The History of Rome (Volumes 1-5)
by Theodor Mommsen
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 ... 58     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

It is indeed asserted that instances occur even in historical times of colonies founded with allotments of two -jugera-; but the only instance of the kind (Liv. iv. 47) is that of the colony of Labici in the year 336—an instance, which will certainly not be reckoned (by such scholars as are worth the arguing with) to belong to the class of traditions that are trustworthy in their historical details, and which is beset by other very serious difficulties (see book ii. ch. 5, note). It is no doubt true that in the non-colonial assignation of land to the burgesses collectively (-adsignatio viritana-) sometimes only a few -jugera- were granted (as e. g. Liv. viii. ii, 21). In these cases however it was the intention not to create new farms with the allotments, but rather, as a rule, to add to the existing farms new parcels from the conquered lands (comp. C. I. L. i. p. 88). At any rate, any supposition is better than a hypothesis which requires us to believe as it were in a miraculous multiplication of the food of the Roman household. The Roman farmers were far less modest in their requirements than their historiographers; they themselves conceived that they could not subsist even on allotments of seven -jugera- or a produce of one hundred and forty -modii-.

7. I. VI. Time and Occasion of the Reform

8. Perhaps the latest, although probably not the last, attempt to prove that a Latin farmer's family might have subsisted on two -jugera- of land, finds its chief support in the argument that Varro (de R. R. i. 44, i) reckons the seed requisite for the -jugerum- at five -modii- of wheat but ten -modii- of spelt, and estimates the produce as corresponding to this, whence it is inferred that the cultivation of spelt yielded a produce, if not double, at least considerably higher than that of wheat. But the converse is more correct, and the nominally higher quantity sown and reaped is simply to be explained by the fact that the Romans garnered and sowed the wheat already shelled, but the spelt still in the husk (Pliny, H. N. xviii. 7, 61), which in this case was not separated from the fruit by threshing. For the same reason spelt is at the present day sown twice as thickly as wheat, and gives a produce twice as great by measure, but less after deduction of the husks. According to Wurtemberg estimates furnished to me by G. Hanssen, the average produce of the Wurtemberg -morgen- is reckoned in the case of wheat (with a sowing of 1/4 to 1/2 -scheffel-) at 3 -scheffel- of the medium weight of 275 Ibs. (= 825 Ibs.); in the case of spelt (with a sowing of 1/2 to 1 1/2 -scheffel-) at least 7 -scheffel- of the medium weight of 150 lbs. ( = 1050 Ibs.), which are reduced by shelling to about 4 -scheffel-. Thus spelt compared with wheat yields in the gross more than double, with equally good soil perhaps triple the crop, but—by specific weight—before the shelling not much above, after shelling (as "kernel") less than, the half. It was not by mistake, as has been asserted, but because it was fitting in computations of this sort to start from estimates of a like nature handed down to us, that the calculation instituted above was based on wheat; it may stand, because, when transferred to spelt, it does not essentially differ and the produce rather falls than rises. Spelt is less nice as to soil and climate, and exposed to fewer risks than wheat; but the latter yields on the whole, especially when we take into account the not inconsiderable expenses of shelling, a higher net produce (on an average of fifty years in the district of Frankenthal in Rhenish Bavaria the -malter- of wheat stands at 11 -gulden- 3 krz., the -malter- of spelt at 4 -gulden-30 krz.), and, as in South Germany, where the soil admits, the growing of wheat is preferred and generally with the progress of cultivation comes to supersede that of spelt, so the analogous transition of Italian agriculture from the culture of spelt to that of wheat was undeniably a progress.

9. I. II. Agriculture

10. -Oleum- and -oliva- are derived from —elaion—, —elaia—, and -amurca- (oil-less) from —amorgei—.

11. But there is no proper authority for the statement that the fig-tree which stood in front of the temple of Saturn was cut down in the year 260 (Plin. H. N. xv. 18, 77); the date CCLX. is wanting in all good manuscripts, and has been interpolated, probably with reference to Liv. ii. 21.

12. I. XI. Property

13. I. VI. Class of —Metoeci— Subsisting by the Side of the Community

14. I. XI. Guardianship

15. I. XII. Oldest Table of Roman Festivals

16. The comparative legal value of sheep and oxen, as is well known, is proved by the fact that, when the cattle-fines were converted into money-fines, the sheep was rated at ten, and the ox at a hundred asses (Festus, v. -peculatus-, p. 237, comp. pp. 34, 144; Gell. xi. i; Plutarch, Poplicola, ii). By a similar adjustment the Icelandic law makes twelve rams equivalent to a cow; only in this as in other instances the Germanic law has substituted the duodecimal for the older decimal system.

It is well known that the term denoting cattle was transferred to denote money both among the Latins (-pecunia-) and among the Germans (English fee).

17. I. XIV. Decimal System

18. There has lately been found at Praeneste a silver mixing-jug, with a Phoenician and a hieroglyphic inscription (Mon. dell Inst. x. plate 32), which directly proves that such Egyptian wares as come to light in Italy have found their way thither through the medium of the Phoenicians.

19. comp. I. XIII. Culture of the Olive

20. -Velum- is certainly of Latin origin; so is -malus-, especially as that term denotes not merely the mast, but the tree in general: -antenna- likewise may come from —ana— (-anhelare-, -antestari-), and -tendere- = -supertensa-. Of Greek origin, on the other hand, are -gubenare-, to steer (—kubernan—); -ancora-, anchor (—agkura—); -prora-, ship's bow (—prora—); -aplustre-, ship's stern (—aphlaston—); -anquina-, the rope fastening the yards (—agkoina—); -nausea-, sea-sickness (—nausia—). The four chief winds of the ancients- -aquilo-, the "eagle-wind," the north-easterly Tramontana; -voltumus- (of uncertain derivation, perhaps the "vulture-wind"), the south-easterly; -auster- the "scorching" southwest wind, the Sirocco; -favonius-, the "favourable" north-west wind blowing from the Tyrrhene Sea—have indigenous names bearing no reference to navigation; but all the other Latin names for winds are Greek (such as -eurus-, -notus-), or translations from the Greek (e.g. -solanus- = —apelioteis—, -Africus- = —lips—).

21. This meant in the first instance the tokens used in the service of the camp, the —xuleiphia kata phulakein brachea teleos echonta charakteira— (Polyb. vi. 35, 7); the four -vigiliae- of the night-service gave name to the tokens generally. The fourfold division of the night for the service of watching is Greek as well as Roman; the military science of the Greeks may well have exercised an influence—possibly through Pyrrhus (Liv. xxxv. 14)—in the organization of the measures for security in the Roman camp. The employment of the non-Doric form speaks for the comparatively late date at which theword was taken over.

22. I. XI. Character of the Roman Law

23. I. VII. Relation of Rome to Latium

24. I. X. Etruscan Commerce

25. I. XI. Clients and Foreigners, I. XIII. Commerce, in Latium Passive, in Etruria Active

26. I. X. Greek Cities Near Vesuvius

27. If we leave out of view -Sarranus-, -Afer-, and other local designations (I. X. Phoenicians and Italians in Opposition to the Hellenes), the Latin language appears not to possess a single word immediately derived in early times from the Phoenician. The very few words from Phoenician roots which occur in it, such as -arrabo- or -arra- and perhaps also -murra-, -nardus-, and the like, are plainly borrowed proximately from the Greek, which has a considerable number of such words of Oriental extraction as indications of its primitive intercourse with the Aramaeans. That —elephas— and -ebur- should have come from the same Phoenician original with or without the addition of the article, and thus have been each formed independently, is a linguistic impossibility, as the Phoenician article is in reality -ha-, and is not so employed; besides the Oriental primitive word has not as yet been found. The same holds true of the enigmatical word -thesaurus-; whether it may have been originally Greek or borrowed by the Greeks from the Phoenician or Persian, it is at any rate, as a Latin word, derived from the Greek, as the very retaining of its aspiration proves (xii. Foreign Worships).

28. Quintus Claudius, in a law issued shortly before 534, prohibited the senators from having sea-going vessels holding more than 300 -amphorae- (1 amph. = nearly 6 gallons): -id satis habitum ad fructus ex agris vectandos; quaestus omnis patribus indecorus visus- (Liv. xxi. 63). It was thus an ancient usage, and was still permitted, that the senators should possess sea-going vessels for the transport of the produce of their estates: on the other hand, transmarine mercantile speculation (-quaestus-, traffic, fitting-out of vessels, &c.) on their part was prohibited. It is a curious fact that the ancient Greeks as well as the Romans expressed the tonnage of their sea-going ships constantly in amphorae; the reason evidently being, that Greece as well as Italy exported wine at a comparatively early period, and on a larger scale than any other bulky article.


Measuring and Writing

The art of measuring brings the world into subjection to man; the art of writing prevents his knowledge from perishing along with himself; together they make man—what nature has not made him—all-powerful and eternal. It is the privilege and duty of history to trace the course of national progress along these paths also.

Italian Measures

Measurement necessarily presupposes the development of the several ideas of units of time, of space, and of weight, and of a whole consisting of equal parts, or in other words of number and of a numeral system. The most obvious bases presented by nature for this purpose are, in reference to time, the periodic returns of the sun and moon, or the day and the month; in reference to space, the length of the human foot, which is more easily applied in measuring than the arm; in reference to gravity, the burden which a man is able to poise (-librare-) on his hand while he holds his arm stretched out, or the "weight" (-libra-). As a basis for the notion of a whole made up of equal parts, nothing so readily suggests itself as the hand with its five, or the hands with their ten, fingers; upon this rests the decimal system. We have already observed that these elements of all numeration and measuring reach back not merely beyond the separation of the Greek and Latin stocks, but even to the most remote primeval times. The antiquity in particular of the measurement of time by the moon is demonstrated by language;(1) even the mode of reckoning the days that elapse between the several phases of the moon, not forward from the phase on which it had entered last, but backward from that which was next to be expected, is at least older than the separation of the Greeks and Latins.

Decimal System

The most definite evidence of the antiquity and original exclusive use of the decimal system among the Indo-Germans is furnished by the well-known agreement of all Indo-Germanic languages in respect to the numerals as far as a hundred inclusive.(2) In the case of Italy the decimal system pervaded all the earliest arrangements: it may be sufficient to recall the number ten so usual in the case of witnesses, securities, envoys, and magistrates, the legal equivalence of one ox and ten sheep, the partition of the canton into ten curies and the pervading application generally of the decurial system, the -limitatio-, the tenth in offerings and in agriculture, decimation, and the praenomen -Decimus-. Among the applications of this most ancient decimal system in the sphere of measuring and of writing, the remarkable Italian ciphers claim a primary place. When the Greeks and Italians separated, there were still evidently no conventional signs of number. On the other hand we find the three oldest and most indispensable numerals, one, five, and ten, represented by three signs—I, V or /, X, manifestly imitations of the outstretched finger, and the open hand single and double—which were not derived either from the Hellenes or the Phoenicians, but were common to the Romans, Sabellians, and Etruscans. They were the first steps towards the formation of a national Italian writing, and at the same time evidences of the liveliness of that earlier inland intercourse among the Italians which preceded their transmarine commerce.(3) Which of the Italian stocks invented, and which of them borrowed, these signs, can of course no longer be ascertained. Other traces of the pure decimal system occur but sparingly in this field; among them are the -versus-, the Sabellian measure of surface of 100 square feet,(4) and the Roman year of 10 months.

The Duodecimal System

Otherwise generally in the case of those Italian measures, which were not connected with Greek standards and were probably developed by the Italians before they came into contact with the Greeks, there prevailed the partition of the "whole" (-as-) into twelve "units" (-unciae-). The very earliest Latin priesthoods, the colleges of the Salii and Arvales,(5) as well as the leagues of the Etruscan cities, were organized on the basis of the number twelve. The same number predominated in the Roman system of weights and in the measures of length, where the pound (-libra-) and the foot (-pes-) were usually subdivided into twelve parts; the unit of the Roman measures of surface was the "driving" (-actus-) of 120 square feet, a combination of the decimal and duodecimal systems.(6) Similar arrangements as to the measures of capacity may have passed into oblivion.

If we inquire into the basis of the duodecimal system and consider how it can have happened that, in addition to ten, twelve should have been so early and universally singled out from the equal series of numbers, we shall probably be able to find no other source to which it can be referred than a comparison of the solar and lunar periods. Still more than the double hand of ten fingers did the solar cycle of nearly twelve lunar periods first suggest to man the profound conception of an unit composed of equal units, and thereby originate the idea of a system of numbers, the first step towards mathematical thought. The consistent duodecimal development of this idea appears to have belonged to the Italian nation, and to have preceded the first contact with the Greeks.

Hellenic Measures in Italy

But when at length the Hellenic trader had opened up the route to the west coast of Italy, the measures of surface remained unaffected, but the measures of length, of weight, and above all of capacity—in other words those definite standards without which barter and traffic are impossible—experienced the effects of the new international intercourse. The oldest Roman foot has disappeared; that which we know, and which was in use at a very early period among the Romans, was borrowed from Greece, and was, in addition to its new Roman subdivision into twelfths, divided after the Greek fashion into four hand-breadths (-palmus-) and sixteen finger-breadths (-digitus-). Further, the Roman weights were brought into a fixed proportional relation to the Attic system, which prevailed throughout Sicily but not in Cumae—another significant proof that the Latin traffic was chiefly directed to the island; four Roman pounds were assumed as equal to three Attic -minae-, or rather the Roman pound was assumed as equal to one and a half of the Sicilian -litrae- or half-minae.(7) But the most singular and chequered aspect is presented by the Roman measures of capacity, as regards both their names and their proportions. Their names have come from the Greek terms either by corruption (-amphora-, -modius- after —medimnos—, -congius- from —choeus—, -hemina-, -cyathus-) or by translation (-acetabulum-from —ozubaphon—); while conversely —zesteis— is a corruption of -sextarius-. All the measures are not identical, but those in most common use are so; among liquid measures the -congius- or -chus-, the -sextarius-, and the -cyathus-, the two last also for dry goods; the Roman -amphora- was equalized in water-weight to the Attic talent, and at the same time stood to the Greek —metretes— in the fixed ratio of 3:2, and to the Greek —medimnos— of 2:1. To one who can decipher the significance of such records, these names and numerical proportions fully reveal the activity and importance of the intercourse between the Sicilians and the Latins. The Greek numeral signs were not adopted; but the Roman probably availed himself of the Greek alphabet, when it reached him, to form ciphers for 50 and 1000, perhaps also for 100, out of the signs for the three aspirated letters which he had no use for. In Etruria the sign for 100 at least appears to have been obtained in a similar way. Afterwards, as usually happens, the systems of notation among the two neighbouring nations became assimilated by the adoption in substance of the Roman system in Etruria.

The Italian Calendar before the Period of Greek Influence in Italy

In like manner the Roman calendar—and probably that of the Italians generally—began with an independent development of its own, but subsequently came under the influence of the Greeks. In the division of time the returns of sunrise and sunset, and of the new and full moon, most directly arrest the attention of man; and accordingly the day and the month, determined not by cyclic calculation but by direct observation, were long the exclusive measures of time. Down to a late age sunrise and sunset were proclaimed in the Roman market-place by the public crier, and in like manner it may be presumed that in earlier times, at each of the four phases of the moon, the number of days that would elapse from that phase until the next was proclaimed by the priests. The mode of reckoning therefore in Latium—and the like mode, it may be presumed, was in use not merely among the Sabellians, but also among the Etruscans—was by days, which, as already mentioned, were counted not forward from the phase that had last occurred, but backward from that which was next expected; by lunar weeks, which varied in length between 7 and 8 days, the average length being 7 3/8; and by lunar months which in like manner were sometimes of 29, sometimes of 30 days, the average duration of the synodical month being 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes. For some time the day continued to be among the Italians the smallest, and the month the largest, division of time. It was not until afterwards that they began to distribute day and night respectively into four portions, and it was much later still when they began to employ the division into hours; which explains why even stocks otherwise closely related differed in their mode of fixing the commencement of day, the Romans placing it at midnight, the Sabellians and the Etruscans at noon. No calendar of the year had, at least when the Greeks separated from the Italians, as yet been organized, for the names for the year and its divisions in the two languages have been formed quite independently of each other. Nevertheless the Italians appear to have already in the pre-Hellenic period advanced, if not to the arrangement of a fixed calendar, at any rate to the institution of two larger units of time. The simplifying of the reckoning according to lunar months by the application of the decimal system, which was usual among the Romans, and the designation of a term of ten months as a "ring" (-annus-) or complete year, bear in them all the traces of a high antiquity. Later, but still at a period very early and undoubtedly previous to the operation of Greek influences, the duodecimal system (as we have already stated) was developed in Italy, and, as it derived its very origin from the observation of the fact that the solar period was equal to twelve lunar periods, it was certainly applied in the first instance to the reckoning of time. This view accords with the fact that the individual names of the months—which can only have originated after the month was viewed as part of a solar year—particularly those of March and of May, were similar among the different branches of the Italian stock, while there was no similarity between the Italian names and the Greek. It is not improbable therefore that the problem of laying down a practical calendar which should correspond at once to the moon and the sun—a problem which may be compared in some sense to the quadrature of the circle, and the solution of which was only recognized as impossible and abandoned after the lapse of many centuries—had already employed the minds of men in Italy before the epoch at which their contact with the Greeks began; these purely national attempts to solve it, however, have passed into oblivion.

The Oldest Italo-Greek Calendar

What we know of the oldest calendar of Rome and of some other Latin cities—as to the Sabellian and Etruscan measurement of time we have no traditional information—is decidedly based on the oldest Greek arrangement of the year, which was intended to answer both to the phases of the moon and to the seasons of the solar year, constructed on the assumption of a lunar period of 29 1/2 days and a solar period of 12 1/2 lunar months or 368 3/4 days, and on the regular alternation of a full month or month of thirty days with a hollow month or month of twenty-nine days and of a year of twelve with a year of thirteen months, but at the same time maintained in some sort of harmony with the actual celestial phenomena by arbitrary curtailments and intercalations. It is possible that this Greek arrangement of the year in the first instance came into use among the Latins without undergoing any alteration; but the oldest form of the Roman year which can be historically recognized varied from its model, not indeed in the cyclical result nor yet in the alternation of years of twelve with years of thirteen months, but materially in the designation and in the measuring off of the individual months. The Roman year began with the beginning of spring; the first month in it and the only one which bears the name of a god, was named from Mars (-Martius-), the three following from sprouting (-aprilis-) growing (-maius-), and thriving (-iunius-), the fifth onward to the tenth from their ordinal numbers (-quinctilis-, -sextilis-, -september-, -october-, -november-, -december), the eleventh from commencing (-ianuarius-),(8) with reference presumably to the renewal of agricultural operations that followed midwinter and the season of rest, the twelfth, and in an ordinary year the last, from cleansing (-februarius-). To this series recurring in regular succession there was added in the intercalary year a nameless "labour-month" (-mercedonius-) at the close of the year, viz. after February. And, as the Roman calendar was independent as respected the names of the months which were probably taken from the old national ones, it was also independent as regarded their duration. Instead of the four years of the Greek cycle, each composed of six months of 30 and six of 29 days and an intercalary month inserted every second year alternately of 29 and 30 days (354 + 384 + 354 + 383 = 1475 days), the Roman calendar substituted four years, each containing four months—the first, third, fifth, and eighth—of 31 days and seven of 29 days, with a February of 28 days during three years and of 29 in the fourth, and an intercalary month of 27 days inserted every second year (355 + 383 + 355 + 382 = 1475 days). In like manner this calendar departed from the original division of the month into four weeks, sometimes of 7, sometimes of 8 days; it made the eight-day-week run on through the years without regard to the other relations of the calendar, as our Sundays do, and placed the weekly market on the day with which it began (-noundinae-). Along with this it once for all fixed the first quarter in the months of 31 days on the seventh, in those of 29 on the fifth day, and the full moon in the former on the fifteenth, in the latter on the thirteenth day. As the course of the months was thus permanently arranged, it was henceforth necessary to proclaim only the number of days lying between the new moon and the first quarter; thence the day of the newmoon received the name of "proclamation-day" (-kalendae-). The first day of the second section of the month, uniformly of 8 days, was—in conformity with the Roman custom of reckoning, which included the -terminus ad quem- —designated as "nine-day" (-nonae-). The day of the full moon retained the old name of -idus- (perhaps "dividing-day"). The motive lying at the bottom of this strange remodelling of the calendar seems chiefly to have been a belief in the salutary virtue of odd numbers;(9) and while in general it is based on the oldest form of the Greek year, its variations from that form distinctly exhibit the influence of the doctrines of Pythagoras, which were then paramount in Lower Italy, and which especially turned upon a mystic view of numbers. But the consequence was that this Roman calendar, clearly as it bears traces of the desire that it should harmonize with the course both of sun and moon, in reality by no means so corresponded with the lunar course as did at least on the whole its Greek model, while, like the oldest Greek cycle, it could only follow the solar seasons by means of frequent arbitrary excisions, and did in all probability follow them but very imperfectly, for it is scarcely likely that the calendar would be handled with greater skill than was manifested in its original arrangement. The retention moreover of the reckoning by months or—which is the same thing—by years of ten months implies a tacit, but not to be misunderstood, confession of the irregularity and untrustworthiness of the oldest Roman solar year. This Roman calendar may be regarded, at least in its essential features, as that generally current among the Latins. When we consider how generally the beginning of the year and the names of the months are liable to change, minor variations in the numbering and designations are quite compatible with the hypothesis of a common basis; and with such a calendar-system, which practically was irrespective of the lunar course, the Latins might easily come to have their months of arbitrary length, possibly marked off by annual festivals—as in the case of the Alban months, which varied between 16 and 36 days. It would appear probable therefore that the Greek —trieteris— had early been introduced from Lower Italy at least into Latium and perhaps also among the other Italian stocks, and had thereafter been subjected in the calendars of the several cities to further subordinate alterations.

For the measuring of periods of more than one year the regnal years of the kings might have been employed: but it is doubtful whether that method of dating, which was in use in the East, occurred in Greece or Italy during earlier times. On the other hand the intercalary period recurring every four years, and the census and lustration of the community connected with it, appear to have suggested a reckoning by -lustra- similar in plan to the Greek reckoning by Olympiads—a method, however, which early lost its chronological significance in consequence of the irregularity that now prevailed as to the due holding of the census at the right time.

Introduction of Hellenic Alphabets into Italy

The art of expressing sounds by written signs was of later origin than the art of measurement. The Italians did not any more than the Hellenes develop such an art of themselves, although we may discover attempts at such a development in the Italian numeral signs,(10) and possibly also in the primitive Italian custom—formed independently of Hellenic influence—of drawing lots by means of wooden tablets. The difficulty which must have attended the first individualizing of sounds—occurring as they do in so great a variety of combinations—is best demonstrated by the fact that a single alphabet propagated from people to people and from generation to generation has sufficed, and still suffices, for the whole of Aramaic, Indian, Graeco-Roman, and modern civilization; and this most important product of the human intellect was the joint creation of the Aramaeans and the Indo-Germans. The Semitic family of languages, in which the vowel has a subordinate character and never can begin a word, facilitates on that very account the individualizing of the consonants; and it was among the Semites accordingly that the first alphabet—in which the vowels were still wanting—was invented. It was the Indians and Greeks who first independently of each other and by very divergent methods created, out of the Aramaean consonantal writing brought to them by commerce, a complete alphabet by the addition of the vowels—which was effected by the application of four letters, which the Greeks did not use as consonantal signs, for the four vowels -a -e -i -o, and by the formation of a new sign for -u —in other words by the introduction of the syllable into writing instead of the mere consonant, or, as Palamedes says in Euripides,

—Ta teis ge leitheis pharmak orthosas monos Aphona kai phonounta, sullabas te theis, Ezeupon anthropoisi grammat eidenai.—

This Aramaeo-Hellenic alphabet was accordingly brought to the Italians through the medium, doubtless, of the Italian Hellenes; not, however, through the agricultural colonies of Magna Graecia, but through the merchants possibly of Cumae or Tarentum, by whom it would be brought in the first instance to the very ancient emporia of international traffic in Latium and Etruria—to Rome and Caere. The alphabet received by the Italians was by no means the oldest Hellenic one; it had already experienced several modifications, particularly the addition of the three letters —"id:xi", —"id:phi", —"id:chi" and the alteration of the signs for —"id:iota", —"id:gamma", —"id:lambda".(11) We have already observed(12) that the Etruscan and Latin alphabets were not derived the one from the other, but both directly from the Greek; in fact the Greek alphabet came to Etruria in a form materially different from that which reached Latium. The Etruscan alphabet has a double sign -s (sigma -"id:s" and san -"id:sh") and only a single -k,(13) and of the -r only the older form -"id:P"; the Latin has, so far as we know, only a single -s, but a double sign for -k (kappa -"id:k" and koppa -"id:q") and of the -r almost solely the more recent form -"id:R". The oldest Etruscan writing shows no knowledge of lines, and winds like the coiling of a snake; the more recent employs parallel broken-off lines from right to left: the Latin writing, as far as our monuments reach back, exhibits only the latter form of parallel lines, which originally perhaps may have run at pleasure from left to right or from right to left, but subsequently ran among the Romans in the former, and among the Faliscans in the latter direction. The model alphabet brought to Etruria must notwithstanding its comparatively remodelled character reach back to an epoch very ancient, though not positively to be determined; for, as the two sibilants sigma and san were always used by the Etruscans as different sounds side by side, the Greek alphabet which came to Etruria must doubtless still have possessed both of them in this way as living signs of sound; but among all the monuments of the Greek language known to us not one presents sigma and san in simultaneous use.

The Latin alphabet certainly, as we know it, bears on the whole a more recent character; and it is not improbable that the Latins did not simply receive the alphabet once for all, as was the case in Etruria, but in consequence of their lively intercourse with their Greek neighbours kept pace for a considerable period with the alphabet in use among these, and followed its variations. We find, for instance, that the forms -"id:///", -"id:P",(14) and -"id:SIGMA" were not unknown to the Romans, but were superseded in common use by the later forms -"id://", -"id:R", and -"id:S" —a circumstance which can only be explained by supposing that the Latins employed for a considerable period the Greek alphabet as such in writing either their mother-tongue or Greek. It is dangerous therefore to draw from the more recent character of the Greek alphabet which we meet with in Rome, as compared with the older character of that brought to Etruria, the inference that writing was practised earlier in Etruria than in Rome.

The powerful impression produced by the acquisition of the treasure of letters on those who received them, and the vividness with which they realized the power that slumbered in those humble signs, are illustrated by a remarkable vase from a sepulchral chamber of Caere built before the invention of the arch, which exhibits the old Greek model alphabet as it came to Etruria, and also an Etruscan syllabarium formed from it, which may be compared to that of Palamedes—evidently a sacred relic of the introduction and acclimatization of alphabetic writing in Etruria.

Development of Alphabets in Italy

Not less important for history than the derivation of the alphabet is the further course of its development on Italian soil: perhaps it is even of more importance; for by means of it a gleam of light is thrown upon the inland commerce of Italy, which is involved in far greater darkness than the commerce with foreigners on its coasts. In the earliest epoch of Etruscan writing, when the alphabet was used without material alteration as it had been introduced, its use appears to have been restricted to the Etruscans on the Po and in what is now Tuscany. In course of time this alphabet, manifestly diffusing itself from Atria and Spina, reached southward along the east coast as far as the Abruzzi, northward to the Veneti and subsequently even to the Celts at the foot of, among, and indeed beyond the Alps, so that its last offshoots reached as far as the Tyrol and Styria. The more recent epoch starts with a reform of the alphabet, the chief features of which were the introduction of writing in broken-off lines, the suppression of the -"id:o", which was no longer distinguished in pronunciation from the -"id:u", and the introduction of a new letter -"id:f" for which the alphabet as received by them had no corresponding sign. This reform evidently arose among the western Etruscans, and while it did not find reception beyond the Apennines, became naturalized among all the Sabellian tribes, and especially among the Umbrians. In its further course the alphabet experienced various fortunes in connection with the several stocks, the Etruscans on the Arno and around Capua, the Umbrians and the Samnites; frequently the mediae were entirely or partially lost, while elsewhere again new vowels and consonants were developed. But that West-Etruscan reform of the alphabet was not merely as old as the oldest tombs found in Etruria; it was considerably older, for the syllabarium just mentioned as found probably in one of these tombs already presents the reformed alphabet in an essentially modified and modernized shape; and, as the reformed alphabet itself is relatively recent as compared with the primitive one, the mind almost fails in the effort to reach back to the time when that alphabet came to Italy. While the Etruscans thus appear as the instruments in diffusing the alphabet in the north, east, and south of the peninsula, the Latin alphabet on the other hand was confined to Latium, and maintained its ground, upon the whole, there with but few alterations; only the letters -"id:gamma" -"id:kappa" and -"id:zeta" -"id:sigma" gradually became coincident in sound, the consequence of which was, that in each case one of the homophonous signs (-"id:kappa" -"id:zeta") disappeared from writing. In Rome it can be shown that these were already laid aside before the end of the fourth century of the city,(15) and the whole monumental and literary tradition that has reached us knows nothing of them, with a single exception.(16) Now when we consider that in the oldest abbreviations the distinction between -"id:gamma" -"id:c" and -"id:kappa" -"id:k" is still regularly maintained;(17) that the period, accordingly, when the sounds became in pronunciation coincident, and before that again the period during which the abbreviations became fixed, lies beyond the beginning of the Samnite wars; and lastly, that a considerable interval must necessarily have elapsed between the introduction of writing and the establishment of a conventional system of abbreviation; we must, both as regards Etruria and Latium, carry back the commencement of the art of writing to an epoch which more closely approximates to the first incidence of the Egyptian Sirius-period within historical times, the year 1321 B.C., than to the year 776, with which the chronology of the Olympiads began in Greece.(18) The high antiquity of the art of writing in Rome is evinced otherwise by numerous and plain indications. The existence of documents of the regal period is sufficiently attested; such was the special treaty between Rome and Gabii, which was concluded by a king Tarquinius and probably not by the last of that name, and which, written on the skin of the bullock sacrificed on the occasion, was preserved in the temple of Sancus on the Quirinal, which was rich in antiquities and probably escaped the conflagration of the Gauls; and such was the alliance which king Servius Tullius concluded with Latium, and which Dionysius saw on a copper tablet in the temple of Diana on the Aventine. What he saw, however, was probably a copy restored after the fire with the help of a Latin exemplar, for it was not likely that engraving on metal was practised as early as the time of the kings. The charters of foundation of the imperial period still refer to the charter founding this temple as the oldest document of the kind in Rome and the common model for all. But even then they scratched (-exarare-, -scribere-, akin to -scrobes- (19)) or painted (-linere-, thence -littera-) on leaves (-folium-), inner bark (-liber-), or wooden tablets (-tabula-, -album-), afterwards also on leather and linen. The sacred records of the Samnites as well as of the priesthood of Anagnia were inscribed on linen rolls, and so were the oldest lists of the Roman magistrates preserved in the temple of the goddess of recollection (-Iuno moneta-) on the Capitol. It is scarcely necessary to recall further proofs in the primitive marking of the pastured cattle (-scriptura-), in the mode of addressing the senate, "fathers and enrolled" (-patres conscripti-), and in the great antiquity of the books of oracles, the clan-registers, and the Alban and Roman calendars. When Roman tradition speaks of halls in the Forum, where the boys and girls of quality were taught to read and write, already in the earliest times of the republic, the statement may be, but is not necessarily to be deemed, an invention. We have been deprived of information as to the early Roman history, not in consequence of the want of a knowledge of writing, or even perhaps of the lack of documents, but in consequence of the incapacity of the historians of the succeeding age, which was called to investigate the history, to work out the materials furnished by the archives, and of the perversity which led them to desire for the earliest epoch a delineation of motives and of characters, accounts of battles and narratives of revolutions, and while engaged in inventing these, to neglect what the extant written tradition would not have refused to yield to the serious and self-denying inquirer.


The history of Italian writing thus furnishes in the first place a confirmation of the weak and indirect influence exercised by the Hellenic character over the Sabellians as compared with the more western peoples. The fact that the former received their alphabet from the Etruscans and not from the Romans is probably to be explained by supposing that they already possessed it before they entered upon their migration along the ridge of the Apennines, and that therefore the Sabines as well as Samnites carried it along with them from the mother-land to their new abodes. On the other hand this history of writing contains a salutary warning against the adoption of the hypothesis, originated by the later Roman culture in its devotedness to Etruscan mysticism and antiquarian trifling, and patiently repeated by modern and even very recent inquirers, that Roman civilization derived its germ and its pith from Etruria. If this were the truth, some trace of it ought to be more especially apparent in this field; but on the contrary the germ of the Latin art of writing was Greek, and its development was so national, that it did not even adopt the very desirable Etruscan sign for -"id:f".(20) Indeed, where there is an appearance of borrowing, as in the numeral signs, it is on the part of the Etruscans, who took over from the Romans at least the sign for 50.

Corruption of Language and Writing

Lastly it is a significant fact, that among all the Italian stocks the development of the Greek alphabet primarily consisted in a process of corruption. Thus the -mediae- disappeared in the whole of the Etruscan dialects, while the Umbrians lost -"id:gamma" and -"id:d", the Samnites -"id:d", and the Romans -"id:gamma"; and among the latter -"id:d" also threatened to amalgamate with -"id:r". In like manner among the Etruscans -"id:o" and -"id:u" early coalesced, and even among the Latins we meet with a tendency to the same corruption. Nearly the converse occurred in the case of the sibilants; for while the Etruscan retained the three signs -"id:z", -"id:s", -"id:sh", and the Umbrian rejected the last but developed two new sibilants in its room, the Samnite and the Faliscan confined themselves like the Greek to -"id:s" and -"id:z", and the Roman of later times even to -"id:s" alone. It is plain that the more delicate distinctions of sound were duly felt by the introducers of the alphabet, men of culture and masters of two languages; but after the national writing Became wholly detached from the Hellenic mother-alphabet, the -mediae- and their -tenues- gradually came to coincide, and the sibilants and vowels were thrown into disorder—transpositions or rather destructions of sound, of which the first in particular is entirely foreign to the Greek. The destruction of the forms of flexion and derivation went hand in hand with this corruption of sounds. The cause of this barbarization was thus, upon the whole, simply the necessary process of corruption which is continuously eating away every language, where its progress is not stemmed by literature and reason; only in this case indications of what has elsewhere passed away without leaving a trace have been preserved in the writing of sounds. The circumstance that this barbarizing process affected the Etruscans more strongly than any other of the Italian stocks adds to the numerous proofs of their inferior capacity for culture. The fact on the other hand that, among the Italians, the Umbrians apparently were the most affected by a similar corruption of language, the Romans less so, the southern Sabellians least of all, probably finds its explanation, at least in part, in the more lively intercourse maintained by the former with the Etruscans, and by the latter with the Greeks.

Notes for Book I Chapter XIV

1. I. II. Indo-Germanic Culture

2. I. II. Indo-Germanic Culture

3. I. XII. Inland Commerce of the Italians

4. I. II. Agriculture

5. I. XII. Priests

6. Originally both the -actus-, "riving," and its still more frequently occurring duplicate, the -jugerum-, "yoking," were, like the German "morgen," not measures of surface, but measures of labour; the latter denoting the day's work, the former the half-day's work, with reference to the sharp division of the day especially in Italy by the ploughman's rest at noon.

7. I. XIII. Etrusco-Attic and Latino-Sicilian Commerce

8. I. XII. Nature of the Roman Gods

9. From the same cause all the festival-days are odd, as well those recurring every month (-kalendae- on the 1st. -nonae- on the 5th or 7th, -idus- on the 13th or 15th), as also, with but two exceptions, those of the 45 annual festivals mentioned above (xii. Oldest Table Of Roman Festivals). This is carried so far, that in the case of festivals of several days the intervening even days were dropped out, and so, for example, that of Carmentis was celebrated on Jan. 11, 15, that of the Grove-festival (-Lucaria-) on July 19, 21, and that of the Ghosts-festival on May 9, 11, and 13.

10. I. XIV. Decimal System

11. The history of the alphabet among the Hellenes turns essentially on the fact that—assuming the primitive alphabet of 23 letters, that is to say, the Phoenician alphabet vocalized and enlarged by the addition of the -"id:u" —proposals of very various kinds were made to supplement and improve it, and each of these proposals has a history of its own. The most important of these, which it is interesting to keep in view as bearing on the history of Italian writing, are the following:—I. The introduction of special signs for the sounds —"id:xi" —"id:phi" —"id:chi". This proposal is so old that all the Greek alphabets—with the single exception of that of the islands Thera, Melos, and Crete—and all alphabets derived from the Greek without exception, exhibit its influence. At first probably the aim was to append the signs —"id:CHI" = —"id:xi iota", —"id:PHI" = —"id:phi iota", and —"id:PSI"= —"id:chi iota" to the close of the alphabet, and in this shape it was adopted on the mainland of Hellas—with the exception of Athens and Corinth—and also among the Sicilian and Italian Greeks. The Greeks of Asia Minor on the other hand, and those of the islands of the Archipelago, and also the Corinthians on the mainland appear, when this proposal reached them, to have already had in use for the sound —"id:xi iota" the fifteenth sign of the Phoenician alphabet —"id:XI" (Samech); accordingly of the three new signs they adopted the —"id:PHI" for —"id:phi iota", but employed the —"id:CHI" not for —"id:xi iota", but for —"id:chi iota". The third sign originally invented for —"id:chi iota" was probably allowed in most instances to drop; only on the mainland of Asia Minor it was retained, but received the value of —"id:psi iota". The mode of writing adopted in Asia Minor was followed also by Athens; only in its case not merely the —"id:psi iota", but the —"id:xi iota" also, was not received and in their room the two consonants continued to be written as before.—II. Equally early, if not still earlier, an effort was made to obviate the confusion that might so easily occur between the forms for —"id:iota S" and for —"id:s E"; for all the Greek alphabets known to us bear traces of the endeavour to distinguish them otherwise and more precisely. Already in very early times two such proposals of change must have been made, each of which found a field for its diffusion. In the one case they employed for the sibilant—for which the Phoenician alphabet furnished two signs, the fourteenth ( —"id://") for —"id:sh" and the eighteenth (—"id:E") for —"id:s" —not the latter, which was in sound the more suitable, but the former; and such was in earlier times the mode of writing in the eastern islands, in Corinth and Corcyra, and among the Italian Achaeans. In the other case they substituted for the sign of —"id:i" the simple stroke —"id:I", which was by far the more usual, and at no very late date became at least so far general that the broken —"id:iota S" everywhere disappeared, although individual communities retained the —"id:s" in the form —"id://" alongside of the —"I".—III. Of later date is the substitution of —"id:/" for —"id:/" (—"id:lambda") which might readily be confounded with —"id:GAMMA gamma". This we meet with in Athens and Boeotia, while Corinth and the communities dependent on Corinth attained the same object by giving to the —"id:gamma" the semicircular form —"id:C" instead of the hook-shape.—IV. The forms for —"id:p" —"id:P (with broken-loop)" and —"id:r" —"id:P", likewise very liable to be confounded, were distinguished by transforming the latter into —"id:R"; which more recent form was not used by the Greeks of Asia Minor, the Cretans, the Italian Achaeans, and a few other districts, but on the other hand greatly preponderated both in Greece proper and in Magna Graecia and Sicily. Still the older form of the —"id:r" —"id:P" did not so early and so completely disappear there as the older form of the —"id:l"; this alteration therefore beyond doubt is to be placed later.—V. The differentiating of the long and short -e and the long and short -o remained in the earlier times confined to the Greeks of Asia Minor and of the islands of the Aegean Sea.

All these technical improvements are of a like nature and from a historical point of view of like value, in so far as each of them arose at a definite time and at a definite place and thereafter took its own mode of diffusion and found its special development. The excellent investigation of Kirchhoff (-Studien zur Geschichte des griechischen Alphabets-), which has thrown a clear light on the previously so obscure history of the Hellenic alphabet, and has also furnished essential data for the earliest relations between the Hellenes and Italians—establishing, in particular, incontrovertibly the previously uncertain home of the Etruscan alphabet—is affected by a certain one-sidedness in so far as it lays proportionally too great stress on a single one of these proposals. If systems are here to be distinguished at all, we may not divide the alphabets into two classes according to the value of the —"id:X" as —"id:zeta" or as —"id:chi", but we shall have to distinguish the alphabet of 23 from that of 25 or 26 letters, and perhaps further in this latter case to distinguish the Ionic of Asia Minor, from which the later common alphabet proceeded, from the common Greek of earlier times. In dealing, however, with the different proposals for the modification of the alphabet the several districts followed an essentially eclectic course, so that one was received here and another there; and it is just in this respect that the history of the Greek alphabet is so instructive, because it shows how particular groups of the Greek lands exchanged improvements in handicraft and art, while others exhibited no such reciprocity. As to Italy in particular we have already called attention to the remarkable contrast between the Achaean agricultural towns and the Chalcidic and Doric colonies of a more mercantile character (x. Iono-Dorian Towns); in the former the primitive forms were throughout retained, in the latter the improved forms were adopted, even those which coming from different quarters were somewhat inconsistent, such as the —"id:C" —"id:gamma" alongside of the —"id:/" —"id:l". The Italian alphabets proceed, as Kirchhoff has shown, wholly from the alphabet of the Italian Greeks and in fact from the Chalcidico-Doric; but that the Etruscans and Latins received their alphabet not the one from the other but both directly from the Greeks, is placed beyond doubt especially by the different form of the —"id:r". For, while of the four modifications of the alphabet above described which concern the Italian Greeks (the fifth was confined to Asia Minor) the first three were already carried out before the alphabet passed to the Etruscans and Latins, the differentiation of —"id:p" and —"id:r" had not yet taken place when it came to Etruria, but on the other hand had at least begun when the Latins received it; for which reason the Etruscans do not at all know the form -"id:R" for -"id:r", whereas among the Faliscans and the Latins, with the single exception of the Dressel vase (xiv. Note 14 ), the younger form is met with exclusively.

12. I. XIII. Etrusco-Attic and Latino-Sicilian Commerce

13. That the Etruscans always were without the koppa, seems not doubtful; for not only is no sure trace of it to be met with elsewhere, but it is wanting in the model alphabet of the Galassi vase. The attempt to show its presence in the syllabarium of the latter is at any rate mistaken, for the syllabarium can and does only take notice of the Etruscan letters that were afterwards in common use, and to these the koppa notoriously did not belong; moreover the sign placed at the close cannot well from its position have any other value than that of the -f, which was in fact the last letter in the Etruscan alphabet, and which could not be omitted in a syllabarium exhibiting the variations of that alphabet from its model. It is certainly surprising that the koppa should be absent from the Greek alphabet that came to Etruria, when it otherwise so long maintained its place in the Chalcidico-Doric ; but this may well have been a local peculiarity of the town whose alphabet first reached Etruria. Caprice and accident have at all times had a share in determining whether a sign becoming superfluous shall be retained or dropped from the alphabet; thus the Attic alphabet lost the eighteenth Phoenician sign, but retained the others which had disappeared from the -u.

14. The golden bracelet of Praeneste recently brought to light (Mitth. der rom. Inst. 1887), far the oldest of the intelligible monuments of the Latin language and Latin writing, shows the older form of the -"id:m"; the enigmatic clay vase from the Quirinal (published by Dressel in the Annali dell Instituto, 1880) shows the older form of the -"id:r".

15. At this period we shall have to place that recorded form of the Twelve Tables, which subsequently lay before the Roman philologues, and of which we possess fragments. Beyond doubt the code was at its very origin committed to writing; but that those scholars themselves referred their text not to the original exemplar, but to an official document written down after the Gallic conflagration, is proved by the story of the Tables having undergone reproduction at that time. This enables us easily to explain how their text by no means exhibited the oldest orthography, which was not unknown to them; even apart from the consideration that in the case of such a written document, employed, moreover, for the purpose of being committed to memory by the young, a philologically exact transmission cannot possibly be assumed.

16. This is the inscription of the bracelet of Praeneste which has been mentioned at xiv, note 14. On the other hand even on the Ficoroni cista -"id:C" has the later form of -"id:K".

17. Thus -"id:C" represents -Gaius-; -"id:CN" -Gnaeus-; while -"id:K" stands for -Kaeso-. With the more recent abbreviations of course this is not the case; in these -"id:gamma" is represented not by -"id:C", but by -"id:G" (-GAL- -Galeria-), —"id:kappa", as a rule, by -"id:C" (-C- -centum- -COS- -consul; -COL -Collina-), or before -"id:a" by -"id:K" (-KAR- -karmetalia-; -MERK- -merkatus-). For they expressed for a time the sound —k before the vowels -e -i -o and before all consonants by -"id:C", before -a on the other hand by -"id:K", before -u by the old sign of the koppa -"id:Q".

18. If this view is correct, the origin of the Homeric poems (though of course not exactly that of the redaction in which we now have them) must have been far anterior to the age which Herodotus assigns for the flourishing of Homer (100 before Rome); for the introduction of the Hellenic alphabet into Italy, as well as the beginning of intercourse at all between Hellas and Italy, belongs only to the post-Homeric period.

19. Just as the old Saxon -writan- signifies properly to tear, thence to write.

20. The enigma as to how the Latins came to employ the Greek sign corresponding to -v for the -f quite different in sound, has been solved by the bracelet of Praeneste (xiv. Developments Of Alphabets in Italy, note) with its -fhefhaked- for -fecit-, and thereby at the same time the derivation of the Latin alphabet from the Chalcidian colonies of Lower Italy has been confirmed. For in a Boeotian inscription belonging to the same alphabet we find in the word -fhekadamoe-(Gustav Meyer, Griech. Grammatik, sec. 244, ap. fin.) the same combination of sound, and an aspirated v might certainly approximate in sound to the Latin -f.

20. -Ratio Tuscanica,: cavum aedium Tuscanicum.-

21. When Varro (ap. Augustin. De Civ. Dei, iv. 31; comp. Plutarch Num. 8) affirms that the Romans for more than one hundred and seventy years worshipped the gods without images, he is evidently thinking of this primitive piece of carving, which, according to the conventional chronology, was dedicated between 176 and 219, and, beyond doubt, was the first statue of the gods, the consecration of which was mentioned in the authorities which Varro had before him. Comp, above, XIV. Development of Alphabets in Italy.

22. I. XIII. Handicrafts

23. I. XII. Nature of the Roman Gods

24. I. XII. Pontifices

Chapter XV


Artistic Endowment of the Italians

Poetry is impassioned language, and its modulation is melody. While in this sense no people is without poetry and music, some nations have received a pre-eminent endowment of poetic gifts. The Italian nation, however, was not and is not one of these. The Italian is deficient in the passion of the heart, in the longing to idealize what is human and to confer humanity on what is lifeless, which form the very essence of poetic art. His acuteness of perception and his graceful versatility enabled him to excel in irony and in the vein of tale-telling which we find in Horace and Boccaccio, in the humorous pleasantries of love and song which are presented in Catullus and in the good popular songs of Naples, above all in the lower comedy and in farce. Italian soil gave birth in ancient times to burlesque tragedy, and in modern times to mock-heroic poetry. In rhetoric and histrionic art especially no other nation equalled or equals the Italians. But in the more perfect kinds of art they have hardly advanced beyond dexterity of execution, and no epoch of their literature has produced a true epos or a genuine drama. The very highest literary works that have been successfully produced in Italy, divine poems like Dante's Commedia, and historical treatises such as those of Sallust and Macchiavelli, of Tacitus and Colletta, are pervaded by a passion more rhetorical than spontaneous. Even in music, both in ancient and modern times, really creative talent has been far less conspicuous than the accomplishment which speedily assumes the character of virtuosoship, and enthrones in the room of genuine and genial art a hollow and heart-withering idol. The field of the inward in art—so far as we may in the case of art distinguish an inward and an outward at all—is not that which has fallen to the Italian as his special province; the power of beauty, to have its full effect upon him, must be placed not ideally before his mind, but sensuously before his eyes. Accordingly he is thoroughly at home in architecture, painting, and sculpture; in these he was during the epoch of ancient culture the best disciple of the Hellenes, and in modern times he has become the master of all nations.

Dance, Music, and Song in Latium

From the defectiveness of our traditional information it is not possible to trace the development of artistic ideas among the several groups of nations in Italy; and in particular we are no longer in a position to speak of the poetry of Italy; we can only speak of that of Latium. Latin poetry, like that of every other nation, began in the lyrical form, or, to speak more correctly, sprang out of those primitive festal rejoicings, in which dance, music, and song were still inseparably blended. It is remarkable, however, that in the most ancient religious usages dancing, and next to dancing instrumental music, were far more prominent than song. In the great procession, with which the Roman festival of victory was opened, the chief place, next to the images of the gods and the champions, was assigned to the dancers grave and merry. The grave dancers were arranged in three groups of men, youths, and boys, all clad in red tunics with copper belts, with swords and short lances, the men being moreover furnished with helmets, and generally in full armed attire. The merry dancers were divided into two companies—"the sheep" in sheep-skins with a party-coloured over-garment, and "the goats" naked down to the waist, with a buck's skin thrown over them. In like manner the "leapers" (-salii-) were perhaps the most ancient and sacred of all the priesthoods,(1) and dancers (-ludii-, -ludiones-) were indispensable in all public processions, and particularly at funeral solemnities; so that dancing became even in ancient times a common trade. But, wherever the dancers made their appearance, there appeared also the musicians or—which was in the earliest times the same thing—the pipers. They too were never wanting at a sacrifice, at a marriage, or at a funeral; and by the side of the primitive public priesthood of the "leapers" there was ranged, of equal antiquity although of far inferior rank, the guild of the "pipers" (-collegium tibicinum-(2)), whose true character as strolling musicians is evinced by their ancient privilege—maintained even in spite of the strictness of Roman police—of wandering through the streets at their annual festival, wearing masks and full of sweet wine. While dancing thus presents itself as an honourable function and music as one subordinate but still necessary, so that public corporations were instituted for both of them, poetry appears more as a matter incidental and, in some measure, indifferent, whether it may have come into existence on its own account or to serve as an accompaniment to the movements of the dancers.

Religious Chants

The earliest chant, in the view of the Romans, was that which the leaves sang to themselves in the green solitude of the forest. The whispers and pipings of the "favourable spirit" (-faunus-, from -favere-) in the grove were reproduced for men, by those who had the gift of listening to him, in rhythmically measured language (-casmen-, afterwards -carmen-, from -canere-). Of a kindred nature to these soothsaying songs of inspired men and women (-vates-) were the incantations properly so called, the formulae for conjuring away diseases and other troubles, and the evil spells by which they prevented rain and called down lightning or even enticed the seed from one field to another; only in these instances, probably from the outset, formulae of mere sounds appear side by side with formulae of words.(3) More firmly rooted in tradition and equally ancient were the religious litanies which were sung and danced by the Salii and other priesthoods; the only one of which that has come down to us, a dance-chant of the Arval Brethren in honour of Mars probably composed to be sung in alternate parts, deserves a place here.

-Enos, Lases, iuvate! Ne velue rue, Marmar, sins incurrere in pleores! Satur fu, fere Mars! limen sali! sta! berber! Semunis alternei advocapit conctos! Enos, Marmar, iuvato! Triumpe!-

Which may be thus interpreted:

To the gods: -Nos, Lares, iuvate! Ne veluem (= malam luem) ruem (= ruinam), Mamers, sinas incurrere in plures! Satur esto, fere Mars!

To the individual brethren: In limen insili! sta! verbera (limen?)!

To all the brethren: Semones alterni advocate cunctos!

To the god: Nos, Mamers, iuvato!

To the individual brethren: Tripudia!-(4)

The Latin of this chant and of kindred fragments of the Salian songs, which were regarded even by the philologues of the Augustan age as the oldest documents of their mother-tongue, is related to the Latin of the Twelve Tables somewhat as the language of the Nibelungen is related to the language of Luther; and we may perhaps compare these venerable litanies, as respects both language and contents, with the Indian Vedas.

Panegyrics and Lampoons

Lyrical panegyrics and lampoons belonged to a later epoch. We might infer from the national character of the Italians that satirical songs must have abounded in Latium in ancient times, even if their prevalence had not been attested by the very ancient measures of police directed against them. But the panegyrical chants became of more importance. When a burgess was borne to burial, the bier was followed by a female relative or friend, who, accompanied by a piper, sang his dirge (-nenia-). In like manner at banquets boys, who according to the fashion of those days attended their fathers even at feasts out of their own houses, sang by turns songs in praise of their ancestors, sometimes to the pipe, sometimes simply reciting them without accompaniment (-assa voce canere-). The custom of men singing in succession at banquets was presumably borrowed from the Greeks, and that not till a later age. We know no further particulars of these ancestral lays; but it is self-evident that they must have attempted description and narration and thus have developed, along with and out of the lyrical element, the features of epic poetry.

The Masked Farce

Other elements of poetry were called into action in the primitive popular carnival, the comic dance or -satura-,(5) which beyond doubt reached back to a period anterior to the separation of the stocks. On such occasions song would never be wanting; and the circumstances under which such pastimes were exhibited, chiefly at public festivals and marriages, as well as the mainly practical shape which they certainly assumed, naturally suggested that several dancers, or sets of dancers, should take up reciprocal parts; so that the singing thus came to be associated with a species of acting, which of course was chiefly of a comical and often of a licentious character. In this way there arose not merely alternative chants, such as afterwards went by the name of Fescennine songs, but also the elements of a popular comedy—which were in this instance planted in a soil admirably adapted for their growth, as an acute sense of the outward and the comic, and a delight in gesticulation and masquerade have ever been leading traits of Italian character.

No remains have been preserved of these -incunabula- of the Roman epos and drama. That the ancestral lays were traditional is self-evident, and is abundantly demonstrated by the fact that they were regularly recited by children; but even in the time of Cato the Elder they had completely passed into oblivion. The comedies again, if it be allowable so to name them, were at this period and long afterwards altogether improvised. Consequently nothing of this popular poetry and popular melody could be handed down but the measure, the accompaniment of music and choral dancing, and perhaps the masks.


Whether what we call metre existed in the earlier times is doubtful; the litany of the Arval Brethren scarcely accommodates itself to an outwardly fixed metrical system, and presents to us rather the appearance of an animated recitation. On the other hand we find in subsequent times a very ancient rhythm, the so-called Saturnian(6) or Faunian metre, which is foreign to the Greeks, and may be conjectured to have arisen contemporaneously with the oldest Latin popular poetry. The following poem, belonging, it is true, to a far later age, may give an idea of it:—

Quod re sua difeidens—aspere afleicta

Parens timens heic vovit—voto hoc soluto Decuma facta poloucta—leibereis lubentis Donu danunthercolei—maxsume—mereto Semol te orant se voti—crebro condemnes.

—'—'—'^/ —'—'—'^

That which, misfortune dreading—sharply to afflict him, An anxious parent vowed here,—when his wish was granted, A sacred tenth for banquet—gladly give his children to Hercules a tribute—most of all deserving; And now they thee beseech, that—often thou wouldst hear them.

Panegyrics as well as comic songs appear to have been uniformly sung in Saturnian metre, of course to the pipe, and presumably in such a way that the -caesura- in particular in each line was strongly marked; and in alternate singing the second singer probably took up the verse at this point. The Saturnian measure is, like every other occurring in Roman and Greek antiquity, based on quantity; but of all the antique metres perhaps it is the least thoroughly elaborated, for besides many other liberties it allows itself the greatest license in omitting the short syllables, and it is at the same time the most imperfect in construction, for these iambic and trochaic half-lines opposed to each other were but little fitted to develop a rhythmical structure adequate for the purposes of the higher poetry.


The fundamental elements of the national music and choral dancing in Latium, which must likewise have been established during this period, are buried for us in oblivion; except that the Latin pipe is reported to have been a short and slender instrument, provided with only four holes, and originally, as the name shows, made out of the light thighbone of some animal.


Lastly, the masks used in after times for the standing characters of the Latin popular comedy or the Atellana, as it was called: Maccus the harlequin, Bucco the glutton, Pappus the good papa, and the wise Dossennus—masks which have been cleverly and strikingly compared to the two servants, the -pantalon- and the -dottore-, in the Italian comedy of Pulcinello—already belonged to the earliest Latin popular art. That they did so cannot of course be strictly proved; but as the use of masks for the face in Latium in the case of the national drama was of immemorial antiquity, while the Greek drama in Rome did not adopt them for a century after its first establishment, as, moreover, those Atellane masks were of decidedly Italian origin, and as, in fine, the origination as well as the execution of improvised pieces cannot well be conceived apart from fixed masks assigning once for all to the player his proper position throughout the piece, we must associate fixed masks with the rudiments of the Roman drama, or rather regard them as constituting those rudiments themselves.

Earliest Hellenic Influences

If our information respecting the earliest indigenous culture and art of Latium is so scanty, it may easily be conceived that our knowledge will be still scantier regarding the earliest impulses imparted in this respect to the Romans from without. In a certain sense we may include under this head their becoming acquainted with foreign languages, particularly the Greek. To this latter language, of course, the Latins generally were strangers, as was shown by their enactment in respect to the Sibylline oracles;(7) but an acquaintance with it must have been not at all uncommon in the case of merchants. The same may be affirmed of the knowledge of reading and writing, closely connected as it was with the knowledge of Greek.(8) The culture of the ancient world, however, was not based either on the knowledge of foreign languages or on elementary technical accomplishments. An influence more important than any thus imparted was exercised over the development of Latium by the elements of the fine arts, which were already in very early times received from the Hellenes. For it was the Hellenes alone, and not the Phoenicians or the Etruscans, that in this respect exercised an influence on the Italians. We nowhere find among the latter any stimulus of the fine arts which can be referred to Carthage or Caere, and the Phoenician and Etruscan forms of civilization may be in general perhaps classed with those that are hybrid, and for that reason not further productive.(9) But the influence of Greece did not fail to bear fruit. The Greek seven-stringed lyre, the "strings" (-fides-, from —sphidei—, gut; also -barbitus-, —barbitos—), was not like the pipe indigenous in Latium, and was always regarded there as an instrument of foreign origin; but the early period at which it gained a footing is demonstrated partly by the barbarous mutilation of its Greek name, partly by its being employed even in ritual.(10) That some of the legendary stores of the Greeks during this period found their way into Latium, is shown by the ready reception of Greek works of sculpture with their representations based so thoroughly upon the poetical treasures of the nation; and the old Latin barbarous conversions of Persephone into Prosepna, Bellerophontes into Melerpanta, Kyklops into Cocles, Laomedon into Alumentus, Ganymedes into Catamitus, Neilos into Melus, Semele into Stimula, enable us to perceive at how remote a period such stories had been heard and repeated by the Latins. Lastly and especially, the Roman chief festival or festival of the city (-ludi maximi-, -Romani-) must in all probability have owed, if not its origin, at any rate its later arrangements to Greek influence. It was an extraordinary thanksgiving festival celebrated in honour of the Capitoline Jupiter and the gods dwelling along with him, ordinarily in pursuance of a vow made by the general before battle, and therefore usually observed on the return home of the burgess-force in autumn. A festal procession proceeded toward the Circus staked off between the Palatine and Aventine, and furnished with an arena and places for spectators; in front the whole boys of Rome, arranged according to the divisions of the burgess-force, on horseback and on foot; then the champions and the groups of dancers which we have described above, each with their own music; thereafter the servants of the gods with vessels of frankincense and other sacred utensils; lastly the biers with the images of the gods themselves. The spectacle itself was the counterpart of war as it was waged in primitive times, a contest on chariots, on horseback, and on foot. First there ran the war-chariots, each of which carried in Homeric fashion a charioteer and a combatant; then the combatants who had leaped off; then the horsemen, each of whom appeared after the Roman style of fighting with a horse which he rode and another led by the hand (-desultor-); lastly, the champions on foot, naked to the girdle round their loins, measured their powers in racing, wrestling, and boxing. In each species of contest there was but one competition, and that between not more than two competitors. A chaplet rewarded the victor, and the honour in which the simple branch which formed the wreath was held is shown by the law permitting it to be laid on the bier of the victor when he died. The festival thus lasted only one day, and the competitions probably still left sufficient time on that day for the carnival proper, at which the groups of dancers may have displayed their art and above all exhibited their farces; and doubtless other representations also, such as competitions in juvenile horsemanship, found a place.(11) The honours won in real war also played their part in this festival; the brave warrior exhibited on this day the equipments of the antagonist whom he had slain, and was decorated with a chaplet by the grateful community just as was the victor in the competition.

Such was the nature of the Roman festival of victory or city-festival; and the other public festivities of Rome may be conceived to have been of a similar character, although less ample in point of resources. At the celebration of a public funeral dancers regularly bore a part, and along with them, if there was to be any further exhibition, horse-racers; in that case the burgesses were specially invited beforehand to the funeral by the public crier.

But this city-festival, so intimately bound up with the manners and exercises of the Romans, coincides in all essentials with the Hellenic national festivals: more especially in the fundamental idea of combining a religious solemnity and a competition in warlike sports; in the selection of the several exercises, which at the Olympic festival, according to Pindar's testimony, consisted from the first in running, wrestling, boxing, chariot-racing, and throwing the spear and stone; in the nature of the prize of victory, which in Rome as well as in the Greek national festivals was a chaplet, and in the one case as well as in the other was assigned not to the charioteer, but to the owner of the team; and lastly in introducing the feats and rewards of general patriotism in connection with the general national festival. This agreement cannot have been accidental, but must have been either a remnant of the primitive connection between the peoples, or a result of the earliest international intercourse; and the probabilities preponderate in favour of the latter hypothesis. The city-festival, in the form in which we are acquainted with it, was not one of the oldest institutions of Rome, for the Circus itself was only laid out in the later regal period;(12) and just as the reform of the constitution then took place under Greek influence,(13) the city-festival may have been at the same time so far transformed as to combine Greek races with, and eventually to a certain extent to substitute them for, an older mode of amusement—the "leap" (-triumpus-,(14)), and possibly swinging, which was a primitive Italian custom and long continued in use at the festival on the Alban mount. Moreover, while there is some trace of the use of the war-chariot in actual warfare in Hellas, no such trace exists in Latium. Lastly, the Greek term —stadion— (Doric —spadion—) was at a very early period transferred to the Latin language, retaining its signification, as -spatium-; and there exists even an express statement that the Romans derived their horse and chariot races from the people of Thurii, although, it is true, another account derives them from Etruria. It thus appears that, in addition to the impulses imparted by the Hellenes in music and poetry, the Romans were indebted to them for the fruitful idea of gymnastic competitions.

Character of Poetry and of Education in Latium

Thus there not only existed in Latium the same fundamental elements out of which Hellenic culture and art grew, but Hellenic culture and art themselves exercised a powerful influence over Latium in very early times. Not only did the Latins possess the elements of gymnastic training, in so far as the Roman boy learned like every farmer's son to manage horses and waggon and to handle the hunting-spear, and as in Rome every burgess was at the same time a soldier; but the art of dancing was from the first an object of public care, and a powerful impulse was further given to such culture at an early period by the introduction of the Hellenic games. The lyrical poetry and tragedy of Hellas grew out of songs similar to the festal lays of Rome; the ancestral lay contained the germs of epos, the masked farce the germs of comedy; and in this field also Grecian influences were not wanting.

In such circumstances it is the more remarkable that these germs either did not spring up at all, or were soon arrested in their growth. The bodily training of the Latin youth continued to be solid and substantial, but far removed from the idea of artistic culture for the body, such as was the aim of Hellenic gymnastics. The public games of the Hellenes when introduced into Italy, changed not so much their formal rules as their essential character. While they were intended to be competitions of burgesses and beyond doubt were so at first in Rome, they became contests of professional riders and professional boxers, and, while the proof of free and Hellenic descent formed the first condition for participating in the Greek festal games, those of Rome soon passed into the hands of freedmen and foreigners and even of persons not free at all. Consequently the circle of fellow-competitors became converted into a public of spectators, and the chaplet of the victorious champion, which has been with justice called the badge of Hellas, was afterwards hardly ever mentioned in Latium.

A similar fate befel poetry and her sisters. The Greeks and Germans alone possess a fountain of song that wells up spontaneously; from the golden vase of the Muses only a few drops have fallen on the green soil of Italy. There was no formation of legend in the strict sense there. The Italian gods were abstractions and remained such; they never became elevated into or, as some may prefer to say, obscured under, a true personal shape. In like manner men, even the greatest and noblest, remained in the view of the Italian without exception mortal, and were not, as in the longing recollection and affectionately cherished tradition of Greece, elevated in the conception of the multitude into god-like heroes. But above all no development of national poetry took place in Latium. It is the deepest and noblest effect of the fine arts and above all of poetry, that they break down the barriers of civil communities and create out of tribes a nation and out of the nations a world. As in the present day by means of our cosmopolitan literature the distinctions of civilized nations are done away, so Greek poetic art transformed the narrow and egoistic sense of tribal relationship into the consciousness of Hellenic nationality, and this again into the consciousness of a common humanity. But in Latium nothing similar occurred. There might be poets in Alba and in Rome, but there arose no Latin epos, nor even—what were still more conceivable—a catechism for the Latin farmer of a kind similar to the "Works and Days" of Hesiod. The Latin federal festival might well have become a national festival of the fine arts, like the Olympian and Isthmian games of the Greeks. A cycle of legends might well have gathered around the fall of Alba, such as was woven around the conquest of Ilion, and every community and every noble clan of Latium might have discovered in it, or imported into it, the story of its own origin. But neither of these results took place, and Italy remained without national poetry or art.

The inference which of necessity follows from these facts, that the development of the fine arts in Latium was rather a shrivelling up than an expanding into bloom, is confirmed in a manner even now not to be mistaken by tradition. The beginnings of poetry everywhere, perhaps, belong rather to women than to men; the spell of incantation and the chant for the dead pertain pre-eminently to the former, and not without reason the spirits of song, the Casmenae or Camenae and the Carmentis of Latium, like the Muses of Hellas, were conceived as feminine. But the time came in Hellas, when the poet relieved the songstress and Apollo took his place at the head of the Muses. In Latium there was no national god of song, and the older Latin language had no designation for the poet.(15) The power of song emerging there was out of all proportion weaker, and was rapidly arrested in its growth. The exercise of the fine arts was there early restricted, partly to women and children, partly to incorporated or unincorporated tradesmen. We have already mentioned that funeral chants were sung by women and banquet-lays by boys; the religious litanies also were chiefly executed by children. The musicians formed an incorporated, the dancers and the wailing women (-praeficae-) unincorporated, trades. While dancing, music, and singing remained constantly in Greece—as they were originally also in Latium—reputable employments redounding to the honour of the burgess and of the community to which he belonged, in Latium the better portion of the burgesses drew more and more aloof from these vain arts, and that the more decidedly, in proportion as art came to be more publicly exhibited and more thoroughly penetrated by the quickening impulses derived from other lands. The use of the native pipe was sanctioned, but the lyre remained despised; and while the national amusement of masks was allowed, the foreign amusements of the -palaestra- were not only regarded with indifference, but esteemed disgraceful. While the fine arts in Greece became more and more the common property of the Hellenes individually and collectively and thereby became the means of developing a universal culture, they gradually disappeared in Latium from the thoughts and feelings of the people; and, as they degenerated into utterly insignificant handicrafts, the idea of a general national culture to be communicated to youth never suggested itself at all. The education of youth remained entirely confined within the limits of the narrowest domesticity. The boy never left his father's side, and accompanied him not only to the field with the plough and the sickle, but also to the house of a friend or to the council-hall, when his father was invited as a guest or summoned to the senate. This domestic education was well adapted to preserve man wholly for the household and wholly for the state. The permanent intercommunion of life between father and son, and the mutual reverence felt by adolescence for ripened manhood and by the mature man for the innocence of youth, lay at the root of the steadfastness of the domestic and political traditions, of the closeness of the family bond, and in general of the grave earnestness (-gravitas-) and character of moral worth in Roman life. This mode of educating youth was in truth one of those institutions of homely and almost unconscious wisdom, which are as simple as they are profound. But amidst the admiration which it awakens we may not overlook the fact that it could only be carried out, and was only carried out, by the sacrifice of true individual culture and by a complete renunciation of the equally charming and perilous gifts of the Muses.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 ... 58     Next Part
Home - Random Browse