The introduction of the gnomon and dial into Greece advanced astronomical knowledge, since they were used to determine the equinoxes and solstices, as well as parts of the day. Meton set up a sun-dial at Athens in the year 433 B.C., but the length of the hour varied with the time of the year, since the Greeks divided the day into twelve equal parts. Dials were common at Rome in the time of Plautus, 224 B.C.; [Footnote: Ap. Gell., N. A., iii. 3.] but there was a difficulty of using them, since they failed at night and in cloudy weather, and could not be relied on. Hence the introduction of water-clocks instead.
Aristarchus is said to have combated (280 B.C.) the geocentric theory so generally received by philosophers, and to have promulgated the hypothesis "that the fixed stars and the sun are immovable; that the earth is carried round the sun in the circumference of a circle of which the sun is the centre; and that the sphere of the fixed stars having the same centre as the sun, is of such magnitude that the orbit of the earth is to the distance of the fixed stars, as the centre of the sphere of the fixed stars is to its surface." [Footnote: Lewis, p. 190.] This speculation, resting on the authority of Archimedes, was ridiculed by him; but if it were advanced, it shows a great advance in astronomical science, and considering the age, was one of the boldest speculations of antiquity. Aristarchus also, according to Plutarch, [Footnote: Plut., Plac. Phil., ii. 24.] explained the apparent annual motion of the sun in the ecliptic, by supposing the orbit of the earth to be inclined to its axis. There is no evidence that this great astronomer supported his heliocentric theory with any geometrical proof, although Plutarch maintains that he demonstrated it. [Footnote: Quaest. Plat., viii. 1.] This theory gave great offense, especially to the Stoics, and Cleanthes, the head of the school at that time, maintained that the author of such an impious doctrine should be punished. Aristarchus has left a treatise "On the Magnitudes and Distances of the Sun and Moon," and his methods to measure the apparent diameters of the sun and moon, are considered sound by modern astronomers, [Footnote: Lewis, p. 193.] but inexact owing to defective instruments. He estimated the diameter of the sun at the seven hundred and twentieth part of the circumference of the circle, which it describes in its diurnal revolution, which is not far from the truth; but in this treatise he does not allude to his heliocentric theory.
Archimedes, born 287 B.C., is stated to have measured the distance of the sun, moon, and planets, and he constructed an orrery in which he exhibited their motions. But it was not in the Grecian colony of Syracuse, but of Alexandria, that the greatest light was shed on astronomical science. Here Aristarchus resided, and also Eratosthenes, who lived between the years 276 and 196 B.C. He was a native of Athens, but was invited by Ptolemy Euergetes to Alexandria, and placed at the head of the library. His great achievement was the determination of the circumference of the earth. This was done by measuring on the ground the distance between Syene, a city exactly under the tropic, and Alexandria situated on the same meridian. The distance was found to be five thousand stadia. The meridional distance of the sun from the zenith of Alexandria, he estimated to be 7 degrees 12', or a fiftieth part of the circumference of the meridian. Hence the circumference of the earth was fixed at two hundred and fifty thousand stadia, not far from the truth. The circumference being known, the diameter of the earth was easily determined. The moderns have added nothing to this method. He also calculated the diameter of the sun to be twenty-seven times greater than of the earth, and the distance of the sun from the earth to be eight hundred and four million stadia, and that of the moon seven hundred and eighty thousand stadia—a very close approximation to the truth.
[Sidenote: Greatness of Hipparchus.]
Astronomical science received a great impulse from the school of Alexandria, and Eratosthenes had worthy successors in Aristarchus, Aristyllus, Apollonius. But the great light of this school was Hipparchus, whose lifetime extended from 190 to 120 years B.C. He laid the foundation of astronomy upon a scientific basis. "He determined," says Delambre, "the position of the stars by right ascensions and declinations; he was acquainted with the obliquity of the ecliptic. He determined the inequality of the sun, and the place of its apogee, as well as its mean motion; the mean motion of the moon, of its nodes and apogee; the equation of the moon's centre, and the inclination of its orbit; he likewise detected a second inequality, of which he could not, for want of proper observations, discover the period and the law. His commentary on Aratus shows that he had expounded, and given a geometrical demonstration of, the methods necessary to find out the right and oblique ascensions of the points of the ecliptic and of the stars, the east point and the culminating point of the ecliptic, and the angle of the east, which is now called the nonagesimal degree. He could calculate eclipses of the moon, and use them for the correction of his lunar tables, and he had an approximate knowledge of parallax." [Footnote: Delambre, Hist. de l'Astron. Anc., tom. i. p. 184.] His determination of the motions of the sun and moon, and method of predicting eclipses, evince great mathematical genius. But he combined, with this determination, a theory of epicycles and eccentrics, which modern astronomy discards. It was, however, a great thing to conceive of the earth as a solid sphere, and reduce the phenomena of the heavenly bodies to uniform motions in of circular orbits. "That Hipparchus should have succeeded in the first great steps of the resolution of the heavenly bodies into circular motions is a circumstance," says Whewell, "which gives him one of the most distinguished places in the roll of great astronomers." [Footnote: Hist. Ind. Science, vol. i. p. 181.] But he even did more than this. He discovered that apparent motion of the fixed stars round the axis of the ecliptic, which is called the Precession of the Equinoxes, one of the greatest discoveries in astronomy. He maintained that the precession was not greater than fifty- nine seconds, and not less than thirty-six seconds. Hipparchus framed a catalogue of the stars, and determined their places with reference to the ecliptic, by their latitudes and longitudes. Altogether, he seems to have been one of the greatest geniuses of antiquity, and his works imply a prodigious amount of calculation.
[Sidenote: The Roman Calendar.]
Astronomy made no progress for three hundred years, although it was expounded by improved methods. Posidonius constructed an orrery, which exhibited the diurnal motions of the sun, moon, and five planets. Posidonius calculated the circumference of the earth to be two hundred and forty thousand stadia by a different method from Eratosthenes. The barrenness of discovery, from Hipparchus to Ptolemy, in spite of the patronage of the Ptolemies, was owing to the want of instruments for the accurate measure of time, like our clocks, to the imperfection of astronomical tables, and to the want of telescopes. Hence the great Greek astronomers were unable to realize their theories. Their theories were magnificent, and evinced great power of mathematical combination; but what could they do without that wondrous instrument by which the human eye indefinitely multiplies its power?—by which objects are distinctly seen, which, without it, would be invisible? Moreover, the ancients had no accurate almanacs, since the care of the calendar belonged to the priests rather than to the astronomers, who tampered with the computation of time for temporary and personal objects. The calendars of different communities differed. Hence Julius Caesar rendered a great service to science by the reform of the Roman calendar, which was exclusively under the control of the college of pontiffs. The Roman year consisted of three hundred and fifty-five days, and, in the time of Caesar, the calendar was in great confusion, being ninety days in advance, so that January was an autumn month. He inserted the regular intercalary month of twenty-three days, and two additional ones of sixty-seven days. These, together of ninety days, were added to three hundred and sixty-five days, making a year of transition of four hundred and forty-five days, by which January was brought back to the first month in the year after the winter solstice. And to prevent the repetition of the error, he directed that in future the year should consist of three hundred and sixty-five and one quarter days, which he effected by adding one day to the months of April, June, September, and November, and two days to the months of January, Sextilis, and December, making an addition of ten days to the old year of three hundred and fifty-five. And he provided for a uniform intercalation of one day in every fourth year, which accounted for the remaining quarter of a day. [Footnote: Suet., Caesar, 49; Plut., Caesar, 59.]
"Ille moras solis, quibus in sua signa rediret, Traditur exactis disposuisse notis. Is decies senos tercentum et quinque diebus Junxit; et pleno tempora quarta die. Hic anni modus est. In lustrum accedere debet Quae consummatur partibus, una dies."
[Footnote: Ovid, Fast., iii.]
[Sidenote: Caesar's labors.]
Caesar was a student of astronomy, and always found time for its contemplation. He is said even to have written a treatise on the motion of the stars. He was assisted in his reform of the calendar by Sosigines, an Alexandrian astronomer. He took it out of the hands of the priests, and made it a matter of pure civil regulation. The year was defined by the sun, and not, as before, by the moon.
Thus the Romans were the first to bring the scientific knowledge of the Greeks into practical use; but while they measured the year with a great approximation to accuracy, they still used sun-dials and water-clocks to measure diurnal time. And even these were not constructed as they should have been. The hours on the sun-dial were all made equal, instead of varying with the length of the day, so that the hour varied with the length of the day. The illuminated interval was divided into twelve equal parts, so that, if the sun rose at five A.M. and set at eight P.M., each hour was equal to eighty minutes. And this rude method of measurement of diurnal time remained in use till the sixth century. But clocks, with wheels and weights, were not invented till the twelfth century.
The earlier Greek astronomers did not attempt to fix the order of the planets; but when geometry was applied to celestial movements, the difference between the three superior planets and the two inferior was perceived, and the sun was placed in the midst between them, so that the seven movable heavenly bodies were made to succeed one another in the following order: 1. Saturn; 2. Jupiter; 3. Mars; 4. The Sun; 5. Venus; 6. Mercury; 7. The Moon. Archimedes adopted this order, which was followed by the leading philosophers. [Footnote: Lewis, p. 247.]
[Sidenote: Ptolemy and his system.]
The last great light among the ancients in astronomical science was Ptolemy, who lived from 100 to 170 A.D. in Alexandria. He was acquainted with the writings of all the previous astronomers, but accepted Hipparchus as his guide. He held that the heaven is spherical and revolves upon its axis; that the earth is a sphere, and is situated within the celestial sphere, and nearly at its centre; that it is a mere point in reference to the distance and magnitude of the fixed stars, and that it has no motion. He adopted the views of the ancient astronomers, who placed Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars next under the sphere of the fixed stars, then the sun above Venus and Mercury, and lastly the moon next to the earth. But he differed from Aristotle, who conceived that the earth revolves in an orbit round the centre of the planetary system, and turns upon its axis—two ideas in common with the doctrines which Copernicus afterward unfolded. But even he did not conceive the heliocentric theory that the sun is the centre of the universe. Archimedes and Hipparchus both rejected this theory.
In regard to the practical value of the speculations of the ancient astronomers, it may be said that, had they possessed clocks and telescopes, their scientific methods would have sufficed for all practical purposes. The greatness of modern discoveries lies in the great stretch of the reasoning powers, and the magnificent field they afford for sublime contemplation. "But," as Sir G. Cornwall Lewis remarks, "modern astronomy is a science of pure curiosity, and is directed exclusively to the extension of knowledge in a field which human interests can never enter. The periodic time of Uranus, the nature of Saturn's ring, and the occupation of Jupiter's satellites, are as far removed from the concerns of mankind as the heliacal rising of Sirius, or the northern position of the Great Bear." This may seem to be a utilitarian view with which those philosophers, who have cultivated science for its own sake, finding in the same a sufficient reward, as in truth and virtue, can have no sympathy.
[Sidenote: Result of ancient investigations.]
The upshot of the scientific attainments of the ancients, in the magnificent realm of the heavenly bodies, would seem to be that they laid the foundation of all the definite knowledge which is useful to mankind; while in the field of abstract calculation they evinced reasoning and mathematical powers which have never been surpassed. Eratosthenes, Archimedes, and Hipparchus were geniuses worthy to be placed by the side of Kepler, Newton, and La Place. And all ages will reverence their efforts and their memory. It is truly surprising that, with their imperfect instruments, and the absence of definite data, they reached a height so sublime and grand. They explained the doctrine of the sphere and the apparent motions of the planets, but they had no instruments capable of measuring angular distances. The ingenious epicycles of Ptolemy prepared the way for the elliptic orbits and laws of Kepler, which, in turn, conducted Newton to the discovery of the laws of gravitation—the grandest scientific discovery in the annals of our race.
[Sidenote: Ancient Greek geometers.]
Closely connected with astronomical science was geometry, which was first taught in Egypt,—the nurse and cradle of ancient wisdom. It arose from the necessity of adjusting the landmarks, disturbed by the inundations of the Nile. Thales introduced the science to the Greeks. He applied a circle to the measurement of angles. Anaximander invented the sphere, the gnomon, and geographical charts, which required considerable geometrical knowledge. Anaxagoras employed himself in prison in attempting to square the circle. Pythagoras discovered the important theorem that in a right-angled triangle the squares on the sides containing the right angle are together equal to the square on the opposite side of it. He also discovered that of all figures having the same boundary, the circle among plane figures and the sphere among solids, are the most capacious. The theory of the regular solids was taught in his school, and his disciple, Archytas, was the author of a solution of the problem of two mean proportionals. Democritus of Abdera treated of the contact of circles and spheres, and of irrational lines and solids. Hippocrates treated of the duplication of the cube, and wrote elements of geometry, and knew that the area of a circle was equal to a triangle whose base is equal to its circumference, and altitude equal to its radius. The disciples of Plato invented conic sections, and discovered the geometrical loci. They also attempted to resolve the problems of the trisection of an angle and the duplication of a cube. To Leon is ascribed that part of the solution of a problem, called its determination, which treats of the cases in which the problem is possible, and of those in which it cannot be resolved. Euclid has almost given his name to the science of geometry. He was born B.C. 323, and belonged to the Platonic sect, which ever attached great importance to mathematics. His "Elements" are still in use, as nearly perfect as any human production can be. They consist of thirteen books,—the first four on plane geometry; the fifth is on the theory of proportion, and applies to magnitude in general; the seventh, eighth, and ninth are on arithmetic; the tenth on the arithmetical characteristics of the division of a straight line; the eleventh and twelfth on the elements of solid geometry; the thirteenth on the regular solids. These "Elements" soon became the universal study of geometers throughout the civilized world. They were translated into the Arabic, and through the Arabians were made known to mediaeval Europe. There can be no doubt that this work is one of the highest triumphs of human genius, and has been valued more than any single monument of antiquity. It is still a text-book, in various English translations, in all our schools. Euclid also wrote various other works, showing great mathematical talent. But, perhaps, a greater even than Euclid was Archimedes, born 287 B.C., who wrote on the sphere and cylinder, which terminate in the discovery that the solidity and surface of a sphere are respectively two thirds of the solidity and surface of the circumscribing cylinder. He also wrote on conoids and spheroids. "The properties of the spiral, and the quadrature of the parabola were added to ancient geometry by Archimedes, the last being a great step in the progress of the science, since it was the first curvilineal space legitimately squared." Modern mathematicians may not have the patience to go through his investigations, since the conclusions he arrived at may now be reached by shorter methods, but the great conclusions of the old geometers were only reached by prodigious mathematical power. Archimedes is popularly better known as the inventor of engines of war, and various ingenious machines, than as a mathematician, great as were his attainments. His theory of the lever was the foundation of statics, till the discovery of the composition of forces in the time of Newton, and no essential addition was made to the principles of the equilibrium of fluids and floating bodies till the time of Stevin in 1608. He detected the mixture of silver in a crown of gold which his patron, Hiero of Syracuse, ordered to be made, and he invented a water-screw for pumping water out of the hold of a great ship he built. He used also a combination of pulleys, and he constructed an orrery to represent the movement of the heavenly bodies. He had an extraordinary inventive genius for discovering new provinces of inquiry, and new points of view for old and familiar objects. Like Newton, he had a habit of abstraction from outward things, and would forget to take his meals. He was killed by Roman soldiers when Syracuse was taken, and the Sicilians so soon forgot his greatness that in the time of Cicero they did not know where his tomb was. [Footnote: See article in Smith's Dictionary, by Prof. Darkin, of Oxford.]
Eratosthenes was another of the famous geometers of antiquity, and did much to improve geometrical analysis. He was also a philosopher and geographer. He gave a solution of the problem of the duplication of the cube, and applied his geometrical knowledge to the measurement of the magnitude of the earth—one of the first who brought mathematical methods to the aid of astronomy, which, in our day, is almost exclusively the province of the mathematician.
[Sidenote: Apollonius of Perga.]
Apollonius of Perga, probably about forty years younger than Archimedes, and his equal in mathematical genius, was the most fertile and profound writer among the ancients who treated of geometry. He was called the Great Geometer. His most important work is a treatise on conic sections, regarded with unbounded admiration by contemporaries, and, in some respects, unsurpassed by any thing produced by modern mathematicians. He, however, made use of the labors of his predecessors, so that it is difficult to tell how far he is original. But all men of science must necessarily be indebted to those who have preceded them. Even Homer, in the field of poetry, made use of the bards who had sung for a thousand years before him. In the realms of philosophy the great men of all ages have built up new systems on the foundations which others have established. If Plato or Aristotle had been contemporaries with Thales, would they have matured so wonderful a system of dialectics? and if Thales had been contemporaneous with Plato, he might have added to his sublime science even more than Aristotle. So of the great mathematicians of antiquity; they were all wonderful men, and worthy to be classed with the Newtons and Keplers of our times. Considering their means, and the state of science, they made as great, though not as fortunate discoveries—discoveries which show patience, genius, and power of calculation. Apollonius was one of these—one of the master intellects of antiquity, like Euclid and Archimedes—one of the master intellects of all ages, like Newton himself. I might mention the subjects of his various works, but they would not be understood except by those familiar with mathematics. [Footnote: See Bayle's Dict.; Bossuet, Essai sur L'Hist. Gen. des Math.; Simson's Sectiones Conicae.]
[Sidenote: Cultivation of geometry by the Greeks.]
Other famous geometers could also be mentioned, but such men as Euclid, Archimedes, and Apollonius are enough to show that geometry was cultivated to a great extent by the philosophers of antiquity. It progressively advanced, like philosophy itself, from the time of Thales, until it had reached the perfection of which it was capable, when it became merged into astronomical science. It was cultivated more particularly by the disciples of Plato, who placed over his school this inscription, "Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here." He believed that the laws by which the universe is governed are in accordance with the doctrines of mathematics. The same opinion was shared by Pythagoras, the great founder of the science, whose great formula was, that number is the essence or first principle of all things. No thinkers ever surpassed the Greeks in originality and profundity, and mathematics, being highly prized by them, were carried to the greatest perfection their method would allow. They did not understand algebra, by the application of which to geometry modern mathematicians have climbed to greater heights than the ancients. But then it is all the more remarkable that, without the aid of algebraic analysis, they were able to solve such difficult problems as occupied the minds of Archimedes and Apollonius. No positive science can boast of such rapid development as geometry for two or three hundred years before Christ, and never was the intellect of man more severely tasked than by the ancient mathematicians.
[Sidenote: Empirical sciences.]
No empirical science can be carried to perfection by any one nation or in any particular epoch. It can only expand with the progressive developments of the human race itself. Nevertheless, in that science which for three thousand years has been held in the greatest honor, and which is one of the three great liberal professions of our modern times, the ancients, especially the Greeks, made considerable advance. The science of medicine, having in view the amelioration of human misery, and the prolongation of life itself, was very early cultivated. It was, indeed, in old times, another word for physics,—the science of nature,—and the physician was the observer and expounder of physics. The physician was supposed to be acquainted with the secrets of nature—that is, the knowledge of drugs, of poisons, of antidotes to them, and the way to administer them. He was also supposed to know the process of preserving the body after death. Thus Joseph commanded his physician to embalm the body of his father seventeen hundred years before the birth of Christ, and the process of embalming was probably known to the Egyptians beyond the period when history begins. Helen, of Trojan fame, put into wine a drug that "frees man from grief and anger and causes oblivion of all ills." [Footnote: Odyssey, b. iv.] Solomon was a great botanist, with which the science of medicine is indissolubly connected. The "Ayur Veda," written nine hundred years before Hippocrates was born, sums up the knowledge of previous periods relating to obstetric surgery, to general pathology, to the treatment of insanity, to infantile diseases, to toxicology, to personal hygiene, and to diseases of the generative functions. [Footnote: Wise, On the Hindu System of Medicine, p. 12.] The origin of Hindu medicine is lost in remote antiquity.
Thus Hippocrates, the father of European medicine, must have derived his knowledge, not merely from his own observations, but from the writings of men unknown to us, and systems practiced for an indefinite period. The real founders of Greek medicine are fabled characters, like Hercules and Aesculapius—that is, benefactors whose names have not descended to us. They are mythical personages, like Hermes and Chiron. One thousand two hundred years before Christ temples were erected to Aesculapius in Greece, the priests of which were really physicians, and the temples themselves were hospitals. In them were practiced rites apparently mysterious, but which modern science calls by the names of mesmerism, hydropathy, mineral springs, and other essential elements of empirical science. And these temples were also medical schools. That of Cos gave birth to Hippocrates, and it was there that his writings were commenced. Pythagoras—for those old Grecian philosophers were the fathers of all wisdom and knowledge, in mathematics and empirical sciences, as well as philosophy itself—studied medicine in the schools of Egypt, Phoenicia, Chaldea, and India, and came in conflict with sacerdotal power, which has ever been antagonistic to new ideas in science. He traveled from town to town as a teacher or lecturer, establishing communities in which medicine as well as numbers was taught.
The greatest name in medical science, in ancient or in modern times,— the man who did the most to advance it; the greatest medical genius of whom we have record,—is Hippocrates, born on the island of Cos B.C. 460, of the great Aesculapian family, and was instructed by his father. We know scarcely more of his life than we do of Homer himself, although he lived in the period of the highest splendor of Athens. And his writings, like those of Homer, are thought by some to be the work of different men. They were translated into Arabic, and were no slight means of giving an impulse to the Saracenic schools of the Middle Ages in that science in which the Saracens especially excelled. The Hippocratic collection consists of more than sixty works, which were held in the highest estimation by the ancient physicians. Hippocrates introduced a new era in medicine, which, before his time, had been monopolized by the priests. He carried out a system of severe induction from the observation of facts, and is as truly the creator of the inductive method as Bacon himself. He abhorred theories which could not be established by facts. He was always open to conviction, and candidly confessed his mistakes. He was conscientious in the practice of his profession, and valued the success of his art more than silver and gold. The Athenians revered him for his benevolence as well as genius. The great principle of his practice was trust in nature. Hence he was accused of allowing his patients to die; but this principle has many advocates among scientific men in our day, and some suppose the whole philosophy of homeopathy rests on the primal principle which Hippocrates advanced. He had great skill in diagnosis, by which medical genius is most severely tested. His practice was cautious and timid in contrast with that of his contemporaries. He is the author of the celebrated maxim, "Life is short and art is long." He divides the causes of disease into two principal classes,—the one comprehending the influence of seasons, climates, and other external forces; the other from the effects of food and exercise. To the influence of climate he attributes the conformation of the body and the disposition of the mind. He also attributes all sorts of disorders to a vicious system of diet. For more than twenty centuries his pathology was the foundation of all the medical sects. He was well acquainted with the medicinal properties of drugs, and was the first to assign three periods to the course of a malady. He knew, of course, but little of surgery, although he was in the habit of bleeding, and often employed his knife. He was also acquainted with cupping, and used violent purgatives. He was not aware of the importance of the pulse, and confounded the veins with the arteries. He wrote in the Ionic dialect, and some of his works have gone through three hundred editions, so highly have they been valued. His authority passed away, like that of Aristotle, on the revival of European science. Yet who have been greater ornaments and lights than these distinguished Greeks?
The school of Alexandria produced eminent physicians, as well as mathematicians, after the glory of Greece had departed. So highly was it esteemed that Galen went there to study five hundred years after its foundation. It was distinguished for inquiries into scientific anatomy and physiology, for which Aristotle had prepared the way. He was the Humboldt of his day, and gave great attention to physics. In eight books he developed the general principles of natural science known to the Greeks. On the basis of the Aristotelian researches, the Alexandrian physicians carried out extensive inquiries in physiology. Herophilus discovered the fundamental principles of neurology, and advanced the anatomy of the brain and spinal cord.
[Sidenote: Medical science among the Romans.]
Although the Romans had but little sympathy for science or philosophy, being essentially political and warlike in their turn of mind, yet when they had conquered the world, and had turned their attention to arts, medicine received great attention. The first physicians were Greek slaves. Of these was Asclepiades, who enjoyed the friendship of Cicero. It is from him that the popular medical theories as to the "pores" have descended. He was the inventor of the shower-bath. Celsus wrote a work on medicine which takes almost equal rank with the Hippocratic writings. Medical science at Rome culminated in Galen, as it did at Athens in Hippocrates. He was patronized by Marcus Aurelius, and availed himself of all the knowledge of preceding naturalists and physicians. He was born at Pergamus about the year A.D. 165, where he learned, under able masters, anatomy, pathology, and therapeutics. He finished his studies at Alexandria, and came to Rome at the invitation of the emperor. Like his patron, he was one of the brightest ornaments of the heathen world, and one of the most learned and accomplished men of any age. "Medicorum dissertissimus atque doctissimus." [Footnote: St. Jerome, Comment. in Aoms, c. 5, vol. vi.] He left five hundred treatises, most of them relating to some branch of medical science, which give him the merit of being one of the most voluminous of authors. His celebrity is founded chiefly on his anatomical and physiological works. He was familiar with practical anatomy, deriving his knowledge from dissection. His observations about health are practical and useful. He lays great stress on gymnastic exercises, and recommends the pleasures of the chase, the cold bath in hot weather, hot baths to old people, the use of wine, three meals a day, and pork as the best of animal food. The great principles of his practice were that disease is to be overcome by that which is contrary to the disease itself, and that nature is to be preserved by that which has relation with nature. As disease cannot be overcome so long as its cause exists, that, if possible, was first to be removed, and the strength of the patient is to be considered before the treatment is proceeded with. His "Commentaries on Hippocrates" served as a treasure of medical criticism, from which succeeding annotators borrowed. No one ever set before the medical profession a higher standard than Galen, and few have more nearly approached it. He did not attach himself to any particular school, but studied the doctrines of each—an eclectic in the fullest sense. [Footnote: See Leclerc, Hist. de la Medicine; Hartt Shoengel, Geschichte der Arzneykunde. W. A. Greenhill, M.D., of Oxford, has a very learned article in Smith's Dictionary.] The works of Galen constituted the last production of ancient Roman medicine, and from his day the decline in medical science was rapid, until it was revived among the Arabs.
The physical sciences, it must be confessed, were not carried by the ancients to any such length as geometry and astronomy. In physical geography they were particularly deficient. Yet even this branch of knowledge can boast of some eminent names. When men sailed timidly on the coasts, and dared not explore distant seas, the true position of countries could not be ascertained with the definiteness that it is at present. But geography was not utterly neglected, nor was natural history.
[Sidenote: Physical geography.]
Herodotus gives us most valuable information respecting the manners and customs of oriental and barbarous nations, and Pliny has written a natural history, in thirty-seven books, which is compiled from upwards of two thousand volumes, and refers to twenty thousand matters of importance. He was born A.D. 23, and was fifty-three when the eruption of Vesuvius took place which caused his death. Pliny cannot be called a scientific genius, in the sense understood by modern savants; nor was he an original observer. His materials are drawn up second hand, like a modern encyclopedia. Nor did he evince great judgment in his selection. He had a great love of the marvelous, and is often unintelligible. But his work is a wonderful monument of human industry. It treats of every thing in the natural world—of the heavenly bodies, of the elements, of thunder and lightning, of the winds and seasons, of the changes and phenomena of the earth, of countries and nations, seas and rivers, of men, animals, birds, fishes, and plants, of minerals and medicines and precious stones, of commerce and the fine arts. He is full of errors; but his work is among the most valuable productions of antiquity. Buffon pronounced his natural history to contain an infinity of knowledge in every department of human occupation, conveyed in a dress ornate and brilliant. It is a literary rather than a scientific monument, and as such it is wonderful—a compilation from one hundred and sixty volumes of notes. In strict scientific value, it is inferior to the works of modern research; but there are few minds, even in these times, who have directed inquiries to such a variety of subjects.
[Sidenote: Construction of maps.]
Geographical knowledge was advanced by Strabo, who lived in the Augustan era; but researches were chiefly confined to the Roman empire. Strabo was, like Herodotus, a great traveler, and much of his geographical information is the result of his own observations. It is probable he is much indebted to Eratosthenes, who preceded him by three centuries, and who was the first systematic writer on geography. The authorities of Strabo are chiefly Greek, but his work is defective, from the imperfect notions which the ancients had of astronomy; so that the determination of the earth's figure by the measure of latitude and longitude, the essential foundations of geographical description, was unknown. The enormous strides, which all forms of physical science have made since the discovery of America, throw all ancient descriptions and investigations into the shade, and Strabo appears at as great disadvantage as Pliny or Ptolemy; yet the work of Strabo, considering his means, and the imperfect knowledge of the earth's surface, and astronomical science, was really a great achievement of industry. He treats of the form and magnitude of the earth, and devotes eight books to Europe, six to Asia, and one to Africa. His great authorities are Eratosthenes, Polybius, Aristotle, Antiochus of Syracuse, Posidonius, Theopompus, Artemidorus Ephorus, Herodotus, Anaximenes, Thucydides, and Aristo, chiefly historians and philosophers. Whatever may be said of the accuracy of the great geographer of antiquity, it cannot be denied that he was a man of immense research and learning. His work in seventeen books is one of the most valuable which have come down from antiquity, both from the discussions which run through it, and the curious facts which can be found nowhere else. It is scarcely fair to estimate the genius of Strabo by the correctness and extent of his geographical knowledge. All men are lost in science, and science is progressive. The great scientific lights of our day may be insignificant, compared with those who are to arise, if profundity and accuracy of knowledge is the test. It is the genius of the ancients, their grasp and power of mind, their original labors which we are to consider. Anaxagoras was one of the greatest philosophical geniuses of all ages; but, as philosophy is a science, and is progressive, his knowledge could not be compared with that of Aristotle. Again, who doubts the original genius and grasp of Aristotle, but what was he, in accuracy of knowledge and true method, in comparison with the savants of the nineteenth century; yet, it would be difficult to show that Aristotle was inferior to Bacon or Cuvier, or Stuart Mill. If, however, we would compare the geographical knowledge of the ancients with that of the moderns, we confess to the immeasurable inferiority of the ancients in this branch. When Eratosthenes began his labors, it was known that the surface of the earth was spherical. He established parallels of latitude and longitude, and attempted the difficult undertaking of measuring the circumference of the globe by the actual measurement of a segment of one of its great circles. Posidonius determined the arc of a meridian between Rhodes and Alexandria to be a forty-eighth part of the whole circumference—an enormous calculation, yet a remarkable one in the infancy of astronomical science. Hipparchus introduced into geography a great improvement, namely, the relative situation of places, by the same process that he determined the positions of the heavenly bodies. He also pointed out how longitude might be determined by observing the eclipses of the sun and moon. This led to the construction of maps; but none have reached us except those which were used to illustrate the geography of Ptolemy. Hipparchus was born B.C. 276, the first who raised geography to the rank of a science. He starved himself to death, being tired of life, like Eratosthenes, more properly an astronomer, and the most distinguished among the ancients, born about 160 B.C., although none of his writings have reached us. The improvements he pointed out were applied by Ptolemy himself, an astronomer who flourished about the year 160 at Alexandria. His work was a presentation of geographical knowledge known in his day, so far as geography is the science of determining the position of places on the earth's surface. The description of places belongs to Strabo. His work was accepted as the textbook of the science till the fifteenth century, for in his day the Roman empire had been well surveyed. He maintained that the earth is spherical, and introduced the terms longitude and latitude, which Eratosthenes had established, and computed the earth to be one hundred and eighty thousand stadia in circumference, and a degree five hundred stadia in length, or sixty-two and a half Roman miles. His estimates of the length of a degree of latitude were nearly correct; but he made great errors in the degrees of longitude, making the length of the world from east to west too great, which led to the belief in the practicability of a western passage to India. He also assigned too great length to the Mediterranean, arising from the difficulty of finding the longitude with accuracy. But it was impossible, with the scientific knowledge of his day, to avoid errors, and we are surprised that he made so few.
* * * * *
REFERENCES.—An exceedingly learned work has recently been issued in London, by Parker and Son, on the Astronomy of the Ancients, by Sir George Cornwall Lewis, though rather ostentatious in his parade of authorities, and minute on points which are not of much consequence. Delambre's History of Ancient Astronomy has long been a classic, but richer in materials for a history than a history itself. There is a valuable essay in the Encyclopedia Britannica, which refers to a list of authors, among which are Biccoli, Weilder, Bailly, Playfair, La Lande. Lewis makes much reference to Macrobius, Vitruvius, Diogenes Laertius, Plutarch, and Suidas, among the ancients, and to Ideler, Unters. uber die Art. Beob. der Alten.
Whewell's History of the Inductive Sciences may also be consulted with profit. Leclerc, Hist, de Med.; Spengel, Gesch. der Arzneykunde. Strabo's Geography is the most valuable of Antiquity. See also Polybius.
[Relocated Footnote: The style of modern historical criticism may thus be exemplified, like the discussions of the Germans, whether the Arx on the Capitoline Hill occupied the northeastern or southwestern corner, which take up nearly one half of the learned article in Smith's Dictionary, on the Capitoline. "Thales supposed the earth to float on the water, like a plank of wood": [Greek: oi d hudatos keisthai touton gar archaiotaton pareilaephamen ton logon hon phasin eipein thalae ton Milaesion]. Aristot., De Coel., ii. 13: "Quoe sequitur Thaletis ineptq sententia est. Ait enim terrarum orbem aqua sustineri." Seneca, Nat. Quoest., iii. 13. This notion is mentioned in Schol. Iliad, xiii. 125. This doctrine Thales brought from Egypt. See Plut., Pac., in. 10; Galen, c. 21. But this maybe doubted. Callimach., Frag., 94; Hygin, Poet. Astr., ii. 2; Martin, Timee de Platon., tom. ii. p. 109, thinks it questionable whether Thales saw Egypt. Diog. Laert., viii. 60. Compare, however, Sturz, Thales, p. 80; Proclus, in Tim., i. p. 40; Schol. Aristophanes, Nub., ii. 31; Varro, ii. vi. 10. See also, Ideler Chron., vol. i. p. 300. But Brandis sheds light upon the point, though his suggestions conflict with Origen, Phil., p. 11; also with Aristotle, De Coel., ii. 13.
This style of expending learning on nothing, meets with great favor with the pedants, who attach no value to history unless one half of the page is filled with erudite foot-notes which few can verify, and which prove nothing, or nothing of any consequence.]
INTERNAL CONDITION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.
We have now surveyed all that was glorious in the most splendid empire of antiquity. We have seen a civilization which, in many respects, rivals all that modern nations have to show. In art, in literature, in philosophy, in laws, in the mechanism of government, in the cultivated face of nature, in military strength, in aesthetic culture, the Romans were our equals. And this high civilization was reached by the native and unaided strength of man; by the power of will, by courage, by perseverance, by genius, by fortunate circumstances; by great men, gifted with unusual talents. We are filled with admiration by all these trophies of genius, and cannot but feel that only a superior race could have accomplished such mighty triumphs.
But all this splendid external was deceptive. It was hollow at heart. And the deeper we penetrate the social condition of the people, their real and practical life, the more we feel disgust and pity supplanting all feelings of admiration and wonder. The Roman empire, in its shame and degradation, suggests melancholy feelings in reference to the destiny of man, so far as his happiness and welfare depend upon his own unaided strength. And we see profoundly the necessity of some foreign aid to rescue him from his miseries.
It is a sad picture of oppression, of injustice, of poverty, of vice, and of wretchedness, which I have now to present. Glory is succeeded by shame, and strength by weakness, and virtue by vice. The condition of the great mass is deplorable, and even the great and fortunate shine in a false and fictitious light. We see laws, theoretically good, practically perverted; monstrous inequalities of condition, selfishness, and egotism the mainsprings of life. We see energies misdirected, and art corrupted. All noble aspirations have fled, and the good and the wise retire from active life in despair and misanthropy. Poets flatter the tyrants who trample on human rights, and sensuality and Epicurean pleasures absorb the depraved thoughts of a perverse generation.
[Sidenote: The imperial despotism.]
The first thing which arrests our attention as we survey the grand empire which embraced the civilized countries or the world, is the imperial despotism. It may have been a necessity, an inevitable sequence to the anarchy of civil war, the strife of parties, great military successes, and the corruptions of society itself. It may be viewed as a providential event in order that general peace and security might usher in the triumphs of a new religion. It followed naturally the subversion of the constitution by military leaders, the breaking up of the power of the Senate, the encroachments of democracy and its leaders, the wars of Sulla and Marius, of Pompey and Julius. It succeeded massacres and factions and demagogues. It came when conspiracies and proscriptions and general insecurity rendered a stronger government desirable. The empire was too vast to be intrusted to the guidance of conflicting parties. There was needed a strong, central, irrepressible, irresistible power in the hands of a single man. Safety and peace seemed preferable to glory and genius. So the people acquiesced in the changes which were made; they had long anticipated them; they even hailed them with silent joy. Patriots, like Brutus, Cassius, and Cato, gave themselves up to despair; but most men were pleased with the revolution that seated Augustus on the throne of the world. For twenty years the empire had been desolated by destructive and exhaustive wars. The cry of the whole empire was for peace, and peace could be secured only by the ascendency of a single man, ruling with absolute and unresisted sway.
[Sidenote: Necessity of revolution.]
[Sidenote: Imperial Rule.]
Historians generally have regarded the revolution, which changed the republic to a monarchy, as salutary in its influences for several generations. The empire was never so splendid as under the Caesars. The energies of the people were directed into peaceful and industrial channels. A new public policy was inaugurated by Augustus—to preserve rather than extend the limits of the empire. The world enjoyed peace, and the rich consoled themselves with riches. Society was established upon a new basis, and was no longer rent by factions and parties. Demagogues no longer disturbed the public peace, nor were the provinces ransacked and devastated to provide for the means of carrying on war. So long as men did not oppose the government they were safe from molestation, and were left to pursue their business and pleasure in their own way. Wealth rapidly increased, and all mechanical arts, and all elegant pleasures. Temples became more magnificent, and the city was changed from brick to marble. Palaces arose upon the hills, and shops were erected in the valleys. There were fewer riots and mobs and public disturbances. Public amusements were systematized and enlarged, and the people indulged with sports, spectacles, and luxuries. Rome became a still greater centre of wealth and art as well as of political power. The city increased in population and beautiful structures. The emperors were great patrons of every thing calculated to dazzle the eyes of their subjects, whether amusements, or palaces, or baths, or aqueducts, or triumphal monuments. Artists and scholars flocked to the great emporium, as well as merchants and foreign princes. Nor was imperial cruelty often visited on the humble classes. It was the policy of the emperors to amuse and flatter the people, while they deprived them of political rights. But social life was free. All were at liberty to seek their pleasures and gains. All were proud of their metropolis, with its gilded glories and its fascinating pleasures. The city was probably supplied with better water, and could rely with more certainty on the necessaries of life, than under the old regime. The people had better baths, and larger houses, and cheaper corn. The government, for a time, was splendidly administered, even by tyrants. Outrages, extortions, and disturbances were punished. Order reigned, and tranquillity, and outward and technical justice. All classes felt secure. They could sleep without fear of robbery or assassination. And all trades flourished. Art was patronized magnificently, and every opportunity was offered for making and for spending fortunes. In short, all the arguments which can be adduced in favor of despotism in contrast with civil war and violence, and the strife of factions and general insecurity of life and property, can be urged to show that the change, if inevitable, was beneficial in its immediate effects.
[Sidenote: Despotism of the emperors.]
[Sidenote: Tyranny of the emperors.]
Nevertheless, it was a most lamentable change from that condition of things which existed before the civil wars. Roman liberties were prostrated forever. Tyrants, armed with absolute and irresponsible power, ruled over the empire; nor could their tyranny end but with their lives. Noble sentiments and aspirations were rebuked. The times were unfavorable to the development of genius, except in those ways which subserved the interests of the government. Under the emperors we read of no more great orators like Cicero, battling for human rights, and defending the public weal. Eloquence was suppressed. Nor was there liberty of speech in the Senate. The usual jealousy of tyrants was awakened to every emancipating influence on the people. They were now amused with shows and spectacles, but could not make their voices heard regarding public injuries. The people were absolutely in the hands of iron masters. So was the Senate. So were all orders and conditions of men. One man reigned supreme. His will was law. Resistance to it was vain. It was treason to find fault with any public acts. From the Pillars of Hercules to the Caspian Sea one stern will ruled all classes and orders. No one could fly from the agents and ministers of the empire. He was the vicegerent of the Almighty, worshiped as a deity, undisputed master of the lives and liberties of one hundred and twenty millions of people. There was no restraint on his inclinations. He could do whatever he pleased, without rebuke and without fear. No general or senator or governor could screen himself from his vengeance. He controlled the army, the Senate, the judiciary, the internal administration of the empire, and the religious worship of the people. All offices and honors and emoluments emanated from him. All opposition ceased, and all conspired to elevate still higher that supreme arbiter of fortune whom no one could hope successfully to rival. Revolt was madness, and treason absurdity. And so perfect was the mechanism of the government that the emperor had time for his private pleasures. It was never administered with greater rigor than when Tiberius secluded himself in his guarded villa. And a timid, or weak, or irresolute emperor was as much to be feared as a monster, since he was surrounded with minions who might be unscrupulous. Nor was the imperial power exercised to check the gigantic social evils of the empire,—those which were gradually but surely undermining the virtues on which strength is based. They did not seek to prevent irreligion, luxury, slavery, and usury, the encroachments of the rich upon the poor, the tyranny of foolish fashions, demoralizing sports and pleasures, money-making, and all the follies which lax principles of morality allowed. They fed the rabble with com and oil and wine, and thus encouraged idleness and dissipation. The world never saw a more rapid retrograde in human rights, or a greater prostration of liberties. Taxes were imposed according to the pleasure or necessities of the government. Provincial governors became still more rapacious and cruel. Judges hesitated to decide against the government. A vile example was presented to the people in their rulers. The emperors squandered immense sums on their private pleasures, and set public opinion at defiance. Patriotism, in its most enlarged sense, became an impossibility. All lofty spirits were crushed. Corruption, in all forms of administration, fearfully increased, for there was no safeguard. Women became debased from the pernicious influences of a corrupt and unblushing court. Adultery, divorce, and infanticide became still more common. The emperors thought more of securing their own power and indulging their own passions than of the public good. The humiliating conviction was fastened upon all classes that liberty was extinguished, and that they were slaves to an irresponsible power. There are those who are found to applaud a despotism; but despotism presupposes the absence of the power of self- government, and the necessity of severe and rigorous measures. It presupposes the tendency to crime and violence, that men are brutes and must be coerced like wild beasts. We are warranted in assuming a very low condition of society when despotism became a necessity. Theoretically, absolutism may be the best government, if rulers are wise and just; but, practically, as men are, despotisms are cruel and revengeful. There are great and glorious exceptions; but it cannot be denied that society is mournful when tyrants bear rule. And it is seldom that society improves under them, without very powerful religious influences. It generally grows worse and worse. Despotism implies slavery, and slavery is the worst condition of mankind,—doubtless a wholesome discipline, under certain circumstances, yet still a great calamity.
The Roman world was fortunate in having such a man as Augustus for supreme ruler, after all liberties were subverted. He was one of the wisest and greatest of the emperors. He inaugurated the policy of his successors, from which the immediate ones did not far depart. He was careful, in the first place, to disguise his powers, and offend the moral sentiments of the people as little as possible. He met with but little opposition in his usurpation, for the most independent of the nobles had perished in the wars, and the rest consulted their interests. He selected the ablest and most popular men in the city to be his favorite ministers—Maecenas and Agrippa. His policy was peace. He declined the coronary gold proffered by the Italian states. He was profuse in his generosity, without additional burdens on the state, for, as the heir of Caesar, he came into possession of eight hundred and fifty millions of dollars, the amount which the Dictator had amassed from the spoils of war. He was but thirty-three years of age, in the prime of his strength and courage. He purged the Senate of unworthy members, and restored the appearance of its ancient dignity. He took a census of the Roman people. He increased the largesses of corn. He showed confidence in the people whom he himself deceived. He was modest in his demeanor, like Pericles at Athens. He visited the provinces and settled their difficulties. He appointed able men as governors, and perpetuated a standing army. He repaired the public edifices, and adorned the city.
But he gradually assumed all the great offices of the state. He clothed himself with the powers and the badges of the consuls, the praenomen of imperator, the functions of perpetual dictator. He exacted the military oath from the whole mass of the people. He became princeps senatus. He claimed the prerogatives of the tribunes, which gave to him inviolability, with the right of protection and pardon. He was also invested with the illustrious dignity of the supreme pontificate. As the Senate and the people continued to meet still for the purpose of legislation, he controlled the same by assuming the initiative, of proposing the laws. He took occasion to give to his edicts, in his consular or tribunitian capacity, a perpetual force; and his rescripts or replies which issued from his council chamber, were registered as laws. He was released from the laws, and claimed the name of Caesar. The people were deprived of the election of magistrates. All officers of the government were his tools, and through them he controlled all public affairs. The prefect of the city became virtually his minister and lieutenant. Even the proconsuls received their appointment from him. Thus he became supreme arbiter of all fortunes, the fountain of all influence, the centre of all power, absolute over the lives and fortunes of all classes of men. Strange that the people should have submitted to such monstrous usurpations, although decently veiled under the names of the old offices of the republic. But they had become degenerate. They wished for peace and leisure. They felt the uselessness of any independent authority, and resigned themselves to a condition which the Romans two centuries earlier would have felt to be intolerable.
[Sidenote: General character of the emperors.]
Of the immediate successors of Augustus, none equaled him in moderation or talents. And with the exception of Titus and Vespasian, the emperors who comprised the Julian family, were stained with great vices. Some were monsters; others were madmen. But, as a whole, they were not deficient in natural ability. Some had great executive talents, like Tiberius—a man of vast experience. But he was a cruel and remorseless tyrant, full of jealousy and vindictive hatred. Still, amid disgraceful pleasures, he devoted himself to the cares of office, and exhibited the virtues of domestic economy. Nor did he take pleasure in the sports of the circus and the theatre, like most of his successors. But he destroyed all who stood in his way, as most tyrants do. Nor did he spare his own relatives. He was sensual and intemperate in his habits, and all looked to him with awe and trepidation. There was a perfect reign of terror at Rome during his latter days, and every body rejoiced when the tyrant died.
Caligula, who succeeded Tiberius, belonged to the race of madmen. He put to death some of the most eminent Romans, in order to seize on their estates. He repudiated his wife; he expressed the wish that Rome had but one neck, that it could be annihilated by a blow; he used to invite his favorite horse to supper, setting before him gilded corn and wine in golden goblets; he wasted immense sums in useless works; he took away the last shadow of power from the people; he impoverished Italy by senseless extravagance; he wantonly destroyed his soldiers by whole companies; he was doubtless as insane as he was cruel, luxurious, rapacious, and prodigal; he adorned the poops of galleys with precious stones, and constructed arduous works with no other purpose than caprice; he often dressed like a woman, and generally appeared with a golden beard; he devoted himself to fencing, driving, singing, and dancing, and was ruled by gladiators, charioteers, and actors. Such was the man to whom was intrusted the guardianship of an empire. No wonder he was removed by assassination.
His successor was Claudius, made emperor by the Praetorians. He took Augustus for his model, was well disposed, and contributed greatly to the embellishment of the capital. But he was gluttonous and intemperate, and subject to the influence of women and favorites. He was feeble in mind and body. He was married to one of the worst women in history, and Messalina has passed into a synonym for infamy. By this woman he was influenced, and her unblushing effrontery and disgraceful intrigues made the reign unfortunate. She trafficked in the great offices of the state, and sacrificed the best blood of the class to which she belonged. Claudius was also governed by freedmen, who performed such offices as Louis XV. intrusted to his noble vassals. Claudius resembled this inglorious monarch in many respects, and his reign was as disastrous on the morals of the people. When the death of his wife was announced to him at the banquet, he called for wine, and listened to songs and music. But she was succeeded by a worse woman, Agrippina, and the marriage of the emperor with his niece, was a scandal as well as a misfortune. Pliny mentions having seen this empress in a sea-fight on the Fucine Lake, clothed in a soldier's cloak. Daughter of an imperator, sister of another, and consort of a third, she is best known as the mother of Nero, and the patroness of every thing that was shameful in the follies of the times. That an emperor should wed and be ruled by two such infamous women, indicates either weakness or depravity, and both qualities are equally fatal to the welfare of the state over which he was called to rule.
The supreme power then fell into the hands of Nero. He gave the promise of virtue and ability, and Seneca condescended to the most flattering panegyrics; but the prospects of ruling beneficently were soon clouded by the most disgraceful enormities. He destroyed all who were offensive to those who ruled him, even Seneca who had been his tutor. Lost to all dignity and decency, he indulged in the most licentious riots, disguising himself like a slave, and committing midnight assaults. He killed his mother and his aunt, and divorced his wife. He sung songs on the public stage, and was more ambitious of being a good flute-player than a public benefactor. It is even said that he fiddled when Rome was devastated by a fearful conflagration. He built a palace, which covered entirely Mount Esquiline, the vestibule of which contained a colossal statue of himself, one hundred and twenty feet high. His gardens were the scenes of barbarities, and his banqueting halls of orgies which were a reproach to humanity. He wasted the empire by enormous contributions, and even plundered the temples of his own capital. His wife, Poppaea, died of a kick which she received from this monster, because she had petulantly reproved him. Longinus, an eminent lawyer, Lucan the poet, and Petronius the satirist, alike, were victims of his hatred. This last of the Caesars, allied by blood to the imperial house of Julius, killed himself in his thirty-first year, to prevent assassination, to the universal joy of the Roman world, without having done a great deed, or evinced a single virtue. Flute-playing and chariot races were his main diversions, and every public interest was sacrificed to his pleasures, or his vengeance—a man delighting in evil for its own sake.
Nero was succeeded by Galba, who also was governed by favorites. He was a great glutton, exceedingly parsimonious, and very unpopular. In the early stages of his life, he appeared equal to the trust and dignity reposed in him; but when he gained the sovereignty, he proved deficient in those qualities requisite to wield it. Tacitus sums up his character in a sentence. "He appeared superior to his rank before he was emperor, and would have always been considered worthy of the supreme power, if he had not obtained it." He was assassinated after a brief reign.
His successor, Otho, finding himself unequal to the position to which he was elevated, ended his life by suicide. Vitellius, who wore the purple next to him, is celebrated for cruelty and gluttony, and was removed by assassination. Titus and Vespasian were honorable exceptions to the tyrants and sensualists that had reigned since Augustus, but Domitian surpassed all his predecessors in unrelenting cruelty. He banished all philosophers from Rome and Italy, and violently persecuted the Christians, and was dissolute and lewd in his private habits. He also met a violent death from the assassin's dagger, the only way that infamous monsters could be hurled from power. Yet such was the fulsome flattery to which he and all the emperors were accustomed, that Martial addressed this monster, preeminent of all in wickedness and cruelty,—
"To conquer ardent, and to triumph shy, Fair Victory named him from the polar sky. Fanes to the gods, to men he manners gave; Rest to the sword, and respite to the brave; So high could ne'er Herculean power aspire: The god should bend his looks to the Tarpeian fire." [Footnote: Book ix. 101. ]
[Sidenote: The latter emperors.]
Of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, I will not speak, since they were great exceptions to those who generally ruled at Rome. Their virtues and their talents are justly eulogized by all historians. Great in war, and greater in peace, they were ornaments of humanity. Under their sway, the empire was prosperous and happy. Their greatness almost atoned for the weakness and wickedness of their predecessors. If such men as they could have ruled at Rome, the imperial regime would have been the greatest blessing. But with them expired the prosperity of the empire, and they were succeeded by despots, whose vices equaled those of Nero and Vitellius. Commodus, Caracalla, Elagabalus, Maximin, Philip, Gallienus, are enrolled on the catalogue of those who have obtained an infamous immortality. At last no virtue or talent on the part of the few emperors who really labored for the good of the state, could arrest the increasing corruption. The empire was doomed when Constantine removed the seat of government to Constantinople. Forty-four sovereigns reigned at Rome from Julius to Constantine, in a period of little more than three hundred and fifty years, of whom twenty were removed by assassination. What a commentary on imperial despotism! In spite of the virtues of such men as Trajan and the Antonines, the history of the emperors is a loathsome chapter of human depravity, and of its awful retribution. Never were greater powers exercised by single men, and never were they more signally abused. From the time of Augustus those virtues which give glory to society steadily declined. The reigns of the emperors were fatal to all moral elevation, and even to genius, as in the latter days of Louis XIV. The great lights which illuminated the Augustan age, disappeared, without any to take their place. Under the emperors there are fewer great names than for one hundred years before the death of Cicero. Eloquence, poetry, and philosophy were alike eclipsed. Noble aspirations were repressed by the all-powerful and irresistible despotism.
The tyranny of these emperors was rendered endurable by the general familiarity with cruelty. In every Roman palace, the slave was chained to the doorway; thongs hung upon the stairs, and the marks of violence on the faces of the domestics impressed the great that they were despots themselves. They were accustomed to the sight of blood in the sports of the amphitheatre. They ruled as tyrants in the provinces they governed.
But it must be allowed that the system of education was left untrammeled by the government, provided politics were not introduced; and it produced men of letters, if not practical statesmen. It sharpened the intellect and enlivened thought. The text-books of the schools were the most famous compositions of republican Greece, and the favorite subjects of declamation were the glories of the free men of antiquity. Nor was there any restriction placed upon writing or publication analogous to our modern censorship of the press, and many of the emperors, like Claudius and Hadrian, were patrons of literature. Even the stoical philosophers who tried to persuade the emperor that he was a slave, were endured, since they did not attempt to deprive him of sovereignty.
Nor could the imperial tyranny be resisted by minds enervated by indulgence and estranged from all pure aspirations, by the pleasures of sense. They crouched like dogs under the uplifted arm of masters. They did not even seek to fly from the tyranny which ground them down.
[Sidenote: Character of the emperors.]
It cannot be denied that, on the whole, this long succession of emperors was more intellectual and able than oriental dynasties, and even many occidental ones in the Middle Ages, when the principle of legitimacy was undisputed. The Roman emperors, as men of talents, favorably compare with the successors of Mohammed, and the Carlovingian and Merovingian kings. But if these talents were employed in systematically crushing out all human rights, the despotism they established became the more deplorable.
Nor can it be questioned that many virtuous princes reigned at Rome, who would have ornamented any age or country. Titus, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Antoninus Pius, Alexander Severus, Tacitus, Probus, Carus, Constantine, Theodosius, were all men of remarkable virtues as well as talents. They did what they could to promote public prosperity. Marcus Aurelius was one of the purest and noblest characters of antiquity. Theodosius for genius and virtue ranks with the most illustrious sovereigns that ever wore a crown—with Charlemagne, with Alfred, with William III., with Gustavus Adolphus.
Of these Roman emperors some stand out as world heroes—greatest among men—remarkable for executive ability. Julius is the most renowned name of antiquity. He ranks only with Napoleon Bonaparte in modern times. His genius was transcendent; and, like Napoleon, he had great traits which endear him to the world—generosity, magnanimity, and exceeding culture; orator, historian, and lawyer, as well as statesman and general. But he overturned the liberties of his country to gratify a mad ambition, and waded through a sea of blood to the mastership of the world. Augustus was a profound statesman, and a successful general; but he was stained with the arts of dissimulation and an intense ambition, and sacrificed public liberties and rights to cement his power. Even Diocletian, tyrant and persecutor as he was, was distinguished for masterly abilities, and was the greatest statesman whom the empire saw, with the exception of Augustus. Such a despot as Tiberius ruled with justice and ability. Constantine ranks with the greatest monarchs of antiquity. The vices and ambition of these men did not dim the lustre of their genius and abilities.
[Sidenote: The Imperial despotism.]
Their cause was wrong. It matters not whether the emperors were good or bad, if the regime, to which they consecrated their energies, was exerted to crush the liberties of mankind. The imperial despotism, whether brilliant or disgraceful, was a mournful retrograde in the polity of Rome. It implied the extinction of patriotism, and the general degradation of the people, or else the fabric of despotism could not have been erected. It would have been impossible in the days of Cato, Scipio, or Metellus. It was simply a choice of evils. When nations emerge from utter barbarism into absolute monarchies, like the ancient Persians or the modern Russians, we forget the evils of a central power in the blessings which extend indirectly to the degraded people. But when a nation loses its liberties, and submits without a struggle to tyrants, it is a sad spectacle to humanity. The despotism of Louis XIV. was not disgraceful to the French people, for they never had enjoyed constitutional liberty. The despotism of Louis Napoleon is mournful, because the nation had waded through a bloody revolution to achieve the recognition of great rights and interests, and dreamed that they were guaranteed. It is a retrograde and not a progress; a reaction of liberty, which seats Napoleon on the throne of Louis Philippe; even as the reign of Charles II. is the saddest chapter in English history. If liberty be a blessing, if it be possible for nations to secure it permanently, then the regime of the Roman emperors is detestable and mournful, whatever necessities may have called it into being, since it annulled all those glorious privileges in which ancient patriots gloried, and prevented that scope for energies which made Rome mistress of the world. It was impossible for the empire to grow stronger and grander. It must needs become weaker and more corrupt, since despotism did not kindle the ambition of the people, but suppressed their noblest sentiments, and confined their energies to inglorious pursuits. Men might acquire more gigantic fortunes under the emperors than in the times of the republic, and art might be more extensively cultivated, and luxury and refinement and material pleasures might increase; but public virtue fled, and those sentiments on which national glory rests vanished before the absorbing egotism which pervaded all orders and classes. The imperial despotism may have been needed, and the empire might have fallen, even if it had not existed; still it was a sad and mournful necessity, and gives a humiliating view of human greatness. No lover of liberty can contemplate it without disgust and abhorrence. No philosopher can view it without drawing melancholy lessons of human degeneracy—an impressive moral for all ages and nations.
If we turn to the class which, before the dictatorship of Julius, had the ascendency in the state, and, for several centuries, the supreme power, we shall find but little that is flattering to a nation or to humanity.
[Sidenote: The Roman aristocracy.]
The Roman aristocracy was the most powerful, most wealthy, and most august that this world has probably seen. It was under patrician leadership that the great conquests were made, and the greatness of the state reached. The glory of Rome was centred in those proud families which had conquered and robbed all the nations known to the Greeks. The immortal names of ancient Rome are identified with the aristocracy. It was not under kings, but under nobles, that military ambition became the vice of the most exalted characters. In the days of the republic, they exhibited a stern virtue, an inflexible policy, an indomitable will, and most ardent patriotism. The generals who led the armies to victory, the statesmen who deliberated in the Senate, the consuls, the praetors, the governors, originally belonged to this noble class. It monopolized all the great offices of the state, and it maintained its powers and privileges, in spite of conspiracies and rebellions. It may have yielded somewhat to popular encroachments, but when the people began to acquire the ascendency, the seeds of public corruption were sown. The real dignity and glory of Rome coexisted with patrician power.
[Sidenote: Great families.]
And powerful families existed in Rome until the fall of the empire. Some were descendants of ancient patrician houses, and numbered the illustrious generals of the republic among their ancestors. Others owed their rank and consequence to the accumulation of gigantic fortunes. Others, again, rose into importance from the patronage of emperors. All the great conquerors and generals of the republic were founders of celebrated families, which never lost consideration. Until the subversion of the constitution, they took great interest in politics, and were characterized for manly patriotism. Many of them were famous for culture of mind as well as public spirit. They frowned on the growing immoralities, and maintained the dignity of their elevated rank. The Senate was the most august assembly ever known on earth, controlling kings and potentates, and making laws for the most distant nations, and exercising a power which was irresistible.
[Sidenote: Degeneracy of the nobles.]
Under the emperors this noble class had degenerated in morals as well as influence. They still retained their enormous fortunes, originally acquired as governors of provinces, and continually increased by fortunate marriages and speculations. Indeed, nothing was more marked and melancholy at Rome than the disproportionate fortunes, the general consequences of a low or a corrupt civilization. In the better days of the republic, property was more equally divided. The citizens were not ambitious for more land than they could conveniently cultivate. But the lands, obtained by conquest, gradually fell into the possession of powerful families. The classes of society widened as great fortunes were accumulated. Pride of wealth kept pace with pride of ancestry. And when Plebeian families had obtained great estates, they were amalgamated with the old aristocracy. The Equestrian order, founded substantially on wealth, grew daily in importance. Knights ultimately rivaled senatorial families. Even freedmen, in an age of commercial speculation, became powerful for their riches. Ultimately the rich formed a body by themselves. Under the emperors, the pursuit of money became a passion; and the rich assumed all the importance and consideration which had once been bestowed upon those who had rendered great public services. The laws of property were rigorous among the Romans, and wealth, when once obtained, was easily secured and transmitted.
[Sidenote: Gigantic fortunes.]
Such gigantic fortunes were ultimately made, since the Romans were masters of the world, that Rome became a city of palaces, and the spoils and riches of all nations flowed to the capital. Rome was a city of princes, and wealth gave the highest distinction. The fortunes were almost incredible. It has been estimated that the income of some of the richest of the senatorial families equaled a sum of five million dollars a year in our money. It took eighty thousand dollars a year to support the ordinary senatorial dignity. Some senators owned whole provinces. Trimalchio—a rich freedman whom Petronius ridiculed—could afford to lose thirty millions of sesterces in a single voyage without sensibly diminishing his fortune. Pallas, a freedman of the Emperor Claudius, possessed a fortune of three hundred millions of sesterces. Seneca, the philosopher, amassed an enormous fortune.
[Sidenote: Character of the nobles.]
[Sidenote: Excessive luxury.]
[Sidenote: Luxury of the aristocracy.]
[Sidenote: Luxury of the nobles.]
The Romans were a sensual, ostentatious, and luxurious people, and they accordingly wasted their fortunes by an extravagance in their living which has had no parallel. The pleasures of the table and the cares of the kitchen were the most serious avocation of the aristocracy in the days of the greatest corruption. They had around them a regular court of parasites and flatterers, and they employed even persons of high rank as their chamberlains and stewards. Carving was taught in celebrated schools, and the masters of this sublime art were held in higher estimation than philosophers or poets. Says Juvenal:—
"To such perfection now is carving brought, That different gestures, by our curious men Are used for different dishes, hare or hen."
Their entertainments were accompanied with every thing which could flatter vanity or excite the passions. Musicians, male and female dancers, players of farce and pantomime, jesters, buffoons, and gladiators, exhibited while the guests reclined at table. The tables were made of Thuja-root, with claws of ivory or Delian bronze, and cost immense sums. Even Cicero, in an economical age, paid six hundred and fifty pounds for his banqueting table. These tables were waited upon by an army of slaves, clad in costly dresses. In the intervals of courses they played with dice, or listened to music, or were amused with dances. They wore a great profusion of jewels—such as necklaces and rings and bracelets. They reclined at table after the fashion of the Orientals. They ate, as delicacies, water-rats and white worms. Gluttony was carried to such a point that the sea and earth scarcely sufficed to set off their tables. The women passed whole nights at the table, and were proud of their power to carry off an excess of wine. As Cleopatra says of her riotings with Antony,—
"O times!— I laughed him out of patience; and that night I laughed him into patience: and next morn, Ere the ninth hour, I drank him to his bed."
The wines were often kept for two ages, and some qualities were so highly prized as to sell for about twenty dollars an ounce. Large hogs were roasted whole at a banquet. The ancient epicures expatiate on ram's-head pies, stuffed fowls, boiled calf, and pastry stuffed with raisins and nuts. Dishes were made of gold and silver, set with precious stones. Cicero and Pompey one day surprised Lucullus at one of his ordinary banquets, when he expected no guests, and even that cost fifty thousand drachmas—about four thousand dollars. His beds were of purple, and his vessels glittered with jewels. The halls of Heliogabalus were hung with cloth of gold, enriched with jewels. His beds were of massive silver, his table and plate of pure gold, and his mattresses, covered with carpets of cloth of gold, were stuffed with down found only under the wings of partridges. Crassus paid one hundred thousand sesterces for a golden cup. Banqueting rooms were strewed with lilies and roses. Apicius, in the time of Trajan, spent one hundred millions of sesterces in debauchery and gluttony. Having only ten millions left, he ended his life with poison, thinking he might die of hunger. The suppers of Heliogabalus never cost less than one hundred thousand sesterces. And things were valued for their cost and rarity, rather than their real value. Enormous prices were paid for carp, the favorite dish of the Romans. Drusillus, a freedman of Claudius, caused a dish to be made of five hundred pounds weight of silver. Vitellius had one made of such prodigious size that they were obliged to build a furnace on purpose for it; and at a feast in honor of this dish which he gave, it was filled with the livers of the scarrus (fish), the brains of peacocks, the tongues of a bird of red plumage, called Phaesuicopterus, and the roes of lampreys caught in the Carpathian Sea. Falernian wine was never drunk until ten years old, and it was generally cooled with ices. The passion for play was universal. Nero ventured four hundred thousand sesterces on a single throw of the dice. Cleopatra, when she feasted Antony, gave each time to that general the gold vessels, enriched with jewels, the tapestry and purple carpets, embroidered with gold, which had been used in the repasts. Horace speaks of a debauchee who drank at a meal a goblet of vinegar, in which he dissolved a pearl worth a million of sesterces, which hung at the ear of his mistress. Precious stones were so common that a woman of the utmost simplicity dared not go without her diamonds. Even men wore jewels, especially elaborate rings, and upon all the fingers at last. The taste of the Roman aristocracy, with their immense fortunes, inclined them to pomp, to extravagance, to ostentatious modes of living, to luxurious banquets, to conventionalities and ceremonies, to an unbounded epicureanism. They lived for the present hour, and for sensual pleasures. There was no elevation of life. It was the body and not the soul, the present and not the future, which alone concerned them. They were grossly material in all their desires and habits. They squandered money on their banquets, their stables, and their dress. And it was to their crimes, says Juvenal, that they were indebted for their gardens, their palaces, their tables, and their fine old plate. The day was portioned out in the public places, in the bath, the banquet. Martial indignantly rebukes these extravagances, as unable to purchase happiness, in his Epigram to Quintus: "Because you purchase slaves at two hundred thousand sesterces; because you drink wines stored during the reign of Numa; because your furniture costs you a million; because a pound weight of wrought silver costs you five thousand; because a golden chariot becomes yours at the price of a whole farm; because your mule costs you more than the value of a house—do not imagine that such expenses are the proof of a great mind." [Footnote: Book iii. p. 62.]
Unbounded pride, insolence, inhumanity, selfishness, and scorn marked this noble class. Of course there were exceptions, but the historians and satirists give the saddest pictures of their cold-hearted depravity. The sole result of friendship with a great man was a meal, at which flattery and sycophancy were expected; but the best wine was drunk by the host, instead of by the guest. Provinces were ransacked for fish and fowl and game for the tables of the great, and sensualism was thought to be no reproach. They violated the laws of chastity and decorum. They scourged to death their slaves. They degraded their wives and sisters. They patronized the most demoralizing sports. They enriched themselves by usury, and enjoyed monopolies. They practiced no generosity, except at their banquets, when ostentation balanced their avarice. They measured every thing by the money-standard. They had no taste for literature, but they rewarded sculptors and painters, if they prostituted art to their vanity or passions. They had no reverence for religion, and ridiculed the gods. Their distinguishing vices were meanness and servility, the pursuit of money by every artifice, the absence of honor, and unblushing sensuality.
[Sidenote: Gibbon's account of the nobles.]
[Sidenote: Sarcasms of Ammianus Marcellinus.]
Gibbon has eloquently abridged the remarks of Ammianus Marcellinus, respecting these people: "They contend with each other in the empty vanity of titles and surnames. They affect to multiply their likenesses in statues of bronze or marble; nor are they satisfied unless these statues are covered with plates of gold. They boast of the rent-rolls of their estates. They measure their rank and consequence by the loftiness of their chariots, and the weighty magnificence of their dress. Their long robes of silk and purple float in the wind, and, as they are agitated by art or accident, they discover the under garments, the rich tunics embroidered with the figures of various animals. Followed by a train of fifty servants, and tearing up the pavement, they move along the streets as if they traveled with post-horses; and the example of the senators is boldly imitated by the matrons and ladies, whose covered carriages are continually driving round the immense space of the city and suburbs. Whenever they condescend to enter the public baths, they assume, on their entrance, a tone of loud and insolent command, and maintain a haughty demeanor, which, perhaps, might have been excused in the great Marcellus, after the conquest of Syracuse. Sometimes these heroes undertake more arduous achievements: they visit their estates in Italy, and procure themselves, by servile hands, the amusements of the chase. And if, at any time, especially on a hot day, they have the courage to sail in their gilded galleys from the Lucrine Lake to their elegant villas on the sea-coast of Puteoli and Cargeta, they compare these expeditions to the marches of Caesar and Alexander. Yet, should a fly presume to settle on the silken folds of their gilded umbrellas, should a sunbeam penetrate through some unguarded chink, they deplore their intolerable hardships, and lament, in affected language, that they were not born in the regions of eternal darkness. In the exercise of domestic jurisdiction they express an exquisite sensibility for any personal injury, and a contemptuous indifference for the rest of mankind. When they have called for warm water, should a slave be tardy in his obedience, he is chastised with an hundred lashes; should he commit a willful murder, his master will mildly observe that he is a worthless fellow, and should be punished if he repeat the offense. If a foreigner of no contemptible rank be introduced to these senators, he is welcomed with such warm professions that he retires charmed with their affability; but when he repeats his visit, he is surprised and mortified to find that his name, his person, and his country are forgotten. The modest, the sober, and the learned are rarely invited to their sumptuous banquets; but the most worthless of mankind—parasites who applaud every look and gesture, who gaze with rapture on marble columns and variegated pavements, and strenuously praise the pomp and elegance which he is taught to consider as a part of his personal merit. At the Roman table, the birds, the squirrels, the fish which appear of uncommon size, are contemplated with curious attention, and notaries are summoned to attest, by authentic record, their real weight. Another method of introduction into the houses of the great is skill in games, which is a sure road to wealth and reputation. A master of this sublime art, if placed, at a supper, below a magistrate, displays in his countenance a surprise and indignation which Cato might be supposed to feel when refused the praetorship. The acquisition of knowledge seldom engages the attention of the nobles, who abhor the fatigue and disdain the advantages of study; and the only books they peruse are the 'Satires of Juvenal,' or the fabulous histories of Marius Maximus. The libraries they have inherited from their fathers are secluded, like dreary sepulchres, from the light of day; but the costly instruments of the theatre, flutes and hydraulic organs, are constructed for their use. In their palaces sound is preferred to sense, and the care of the body to that of the mind. The suspicion of a malady is of sufficient weight to excuse the visits of the most intimate friends. The prospect of gain will urge a rich and gouty senator as far as Spoleta; every sentiment of arrogance and dignity is suppressed in the hope of an inheritance or legacy, and a wealthy, childless citizen is the most powerful of the Romans. The distress which follows and chastises extravagant luxury often reduces the great to use the most humiliating expedients. When they wish to borrow, they employ the base and supplicating style of the slaves in the comedy; but when they are called upon to pay, they assume the royal and tragic declamations of the grandsons of Hercules. If the demand is repeated, they readily procure some trusty sycophant to maintain a charge of poison or magic against the insolent creditor, who is seldom released from prison until he has signed a discharge of the whole debt. And these vices are mixed with a puerile superstition which disgraces their understanding. They listen with confidence to the productions of haru-spices, who pretend to read in the entrails of victims the signs of future greatness and prosperity; and this superstition is observed among those very skeptics who impiously deny or doubt the existence of a celestial power." [Footnote: Found in the sixth chapter of the fourteenth, and the fourth of the twenty-eighth, book of Ammianus Marcellinus.]
Such, in the latter days of the empire, was the leading class at Rome, and probably in the cities which aped the fashions of the capital. There was a melancholy absence of elevation of sentiment, of patriotism, of manly courage, and of dignity of character. Frivolity and luxury loosened all the ties of society. The animating principle of their lives was a heartless Epicureanism. They lived for the present hour, and for their pleasures, indifferent to the great interests of the public, and to the miseries of the poor. They were bound up in themselves. They were grossly material in all their aims. They had lost all ideas of public virtue. They degraded women; they oppressed the people; they laughed at philanthropy; they could not be reached by elevated sentiments; they had no concern for the future. Scornful, egotistical, haughty, self- indulgent, affected, cynical, all their thoughts and conversation were directed to frivolities. Nothing made any impression upon them but passing vanities. They ignored both Heaven and Hell. They were like the courtiers of Louis XV. in the most godless period of the monarchy. They were worse, for they superadded pagan infidelities. There were memorable exceptions, but not many, until Christianity had reached the throne. "One after another, the nobles sunk into a lethargy almost without a parallel. The proudest names of the old republic were finally associated with the idlest amusements and the most preposterous novelties. A Gabrius, a Callius, and a Crassus were immortalized by the elegance of their dancing. A Lucullus, a Hortensius, a Philippus estimated one another, not by their eloquence, their courage, or their virtue, but by the perfection of their fish-ponds, and the singularity of the breeds they nourished. They seemed to touch the sky with their finger if they had stocked their preserves with bearded mullets, and taught them to recognize their masters' voices, and come to be fed from their hands." [Footnote: Merivale, chap. ii.]
[Sidenote: Condition of the people.]
As for the miserable class whom they oppressed, their condition became worse every day from the accession of the emperors. The Plebeians had ever disdained those arts which now occupy the middle classes. These were intrusted to slaves. Originally, they employed themselves upon the lands which had been obtained by conquest. But these lands were gradually absorbed or usurped by the large proprietors. The small farmers, oppressed with debt and usury, parted with their lands to their wealthy creditors. In the time of Cicero, it was computed that there were only about two thousand citizens possessed of independent property. These two thousand people owned the world. The rest were dependent; and they were powerless when deprived of political rights, for the great candidate for public honors and offices liberally paid for votes. But under the emperors the commons had subsided into a miserable populace, fed from the public stores. They would have perished but for largesses. Monthly distributions of corn were converted into daily allowance for bread. They were amused with games and festivals. From the stately baths they might be seen to issue without shoes and without a mantle. They loitered in the public streets, and dissipated in gaming their miserable pittance. They spent the hours of the night in the lowest resorts of crime and misery. As many as four hundred thousand sometimes assembled to witness the chariot races. The vast theatres were crowded to see male and female dancers. The amphitheatres were still more largely attended by the better populace. They expired in wretched apartments without attracting the attention of government. Pestilence and famine and squalid misery thinned their ranks, and they would have been annihilated but for constant succession to their ranks from the provinces. In the busy streets of Rome might be seen adventurers from all parts of the world, disgraced by all the various vices of their respective countries. They had no education, and but little of religious advantages. They were held in terror by both priests and nobles. The priest terrified them with Egyptian sorceries, the noble crushed them by iron weight. Like Iazzaroni, they lived in the streets, or were crowded into filthy apartments. Several families tenanted the same house. A gladiatorial show delighted them, but the circus was their peculiar joy. Here they sought to drown the consciousness of their squalid degradation. They were sold into slavery for trifling debts. They had no home. The poor man had no ambition or hope. His wife was a slave; his children were precocious demons, whose prattle was the cry for bread, whose laughter was the howl of pandemonium, whose sports were the tricks of premature iniquity, whose beauty was the squalor of disease and filth. He fled from a wife in whom he had no trust, from children in whom he had no hope, from brothers for whom he felt no sympathy, from parents for whom he felt no reverence. The circus was his home, the wild beast his consolation. The future was a blank. Death was the release from suffering. Historians and poets say but little of his degraded existence; but from the few hints we have, we infer depravity and brutal tastes. If degraded at all, they must have been very degraded, since the Romans had but little sentiment, and no ideality. They were sunk in vice, for they had no sense of responsibility. They never emerged from their wretched condition. The philosophers, poets, scholars, and lawyers of Rome, sprang uniformly from the aristocratic classes. In the provinces, the poor sometimes rose, but very seldom. The whole aspect of society was a fearful inequality—disproportionate fortunes, slavery, and beggary. There was no middle class, of any influence or consideration. It was for the interest of people without means to enroll themselves in the service of the rich. Hence the immense numbers employed in the palaces in menial work. They would have been enrolled in the armies, but for their inefficiency. The army was recruited from the provinces—the rural population—and even from the barbarians themselves. There were no hospitals for the sick and the old, except one on an island in the Tiber. The old and helpless were left to die, unpitied and unconsoled. Suicide was so common that it attracted no attention, but infanticide was not so marked, since there was so little feeling of compassion for the future fate of the miserable children. Superstition culminated at Rome, for there were seen the priests and devotees of all the countries which it governed—"the dark-skinned daughters of Isis, with drum and timbrel and wanton mien; devotees of the Persian Mithras, imported by the Pompeians from Cilicia; emasculated Asiatics, priests of Berecynthian Cybele, with their wild dances and discordant cries; worshipers of the great goddess Diana; barbarian captives with the rites of Teuton priests; Syrians, Jews, Chaldean astrologers, and Thessalian sorcerers." Oh, what scenes of sin and misery did that imperial capital witness in the third and fourth centuries—sensualism and superstition, fears and tribulations, pestilence and famine, even amid the pomps of senatorial families, and the grandeur of palaces and temples. "The crowds which flocked to Rome from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, brought with them practices extremely demoralizing. The awful rites of initiation, the tricks of magicians, the pretended virtues of amulets and charms, the riddles of emblematical idolatry, with which the superstition of the East abounded, amused the languid voluptuaries who neither had the energy for a moral belief, nor the boldness requisite for logical skepticism." They were brutal, bloodthirsty, callous to the sight of suffering, and familiar with cruelties and crimes. They were superstitious, without religious faith, without hope, and without God in the world.