quintilian's Account of the Roman Authors.

We subjoin a translation of Quintilian's criticism of the chief Roman authors as very important for the student of Latin literature, premising, however, that he judged them solely as regards their utility to one who is preparing to become an orator. The criticism, although thus special, has a permanent value, as embracing the best opinion of the time, temperately stated (Inst. Or. xi. 85-131):—"The same order will be observed in treating the Roman writers. As Homer among the Greeks, so Virgil among our own authors will best head the list; he is beyond doubt the second epic poet of either nation. I will use the words I heard Domitius Afer use when I was a boy. When I asked him who he considered came nearest to Homer, he replied, 'Virgil is the second, but he is nearer the first than the third;' and in truth, while Rome cannot but yield to that celestial and deathless genius, yet we can observe more care and diligence in Virgil; for this very reason, perhaps, that he was obliged to labour more. And so it is that we make up for the lack of occasional splendour by consistent and equable excellence. All the other epicists will follow at a respectful distance. Macer and Lucretius are indeed worth reading, but are of no value for the phraseology, which is the main body of eloquence. Each is good in his own subject; but the former is humble, the latter difficult. Varro Atacinus, in those works which have gained him fame, appears as a translator by no means contemptible, but is not rich enough to add to the resources of eloquence. Ennius let us reverence as we should groves of holy antiquity, whose grand and venerable trees have more sanctity than beauty. Others are nearer our own day, and more useful for the matter in hand. Ovid in his heroics is as usual wanton, and too fond of his own talent, but in parts he deserves praise. Cornelius Severus, though a better versifier than poet, would still claim the second place, if only he had written all his Sicilian War as well as the first book. But his early death did not allow his genius to be matured. His boyish works show a great and admirable talent, and a desire for the best style rare at that time of life. We have lately lost much in Valerius Flaccus. The inspiration of Salcius Bassus was vigorous and poetical, but old age never succeeded in ripening it. Rabirius and Pedo are worth reading, if you have time. Lucan is ardent, earnest, and full of admirably expressed sentiments, and, to give my real opinion, should be classed with orators rather than poets. We have named these because Germanicus Augustus (Domitian) has been diverted from his favourite pursuit by the care of the world, and the gods thought it too little for him to be the first of poets. Yet what can be more sublime, learned, matchless in every way, than the poems in which, giving up empire, he spent the privacy of his youth? Who could sing of wars so well as he who has so successfully waged them? To whom would the goddesses who watch over studies listen so propitiously? To whom would Minerva, the patroness of his house, more willingly reveal the mysteries of her art? Future ages will recount these things at greater length. For now this glory is obscured by the splendour of his other virtues. We, however, who worship at the shrine of letters will crave your indulgence, Caesar, for not passing the subject by in silence, and will at least bear witness, as Virgil says,

'That ivy wreathes the laurels of your crown.'

"In elegy, too, we challenge the Greeks. The tersest and most elegant author of it is in my opinion Tibullus. Others prefer Propertius. Ovid is more luxuriant, Gallus harsher, than either. Satire is all our own. In this Lucilius first gained great renown, and even now has many admirers so wedded to him, as to prefer him not only to all other satirists but to all other poets. I disagree with them as much as I disagree with Horace, who thinks Lucilius flows in a muddy stream, and that there is much that one would wish to remove. For there is wonderful learning in him, freedom of speech with the bitterness that comes therefrom, and an inexhaustible wit. Horace is far terser and purer, and without a rival in his sketches of character. Persius has earned much true glory by his single book. There are men now living who are renowned, and others who will be so hereafter. That earlier sort of satire not written exclusively in verse was founded by Terentius Varro, the most learned of the Romans. He composed a vast number of extremely erudite treatises, being well versed in the Latin tongue as well as in every kind of antiquarian knowledge; he will, however, contribute much more to science than to oratory.

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