Ave Roma Immortalis, Vol. 1 - Studies from the Chronicles of Rome
by Francis Marion Crawford
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse









All rights reserved

Copyright, 1898, By The Macmillan Company.

Set up and electrotyped October, 1898. Reprinted November, December, 1898.

Norwood Press J. S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.

















Map of Rome Frontispiece


The Wall of Romulus 4

Palace of the Caesars 30

The Campagna and Ruins of the Claudian Aqueduct 50

Temple of Castor and Pollux 70

Basilica Constantine 90

Basilica of Saint John Lateran 114

Baths of Diocletian 140

Fountain of Trevi 158

Piazza Barberini 188

Porta San Lorenzo 214

Villa Borghese 230

Piazza del Popolo 256

Island in the Tiber 280

Palazzo Massimo alle Colonna 306


VOLUME I PAGE Palatine Hill and Mouth of the Cloaca Maxima 1

Ruins of the Servian Wall 8

Etruscan Bridge at Veii 16

Tombs on the Appian Way 22

Brass of Tiberius, showing the Temple of Concord 24

The Tarpeian Rock 28

Caius Julius Caesar 36

Octavius Augustus Caesar 45

Brass of Trajan, showing the Circus Maximus 56

Brass of Antoninus Pius, in Honour of Faustina, with Reverse showing Vesta bearing the Palladium 57

Ponte Rotto, now destroyed 67

Atrium of Vesta 72

Brass of Gordian, showing the Colosseum 78

The Colosseum 87

Ruins of the Temple of Saturn 92

Brass of Gordian, showing Roman Games 99

Ruins of the Julian Basilica 100

Brass of Titus, showing the Colosseum 105

Region I Monti, Device of 106

Santa Francesca Romana 111

San Giovanni in Laterano 116

Piazza Colonna 119

Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano 126

Santa Maria Maggiore 134

Porta Maggiore, supporting the Channels of the Aqueduct of Claudius and the Anio Novus 145

Interior of the Colosseum 152

Region II Trevi, Device of 155

Grand Hall of the Colonna Palace 162

Interior of the Mausoleum of Augustus 169

Forum of Trajan 171

Ruins of Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli 180

Palazzo del Quirinale 185

Region III Colonna, Device of 190

Arch of Titus 191

Twin Churches at the Entrance of the Corso 197

San Lorenzo in Lucina 204

Palazzo Doria-Pamfili 208

Palazzo di Monte Citorio 223

Palazzo di Venezia 234

Region IV Campo Marzo, Device of 248

Piazza di Spagna 251

Trinita de Monti 257

Villa Medici 265

Region V Ponte 274

Bridge of Sant' Angelo 285

Villa Negroni 292

Region VI Parione, Device of 297

Piazza Navona 303

Ponte Sisto 307

The Cancelleria 316



1. AMPERE—Histoire Romaine a Rome. AMPERE—L'Empire Remain a Rome.

2. BARACCONI—I Rioni di Roma.

3. BOISSIER—Promenades Archeologiques.

4. BRYCE—The Holy Roman Empire.

5. CELLINI—Memoirs.

6. COPPI—Memoire Colonnesi.

7. FORTUNATO—Storia delle vite delle Imperatrici Romane.

8. GIBBON—Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

9. GNOLI—Vittoria Accoramboni.

10. GREGOROVIUS—Geschichte der Stadt Rom.

11. HARE—Walks in Rome.

12. JOSEPHUS—Life of.

13. LANCIANI—Ancient Rome.

14. LETI—Vita di Sisto V.

15. MURATORI—Scriptores Rerum Italicarum. MURATORI—Annali d'Italia. MURATORI—Antichita Italiane.

16. RAMSAY AND LANCIANI—A Manual of Roman Antiquities.

17. SCHNEIDER—Das Alte Rom.

18. SILVAGNI—La Corte e la Societa Romana.

Ave Roma Immortalis


The story of Rome is the most splendid romance in all history. A few shepherds tend their flocks among volcanic hills, listening by day and night to the awful warnings of the subterranean voice,—born in danger, reared in peril, living their lives under perpetual menace of destruction, from generation to generation. Then, at last, the deep voice swells to thunder, roaring up from the earth's heart, the lightning shoots madly round the mountain top, the ground rocks, and the air is darkened with ashes. The moment has come. One man is a leader, but not all will follow him. He leads his small band swiftly down from the heights, and they drive a flock and a little herd before them, while each man carries his few belongings as best he can, and there are few women in the company. The rest would not be saved, and they perish among their huts before another day is over.

Down, always downwards, march the wanderers, rough, rugged, young with the terrible youth of those days, and wise only with the wisdom of nature. Down the steep mountain they go, down over the rich, rolling land, down through the deep forests, unhewn of man, down at last to the river, where seven low hills rise out of the wide plain. One of those hills the leader chooses, rounded and grassy; there they encamp, and they dig a trench and build huts. Pales, protectress of flocks, gives her name to the Palatine Hill. Rumon, the flowing river, names the village Rome, and Rome names the leader Romulus, the Man of the River, the Man of the Village by the River; and to our own time the twenty-first of April is kept and remembered, and even now honoured, for the very day on which the shepherds began to dig their trench on the Palatine, the date of the Foundation of Rome, from which seven hundred and fifty-four years were reckoned to the birth of Christ.

And the shepherds called their leader King, though his kingship was over but few men. Yet they were such men as begin history, and in the scant company there were all the seeds of empire. First the profound faith of natural mankind, unquestioning, immovable, inseparable from every daily thought and action; then fierce strength, and courage, and love of life and of possession; last, obedience to the chosen leader, in clear liberty, when one should fail, to choose another. So the Romans began to win the world, and won it in about six hundred years.

By their camp-fires, by their firesides in their little huts, they told old tales of their race, and round the truth grew up romantic legend, ever dear to the fighting man and to the husbandman alike, with strange tales of their first leader's birth, fit for poets, and woven to stir young hearts to daring, and young hands to smiting. Truth there was under their stories, but how much of it no man can tell: how Amulius of Alba Longa slew his sons, and slew also his daughter, loved of Mars, mother of twin sons left to die in the forest, like Oedipus, father-slayers, as Oedipus was, wolf-suckled, of whom one was born to kill the other and be the first King, and be taken up to Jupiter in storm and lightning at the last. The legend of wise Numa, next, taught by Egeria; her stony image still weeps trickling tears for her royal adept, and his earthen cup, jealously guarded, was worshipped for more than a thousand years; legends of the first Arval brotherhood, dim as the story of Melchisedec, King and priest, but lasting as Rome itself. Tales of King Tullus, when the three Horatii fought for Rome against the three Curiatii, who smote for Alba and lost the day—Tullus Hostilius, grandson of that first Hostus who had fought against the Sabines; and always more legend, and more, and more, sometimes misty, sometimes clear and direct in action as a Greek tragedy. They hover upon the threshold of history, with faces of beauty or of terror, sublime, ridiculous, insignificant, some born of desperate, real deeds, many another, perhaps, first told by some black-haired shepherd mother to her wondering boys at evening, when the brazen pot simmered on the smouldering fire, and the father had not yet come home.

But down beneath the legend lies the fact, in hewn stones already far in the third thousand of their years. Digging for truth, searchers have come here and there upon the first walls and gates of the Palatine village, straight, strong and deeply founded. The men who made them meant to hold their own, and their own was whatsoever they were able to take from others by force. They built their walls round a four-sided space, wide enough for them, scarcely big enough a thousand years later for the houses of their children's rulers, the palaces of the Caesars of which so much still stands today.

Then came the man who built the first bridge across the river, of wooden piles and beams, bolted with bronze, because the Romans had no iron yet, and ever afterwards repaired with wood and bronze, for its sanctity, in perpetual veneration of Ancus Martius, fourth King of Rome. That was the bridge Horatius kept against Porsena of Clusium, while the fathers hewed it down behind him.

Tarquin the first came next, a stranger of Greek blood, chosen, perhaps, because the factions in Rome could not agree. Then Servius, great and good, built his tremendous fortification, and the King of Italy today, driving through the streets in his carriage, may look upon the wall of the King who reigned in Rome more than two thousand and four hundred years ago.

Under those six rulers, from Romulus to Servius, from the man of the River Village to the man of walls, Rome had grown from a sheepfold to a town, from a town to a walled city, from a city to a little nation, matched against all mankind, to win or die, inch by inch, sword in hand. She was a kingdom now, and her men were subjects; and still the third law of great races was strong and waking. Romans obeyed their leader so long as he could lead them well—no longer. The twilight of the Kings gathered suddenly, and their names were darkened, and their sun went down in shame and hate. In the confusion, tragic legend rises to tell the story. For the first time in Rome, a woman, famous in all history, turned the scale. The King's son, passionate, terrible, false, steals upon her in the dark. 'I am Sextus Tarquin, and there is a sword in my hand.' Yet she yielded to no fear of steel, but to the horror of unearned shame beyond death. On the next day, when she lay before her husband and her father and the strong Brutus, her story told, her deed done, splendidly dead by her own hand, they swore the oath in which the Republic was born. While father, husband and friend were stunned with grief, Brutus held up the dripping knife before their eyes. 'By this most chaste blood, I swear—Gods be my witnesses—that I will hunt down Tarquin the Proud, himself, his infamous wife and every child of his, with fire and sword, and with all my might, and neither he nor any other man shall ever again be King in Rome.' So they all swore, and bore the dead woman out into the market-place, and called on all men to stand by them.

They kept their word, and the tale tells how the Tarquins were driven out to a perpetual exile, and by and by allied themselves with Porsena, and marched on Rome, and were stopped only at the Sublician bridge by brave Horatius.

Chaos next. Then all at once the Republic stands out, born full grown and ready armed, stern, organized and grasping, but having already within itself the quickened opposites that were to fight for power so long and so fiercely,—the rich and the poor, the patrician and the plebeian, the might and the right.

There is a wonder in that quick change from Kingdom to Commonwealth, which nothing can make clear, except, perhaps, modern history. Say that two thousand or more years hereafter men shall read of what our grandfathers, our fathers and ourselves have seen done in France within a hundred years, out of two or three old books founded mostly on tradition; they may be confused by the sudden disappearance of kings, by the chaos, the wild wars and the unforeseen birth of a lasting republic, just as we are puzzled when we read of the same sequence in ancient Rome. Men who come after us will have more documents, too. It is not possible that all books and traces of written history should be destroyed throughout the world, as the Gauls burned everything in Rome, except the Capitol itself, held by the handful of men who had taken refuge there.

So the Kingdom fell with a woman's death, and the Commonwealth was made by her avengers. Take the story as you will, for truth or truth's legend, it is for ever humanly true, and such deeds would rouse a nation today as they did then and as they set Rome on fire once more nearly sixty years later.

But all the time Rome was growing as if the very stones had life to put out shoots and blossoms and bear fruit. Round about the city the great Servian wall had wound like a vast finger, in and out, grasping the seven hills, and taking in what would be a fair-sized city even in our day. They were the last defences Rome built for herself, for nearly nine hundred years.

Nothing can give a larger idea of Rome's greatness than that; not all the temples, monuments, palaces, public buildings of later years can tell half the certainty of her power expressed by that one fact—Rome needed no walls when once she had won the world.

But it is very hard to guess at what the city was, in those grim times of the early fight for life. We know the walls, and there were nineteen gates in all, and there were paved roads; the wooden bridge, the Capitol with its first temple and first fortress, the first Forum with the Sacred Way, were all there, and the public fountain, called the Tullianum, and a few other sites are certain. The rest must be imagined.

Rome was a brown city in those days, when there was no marble and little stucco: a brown city teeming with men and women clothed mostly in grey and brown and black woollen cloaks, like those the hill shepherds wear today, caught up under one arm and thrown far over the shoulder in dark folds. The low houses without any outer windows, entered by one rough door, were built close together, and those near the Forum had shops outside them, low-browed places, dark but not deep, where the cloaked keeper sat behind a stone counter among his wares, waiting for custom, watching all that happened in the market-place, gathering in gossip from one buyer to exchange it for more with the next, altogether not unlike the small Eastern merchant of today.

Yet during more than half the time, there were few young men, or men in prime, in the streets of Rome. They were fighting more than half the year, while their fathers and their children stayed behind with the women. The women sat spinning and weaving wool in their little brown houses; the boys played, fought, ran races naked in the streets; the small girls had their quiet games and, surely, their dolls, made of rags, stuffed with the soft wool waste from their mothers' spindles and looms. The old men, scarred and seamed in the battles of an age when fighting was all hand to hand, kept the shops, or sunned themselves in the market-place, shelling and chewing lupins to pass the time, as the Romans have always done, and telling old tales, or boasting to each other of their half-grown grandchildren, and of their full-grown sons, fighting far away in the hills and the plains that Rome might have more possession. Meanwhile the maidens went in pairs to the springs to fetch water, or down to the river in small companies to wash the woollen clothes and dry them in the shade of the old wild trees, lest in the sun they should shrink and thicken; black-haired, black-eyed, dark-skinned maids, all of them, strong and light of foot, fit to be mothers of more soldiers, to slay more enemies, and bring back more spoil. Then, as in our own times, the flocks of goats were driven in from the pastures at early morning and milked from door to door, for each household, and driven out again to the grass before the sun was high. In the old wall there was the Cattle Gate, the Porta Mugonia, named, as the learned say, from the lowing of the herds. Then, as in the hill towns not long ago, the serving women, who were slaves, sat cross-legged on the ground in the narrow court within the house, with the hand-mill of two stones between them, and ground the wheat to flour for the day's meal. There have been wonderful survivals of the first age even to our own time.

But that which has not come down to us is the huge vitality of those men and women. The world's holders have never risen suddenly in hordes; they have always grown by degrees out of little nations, that could live through more than their neighbours. Calling up the vision of the first Rome, one must see, too, such human faces and figures of men as are hardly to be found among us nowadays,—the big features, the great, square, devouring jaws, the steadily bright eyes, the strongly built brows, coarse, shagged hair, big bones, iron muscles and starting sinews. There are savage countries that still breed such men. They may have their turn next, when we are worn out. Browning has made John the Smith a memorable type.

Rome was a clean city in those days. One of the Tarquins had built the great arched drain which still stands unshaken and in use, and smaller ones led to it, draining the Forum and all the low part of the town. The people were clean, far beyond our ordinary idea of them, as is plain enough from the contemptuous way in which the Latin authors use their strong words for uncleanliness. A dirty man was an object of pity, and men sometimes went about in soiled clothes to excite the public sympathy, as beggars do today in all countries. Dirt meant abject poverty, and in a grasping, getting race, poverty was the exception, even while simplicity was the rule. For all was simple with them, their dress, their homes, their lives, their motives, and if one could see the Rome of Tarquin the Proud, this simplicity would be of all characteristics the most striking, compared with what we know of later Rome, and with what we see about us in our own times. Simplicity is not strength, but the condition in which strength is least hampered in its full action.

It was easy to live simply in such a place and in such a climate, under a wise King. The check in the first straight run of Rome's history brought the Romans suddenly face to face with the first great complication of their career, which was the struggle between the rich and the poor; and again the half truth rises up to explain the fact. Men whose first instinct was to take and hold took from one another in peace when they could not take from their enemies in war, since they must needs be always taking from some one. So the few strong took all from the many weak, till the weak banded themselves together to resist the strong, and the struggle for life took a new direction.

The grim figure of Lucius Junius Brutus rises as the incarnation of that character which, at great times, made history, but in peace made trouble. The man who avenged Lucretia, who drove out the Tarquins, and founded the Republic, is most often remembered as the father who sat unmoved in judgment on his two traitor sons, and looked on with stony eyes while they paid the price of their treason in torment and death. That one deed stands out, and we forget how he himself fell fighting for Rome's freedom.

But still the evil grew at home, and the hideous law of creditor and debtor, which only fiercest avarice could have devised, ground the poor, who were obliged to borrow to pay the tax-gatherer, and made slaves of them almost to the ruin of the state.

Just then Etruria wakes, shadowy, half Greek, the central power of Italy, between Rome and Gaul. Porsena, the Lar of Clusium, comes against the city with a great host in gilded arms. Terror descends like a dark mist over the young nation. The rich fear for their riches, the poor for their lives. In haste the fathers gather great supplies of corn against a siege; credit and debt are forgotten; patrician and plebeian join hands as Porsena reaches Janiculum, and three heroic figures of romance stand forth from a host of heroes. Horatius keeps the bridge, first with two comrades, then, at the last, alone in the glory of single-handed fight against an army, sure of immortality whether he live or die. Scaevola, sworn with the three hundred to slay the Lar, stabs the wrong man, and burns his hand to the wrist to show what tortures he can bear unmoved. Cloelia, the maiden hostage, rides her young steed at the yellow torrent, and swims the raging flood back to the Palatine. Cloelia and Horatius get statues in the Forum; Scaevola is endowed with great lands, which his race holds for centuries, and leaves a name so great that two thousand years later, Sforza, greatest leader of the Middle Age, coveting long ancestry, makes himself descend from the man who burned off his own hand.

They are great figures, the two men and the noble girl, and real to us, in a way, because we can stand on the very ground they trod, where Horatius fought, where Scaevola suffered and where Cloelia took the river. They are nearer to us than Romulus, nearer even than Lucretia, as each figure, following the city's quick life, has more of reality about it, and not less of heroism.

For two hundred years the Romans strove with each other in law making; the fathers for exclusive power and wealth, the plebeians for freedom, first, and then for office in the state; a time of fighting abroad for land, and of contention at home about its division. In fifty years the poor had their Tribunes, but it took them nearly three times as long, after that, to make themselves almost the fathers' equals in power.

Once they tried a new kind of government by a board of ten, and it held for a while, till again a woman's life turned the tide of Roman history, and fair young Virginia, stabbed by her father in the Forum, left a name as lasting as any of that day.

Romance again, but the true romance, above doubt, at last; not at all mythical, but full of fate's unanswerable logic, which makes dim stories clear to living eyes. You may see the actors in the Forum, where it all happened,—the lovely girl with frightened, wondering eyes; the father, desperate, white-lipped, shaking with the thing not yet done; Appius Claudius smiling among his friends and clients; the sullen crowd of strong plebeians, and the something in the chill autumn air that was a warning of fate and fateful change. Then the deed. A shriek at the edge of the throng; a long, thin knife, high in air, trembling before a thousand eyes; a harsh, heartbroken, vengeful voice; a confusion and a swaying of the multitude, and then the rising yell of men overlaid, ringing high in the air from the Capitol right across the Forum to the Palatine, and echoing back the doom of the Ten.

The deed is vivid still, and then there is sudden darkness. One thinks of how that man lived afterwards. Had Virginius a home, a wife, other children to mourn the dead one? Or was he a lonely man, ten times alone after that day, with the memory of one flashing moment always undimmed in a bright horror? Who knows? Did anyone care? Rome's story changed its course, turning aside at the river of Virginia's blood, and going on swiftly in another way.

To defeat this time, straight to Rome's first and greatest humiliation; to the coming of the Gauls, sweeping everything before them, Etruscans, Italians, Romans, up to the gates of the city and over the great moat and wall of Servius, burning, destroying, killing everything, to the foot of the central rock; baffled at the last stronghold on a dark night by a flock of cackling geese, but not caring for so small a thing when they had swallowed up the rest, or not liking the Latin land, perhaps, and so, taking ransom for peace and marching away northwards again through the starved and harried hills and valleys of Etruria to their own country. And six centuries passed away before an enemy entered Rome again.

But the Gauls left wreck and ruin and scarcely one stone upon another in the great desolation; they swept away all records of history, then and there, and the general destruction was absolute, so that the Rome of the Republic and of the Empire, the centre and capital of the world, began to exist from that day. Unwillingly the people bore back Juno's image from Veii, where they had taken refuge and would have stayed, and built houses, and would have called that place Rome. But the nobles had their own way, and the great construction began, of which there was to be no end for many hundreds of years, in peace and war, mostly while hard fighting was going on abroad.

They built hurriedly at first, for shelter, and as best they could, crowding their little houses in narrow streets with small care for symmetry or adornment. The second Rome must have seemed but a poor village compared with the solidly built city which the Gauls had burnt, and it was long before the present could compare with the past. In haste men seized on fragments of all sorts, blocks of stone, cracked and defaced in the flames, charred beams that could still serve, a door here, a window there, and such bits of metal as they could pick up. An irregular, crowded town sprang up, and a few rough temples, no doubt as pied and meanly pieced as many of those early churches built of odds and ends of ruin, which stand to this day.

It is not impossible that the motley character of Rome, of which all writers speak in one way or another, had its first cause in that second building of the city. Rome without ruins would hardly seem Rome at all, and all was ruined in that first inroad of the savage Gauls,—houses, temples, public places. When the Romans came back from Veii they must have found the Forum not altogether unlike what it is today, but blackened with smoke, half choked with mouldering humanity, strewn with charred timbers, broken roof tiles and the wreck of much household furniture; a sorrowful confusion reeking with vapours of death, and pestilential with decay. It was no wonder that the poor plebeians lost heart and would have chosen to go back to the clear streets and cleaner air of Veii. Their little houses were lost and untraceable in the universal chaos. But the rich man's ruins stood out in bolder relief; he had his lands still; he still had slaves; he could rebuild his home; and he had his way.

But ever afterwards, though the Republic and the Empire spent the wealth of nations in beautifying the city, the trace of that first defeat remained. Dark and narrow lanes wound in and out, round the great public squares, and within earshot of the broad white streets, and the time-blackened houses of the poor stood huddled out of sight behind the palaces of the rich, making perpetual contrast of wealth and poverty, splendour and squalor, just as one may see today in Rome, in London, in Paris, in Constantinople, in all the mistress cities of the world that have long histories of triumph and defeat behind them.

The first Rome sprang from the ashes of the Alban volcano, the second Rome rose from the ashes of herself, as she has risen again and again since then. But the Gauls had done Rome a service, too. In crushing her to the earth, they had crushed many of her enemies out of existence; and when she stood up to face the world once more, she fought not to beat the AEquians or the Etruscans at her gates, but to conquer Italy. And by steady fighting she won it all, and brought home the spoils and divided the lands; here and there a battle lost, as in the bloody Caudine pass, but always more battles won, and more, and more, sternly relentless to revolt. Brutus had seen his own sons' heads fall at his own word; should Caius Pontius, the Samnite, be spared, because he was the bravest of the brave? To her faithful friends Rome was just, and now and then half-contemptuously generous.

The idle Greek fine gentlemen of Tarentum sat in their theatre one day, overlooking the sea, shaded by dyed awnings from the afternoon sun, listening entranced to some grand play,—the Oedipus King, perhaps, or Alcestis, or Medea. Ten Roman trading ships came sailing round the point; and the wind failed, and they lay there with drooping sails, waiting for the land breeze that springs up at night. Perhaps some rough Latin sailor, as is the way today in calm weather when there is no work to be done, began to howl out one of those strange, endless songs which have been sung down to us, from ear to ear, out of the primeval Aryan darkness,—loud, long drawn out, exasperating in its unfinished cadence, jarring on the refined Greek ear, discordant with the actor's finely measured tones. In sudden rage at the noise—so it must have been—those delicate idlers sprang up and ran down to the harbour, and took the boats that lay there, and overwhelmed the unarmed Roman traders, slaying many of them. Foolish, cruel, almost comic. So a sensitive musician, driven half mad by a street organ, longs to rush out and break the thing to pieces, and kill the poor grinder for his barbarous noise.

But when there was blood in the harbour of Tarentum, and some of the ships had escaped on their oars, the Greeks were afraid; and when the message of war came swiftly down to them from inexorable Rome, their terror grew, and they sent to Pyrrhus of Epirus, who had set up to be a conqueror, to come and conquer Rome for the sake of certain aesthetic fine gentlemen who could not bear to be disturbed at a good play on a spring afternoon. He came with all the pomp and splendour of Eastern warfare; he won a battle, and a battle, and half a battle, and then the Romans beat him at Beneventum, famous again and again, and utterly destroyed his army, and took back with them his gold and his jewels, and the tusks of his elephants, and the mastery of all Italy to boot, but not yet beyond dispute.

Creeping down into Sicily, Rome met Carthage, both giants in those days, and the greatest and last struggle began, with half the known world and all the known sea for a battle-ground. Round and round the Mediterranean, by water and land, they fought for a hundred and eighteen years, through four generations of men, as we should reckon it, both grasping and strong, both relentless, both sworn to win or perish for ever, both doing great deeds that are remembered still. The mere name of Regulus is a legion of legends in itself; the name of Hannibal is in itself a history, that of Fabius Maximus a lesson; and while history lasts, Cornelius Scipio and Scipio the African will not be forgotten. It is the story of many and terrible defeats, from each of which Rome rose, fiercely young, to win a dozen terrible little victories. It is strange that we remember the lost days best; misty Thrasymene and Cannae's fearful slaughter rise first in the memory. Then all at once, within ten years, the scale turns, and Caius Claudius Nero hurls Hasdrubal's disfigured head high over ditch and palisade into his brother's camp, right to his brother's feet. And five years later, the battle of Zama, won almost at the gates of Carthage; and then, almost the end, as great heartbroken Hannibal, defeated, ruined and exiled, drinks up the poison and rests at last, some forty years after he led his first army to victory. But he had been dead nearly forty years, when another Scipio at last tore down the walls of Carthage, and utterly destroyed the city to the foundations, for ever. And a dozen years later than that, Rome had conquered all the civilized world round about the Mediterranean sea, from Spain to Asia.


There was a mother in Rome, not rich, but of great race, for she was daughter to Scipio of Africa; and she called her sons her jewels when other women showed their golden ornaments and their precious stones and boasted of their husbands' wealth. Cornelia's two sons, Tiberius and Caius, lost their lives successively in a struggle against the avarice of the rich men who ruled Rome, Italy and the world; against that grasping avarice which far surpassed the greed of any other race before the Romans, or after them, and which had suddenly taken new growth as the spoils of the East and South and West poured into the city. Yet the vast booty men could see was but an earnest of the wide lands which had fallen to Rome, called 'Public Lands' almost as if in derision, while they fell into the power of the few and strong, by the hundred thousand acres at a time.

Three hundred and fifty years before the Gracchi, when little conquests still seemed great, Spurius Cassius had died in defence of his Agrarian Law, at the hands of the savage rich who accused him of conspiring for a crown. Tiberius Gracchus set up the rights of the people to the public land, and perished.

He fell within a stone's throw of the spot on which the great tribune, Nicholas Rienzi, died. The strong, small band of nobles, armed with staves and clubs, and with that supremacy of contemptuous bearing that cows the simple, plough their way through the rioting throng, murderously clubbing to right and left. Tiberius, retreating, stumbles against a corpse and his enemies are upon him; a stave swung high in air, a dull blow, and all is finished for that day, save to throw the body into the Tiber lest the people should make a revolution of its funeral.

Next came Caius, a boy of six and twenty, fighting the same fight for a few years. On his head the nobles set a price—its weight in gold. He hides on the Aventine, and the Aventine is stormed. He escapes by the Sublician bridge and the bridge is held behind him by one friend, almost as Horatius held it against an army. Yet the nobles and their hired Cretan bowmen force the way and pursue him into Furina's grove. There a Greek slave ends him, and to get more gold fills the poor head with metal—and is paid in full. Three hundred died with Tiberius, three thousand were put to death for his brother's sake. With the goods of the slain and the dowries of their wives, Opimius built the Temple of Concord on the spot where the later one still stands in part, between the Comitium and the Capitol. The poor of Rome, and Cornelia, and the widows and children of the murdered men, knew what that 'Concord' meant.

Then followed revolution, war with runaway slaves, war with the immediate allies, then civil war, while wealth and love of wealth grew side by side, the one, insatiate, devouring the other.

First the slaves made for Sicily, wild, mountainous, half-governed then as it is today, and they held much of it against their masters for five years. Within short memory, almost yesterday, a handful of outlaws has defied a powerful nation's best soldiers in the same mountains. It is small wonder that many thousand men, fighting for liberty and life, should have held out so long.

And meanwhile Jugurtha of Numidia had for long years bought every Roman general sent against him, had come to Rome himself and bought the laws, and had gone back to his country with contemptuous leave-taking—'Thou city where all is sold!' And still he bought, till Caius Marius, high-hearted plebeian and great soldier, brought him back to die in the Mamertine prison.

Then against wealth arose the last and greatest power of Rome, her terrible armies that set up whom they would, to have their will of Senate and fathers and people. First Marius, then Sylla whom he had taught to fight, and taught to beat him in the end, after Cinna had been murdered for his sake at Ancona.

Marius and Sylla, the plebeian and the patrician, were matched at first as leader and lieutenant, then both as conquerors, then as alternate despots of Rome and mortal foes, till their long duel wrecked what had been and opened ways for what was to be.

First, Sylla claims that he, and not Marius, took Jugurtha, when the Numidian ally betrayed him, though the King and his two sons marched in the train of the plebeian's triumph. Marius answers by a stupendous victory over the Cimbrians and Teutons, slays a hundred thousand in one battle, comes home, triumphs again, sets up his trophies in the city and builds a temple to Honour and Courage. Next, in greed of popular power, he perjures himself to support a pair of murderous demagogues, betrays them in turn to the patricians, and Saturninus is pounded to death with roof tiles in the Capitol. Then, being made leader in the war with the allies, already old for fighting, he fails at the outset, and his rival Sylla is General in his stead.

Then riot on riot in the Forum, violence after violence in the struggle for the consulship, murder after murder, blood upon blood not yet dry. Sylla gets the expedition against Mithridates; Marius, at home, undermines his enemy's influence and forces the tribes to give him the command, and sends out his lieutenants to the East. Sylla's soldiers murder them, and Sylla marches back against Rome with six legions. Marius is unprepared; Sylla breaks into the city, torch in hand, at the head of his troops, burning and slaying; the rivals meet face to face in the Esquiline market-place, Roman fights Roman, and the plebeian loses the day and escapes to the sea.

The reign of terror begins, and a great slaying. Sylla declares his rival an enemy of Rome, and Marius is found hiding in the marshes of Minturnae, is dragged out naked, covered with mud, a rope about his neck, and led into a little house of the town to be slain by a slave. 'Darest thou kill Caius Marius?' asks the old man with flashing eyes, and the slave executioner trembles before the unarmed prisoner. They let him go. He wanders to Africa and sits alone among the ruins of Carthage, while Sylla fights victoriously in the East. Rome, momentarily free of both, is torn by dissensions about the voting of the newly enfranchised. Instead of the greater rivals, Cinna and Octavius are matched for plebs and nobles. Knife-armed the parties fight it out in the Forum, the bodies of citizens lie in heaps, and the gutters are gorged with free blood, and again the patricians win the day. Cinna, fleeing from wrath, is deposed from office. Marius sees his chance again. Unshaven and unshorn since he left Rome last, he joins Cinna, leading six thousand fugitives, seizes and plunders the towns about Rome, while Cinna encamps beneath the walls. Together they enter Rome and nail Octavius' head to the Rostra. Then the vengeance of wholesale slaying, in another reign of terror, and Marius is despot of the city for a while, as Sylla had been before, till spent with age, his life goes out amid drunkenness and blood. The people tear down Sylla's house, burn his villa and drive out his wife and his children. Back he comes after four years, victorious, fighting his way right and left, against Lucanians and Samnites, back to Rome still fighting them, almost loses the battle, is saved by Crassus to take vengeance again, and again the long lists of the proscribed are written out and hung up in the Forum, and the city runs blood in a third Terror. Amid heaps of severed heads, Sylla sits before the temple of Castor and sells the lands of his dead enemies; and Catiline is first known to history as the executioner of Caius Gratidianus, whom he slices to death, piecemeal, beyond the Tiber.

Sylla, cold, aristocratic, sublimely ironical monster, was Rome's first absolute and undisputed military lord. Tired of blood, he tried reform, invented an aristocratic constitution, saw that it must fail, and then, to the amazement of his friends and enemies, abdicated and withdrew to private life, protected by a hundred thousand veterans of his army, and many thousands of freedmen, to die at the last without violence.

Of the chaos he left behind him, Caesar made the Roman Empire.

The Gracchi, champions of the people, were foully done to death. Marius and Sylla, tearing the proud Republic to pieces for their own greatness, both died in their beds, the one of old age, the other of disease. There is no irony like that which often ended the lives of great Romans. Marcus Manlius, who saved the Capitol from the Gauls, was hurled to his death from the same rock, by the tribunes of the people, and Rome's citadel and sanctuary was desecrated by the blood of its preserver. Scipio of Africa breathed his last in exile, but Appius Claudius, the Decemvir, died rich and honoured.

One asks, naturally enough, how Rome could hold the civilized nations in subjection while she was fighting out a civil war that lasted fifty years. We have but little idea of her great military organization, after arms became a profession and a career. We can but call up scattered pictures to show us rags and fragments of the immense host that patrolled the world with measured tread and matchless precision of serried rank, in tens and scores and hundreds of thousands, for centuries, shoulder to shoulder and flank to flank, learning its own strength by degrees, till it suddenly grasped all power, gave it to one man, and made Caius Julius Caesar Dictator of the earth.

The greatest figure in all history suddenly springs out of the dim chaos and shines in undying glory, the figure of a man so great that the office he held means Empire, and the mere name he bore means Emperor today in four empires,—Caesar, Kaiser, Czar, Kaisar,—a man of so vast power that the history of humanity for centuries after him was the history of those who were chosen to fill his place—the history of nearly half the twelve centuries foretold by the augur Attus, from Romulus, first King, to Romulus Augustulus, last Emperor. He was a man whose deeds and laws have marked out the life of the world even to this far day. Before him and with him comes Pompey, with him and after him Mark Antony, next to him in line and greatness, Augustus—all dwarfs compared with him, while two of them were failures outright, and the third could never have reached power but in his steps.

In that long tempest of parties wherein the Republic went down for ever, it is hard to trace the truth, or number the slain, or reckon up account of gain and loss. But when Caesar rises in the centre of the storm the end is sure and there can be no other, for he drives it before him like a captive whirlwind, to do his bidding and clear the earth for his coming. Other men, and great men, too, are overwhelmed by it, dashed down and stunned out of all sense and judgment, to be lost and forgotten like leaves in autumn, whirled away before the gale. Pompey, great general and great statesman, conqueror in Spain, subduer of Spartacus and the Gladiators, destroyer of pirates and final victor over Mithridates, comes back and lives as a simple citizen. Noble of birth, but not trusted by his peers, he joins with Caesar, leader of all the people, and with Crassus, for more power, and loses the world by giving Caesar an army, and Gaul to conquer. Crassus, brave general, too, is slain in battle in far Parthia, and Pompey steals a march by getting a long term in Spain. Caesar demands as much and is refused by Pompey's friends. Then the storm breaks and Caesar comes back from Gaul to cross the Rubicon, and take all Italy in sixty days. Pompey, ambitious, ill-starred, fights losing battles everywhere. Murdered at last in Egypt, he, too, is dead, and Caesar stands alone, master of Rome and of the world. One year he ruled, and then they slew him; but no one of them that struck him died a natural death.

Creation presupposes chaos, and it is the divine prerogative of genius to evolve order from confusion. Julius Caesar found the world of his day consisting of disordered elements of strength, all at strife with each other in a central turmoil, skirted and surrounded by the relative peace of an ancient and long undisturbed barbarism.

It was out of these elements that he created what has become modern Europe, and the direction which he gave to the evolution of mankind has never wholly changed since his day. Of all great conquerors he was the least cruel, for he never sacrificed human life without the direct intention of benefiting mankind by an increased social stability. Of all great lawgivers, he was the most wise and just, and the truths he set down in the Julian Code are the foundation of modern justice. Of all great men who have leaped upon the world as upon an unbroken horse, who have guided it with relentless hands, and ridden it breathless to the goal of glory, Caesar is the only one who turned the race into the track of civilization and, dying, left mankind a future in the memory of his past. He is the one great man of all, without whom it is impossible to imagine history. We cannot take him away and yet leave anything of what we have. The world could have been as it is without Alexander, without Charlemagne, without Napoleon; it could not have been the world we know without Caius Julius Caesar.

That fact alone places him at the head of mankind.

In Caesar's life there is the same matter for astonishment as in Napoleon's; there is the vast disproportion between beginnings and climax, between the relative modesty of early aims and the stupendous magnitude of the climacteric result. One asks how in a few years the impecunious son of the Corsican notary became the world's despot, and how the fashionable young spendthrift lawyer of Rome, dabbling in politics and almost ignorant of warfare, rose in a quarter of a century to be the world's conqueror, lawgiver and civilizer. The daily miracle of genius is the incalculable speed at which it simultaneously thinks and acts. Nothing is so logical as creation, and creation is the first sign as well as the only proof that genius is present.

Hitherto the life of Caesar has not been logically presented. His youth appears almost always to be totally disconnected from his maturity. The first success, the conquest of Gaul, comes as a surprise, because its preparation is not described. After it everything seems natural, and conquest follows victory as daylight follows dawn; but when we try to think backwards from that first expedition, we either see nothing clearly, or we find Caesar an insignificant unit in a general disorder, as hard to identify as an individual ant in a swarming ant-hill. In the lives of all 'great men,' which are almost always totally unlike the lives of the so-called 'great,'—those born, not to power, but in power,—there is a point which must inevitably be enigmatical. It may be called the Hour of Fate—the time when in the suddenly loosed play of many circumstances, strained like springs and held back upon themselves, a man who has been known to a few thousands finds himself the chief of millions and the despot of a nation.

Things which are only steps to great men are magnified to attainments in ordinary lives, and remembered with pride. The man of genius is sure of the great result, if he can but get a fulcrum for his lever. What strikes one most in the careers of such men as Caesar and Napoleon is the tremendous advance realized at the first step—the difference between Napoleon's half-subordinate position before the first campaign in Italy and his dominion of France immediately after it, or the distance which separated Caesar, the impeached Consul, from Caesar, the conqueror of Gaul.

It must not be forgotten that Caesar came of a family that had held great positions, and which, though impoverished, still had credit, subsequently stretched by Caesar to the extreme limit of its borrowing power. At sixteen, an age when Bonaparte was still an unknown student, Caesar was Flamen Dialis, or high priest of Jupiter, and at one and twenty, the 'ill-girt boy,' as Sylla called him from his way of wearing his toga, was important enough to be driven from Rome, a fugitive. His first attempt at a larger notoriety had failed, and Dolabella, whom he had impeached, had been acquitted through the influence of friends. Yet the young lawyer had found the opportunity of showing what he could do, and it was not without reason that Sylla said of him, 'You will find many a Marius in this one Caesar.'

Twenty years passed before the prophecy began to be realized with the commencement of Caesar's career in Gaul, and more than once during that time his life seemed a failure in his own eyes, and he said scornfully and sadly of himself that he had done nothing to be remembered at an age when Alexander had already conquered the world.

Those twenty years which, to the thoughtful man, are by far the most interesting of all, appear in history as a confused and shapeless medley of political, military and forensic activity, strongly coloured by social scandals, which rested upon a foundation of truth, and darkened by accusations of worse kind, for which there is no sort of evidence, and which may be safely attributed to the jealousy of unscrupulous adversaries.

The first account of him, which we have in the seventeenth year of his age, evokes a picture of youthful beauty. The boy who is to win the world is appointed high priest of Jove in Rome,—by what strong influence we know not,—and we fancy the splendid youth with his tall figure, full of elastic endurance, the brilliant face, the piercing, bold, black eyes; we see him with the small mitre set back upon the dark and curling locks that grow low on the forehead, as hair often does that is to fall early, clad in the purple robe of his high office, summoning all his young dignity to lend importance to his youthful grace as he moves up to Jove's high altar to perform his first solemn sacrifice with his young consort; for the high priesthood of Jove was held jointly by man and wife, and if the wife died the husband lost his office.

He was about twenty when he cast his lot with the people, and within the year he fled from Sylla's persecution. The life of sudden changes and contrasts had begun. Straight from the sacred office, with all its pomp, and splendour, and solemnity, Caesar is a fugitive in the Sabine hills, homeless, wifeless, fever-stricken, a price on his head. Such quick chances of evil fell to many in the days of the great struggle between Marius and Sylla, between the people and the nobles.

Then as Sylla yielded to the insistence of the young 'populist' nobleman's many friends, the quick reverse is turned to us. Caesar has a military command, sees some fighting and much idleness by the shores of the Bosphorus, in Bithynia—then in a fit of sudden energy, the soldier's spirit rises; he dashes to the attack on Mytilene, and shows himself a man.

One or two unimportant campaigns, as a subordinate officer, a civic crown won for personal bravery, an unsuccessful action brought against a citizen of high rank in the hope of forcing himself into notice, a trip to Rhodes made to escape the disgrace of failure, and an adventure with pirates—there, in a few words, is the story of Julius Caesar's youth, as history tells it. But then suddenly, when his projected studies in quiet Rhodes were hardly begun, he crosses to the mainland, raises troops, seizes cities, drives Mithridates' governor out of the province, returns to Rome and is elected military tribune. The change is too quick, and one does not understand it. Truth should tell that those early years had been spent in the profound study of philosophy, history, biography, languages and mankind, of the genesis of events from the germ to the branching tree, of that chemistry of fate which brews effect out of cause, and distils the imperishable essence of glory from the rougher liquor of vulgar success.

What strikes one most in the lives of the very great is that every action has a cumulative force beyond what it ever has in the existence of ordinary men. Success moves onward, passing through events on the same plane, as it were, and often losing brilliancy till it fades away, leaving those who have had it to outlive it in sorrow and weakness. Genius moves upward, treading events under its feet, scaling Olympus, making a ladder of mankind, outlasting its own activity for ever in a final and fixed glory more splendid than its own bright path. The really great man gathers power in action, the average successful man expends it.

And so it must be understood that Caesar, in his early youth, was not wasting his gifts in what seemed to be a half-voluptuous, half-adventurous, wholly careless life, but was accumulating strength by absorbing into himself the forces with which he came in contact, exhausting the intelligence of his companions in order to stock his own, learning everything simultaneously, forgetting nothing he learned till he could use all he knew to the extreme limit of its value.

There is something mysterious in the almost unlimited credit which Caesar seems to have enjoyed when still a very young man; and if the control of enormous sums of money by which he made himself beloved among the people explains, in a measure, his rapid rise from office to office, it is, on the other hand, hard to account for the trust which his creditors placed in his promises, and to explain why, when he was taken by pirates, the cities of Asia Minor should have voluntarily contributed money to make up the ransom demanded, seeing that he had never served in Asia, except as a subordinate. The only possible explanation is that while there, his real energies were devoted to the attainment of the greatest possible popularity in the shortest possible time, and that he was making himself beloved by the Asiatic cities, while his enemies said of him that he was wasting his time in idleness and dissipation.

In any case, it was the control of money that most helped him in obtaining high offices in Rome, and from the very first he seems to have acted on the principle that in great enterprises economy spells ruin, and that to check expenditure is to trip up success. And this is explained, if not justified, by his close association with the people, from his very childhood. Until he was made Pontifex Maximus he seems to have lived in a small house in the Suburra, in one of the most crowded and least fashionable quarters of Rome; and as a mere boy, it was his influence with the common people that roused Sylla's anxiety. To live with the people, to take their part against the nobles, to give them of all he had and of all he could borrow, were the chief rules of his conduct, and the fact that he obtained such enormous loans proves that there were rich lenders who were ready to risk fortunes upon his success. And it was in dealing with the Roman plebeian that he learned to command the Roman soldier, with the tact of a demagogue and the firmness of an autocrat. He knew that a man must give largely, even recklessly, to be beloved, and that in order to be respected he must be able to refuse coldly and without condition, and that in all ages the people are but as little children before genius, though they may rise against talent like wild beasts and tear it to death.

He knew also that in youth ten failures are nothing compared with one success, while in the full meridian of power one failure undoes a score of victories; hence his recklessness at first, his magnificent caution in his latter days; his daring resistance of Sylla's power before he was twenty, and his mildness towards the ringleaders of popular conspiracies against him when he was near his end; his violence upon the son of King Juba, whom he seized by the beard in open court when he himself was but a young lawyer, and his moderation in bearing the most atrocious libels, to punish which might have only increased their force.

Caesar's career divides itself not unnaturally into three periods, corresponding with his youth, his manhood and his maturity; with the absorption of force in gaining experience, the lavish expenditure of force in conquest, the calm employment of force in final supremacy. The man who never lost a battle in which he commanded in person, began life by failing in everything he attempted, and ended it as the foremost man of all humanity, past and to come, the greatest general, the greatest speaker, the greatest lawgiver, the greatest writer of Latin prose whom the great Roman people ever produced, and also the bravest man of his day, as he was the kindest. In an age when torture was a legitimate part of justice, he caused the pirates who had taken him, and whom he took in turn, to be mercifully put to death before he crucified their dead bodies for his oath's sake, and when his long-trusted servant tried to poison him he would not allow the wretch to be hurt save by the sudden stroke of instant death; nor ever in a long career of conquest did he inflict unnecessary pain. Never was man loved of women as he was, and his sins were many even for those days, yet in them we find no unkindness, and when his own wife should have been condemned for her love of Clodius, Caesar would not testify against her. He divorced her, he said, not because he knew anything, but because his family should be above suspicion. He plundered the world, but he gave it back its gold in splendid gifts and public works, keeping its glory alone for himself. He was hated by the few because he was beloved by the many, and it was not revenge, but envy, that slew the benefactor of mankind. The weaknesses of the supreme conqueror were love of woman and trust of man, and as the first Brutus made his name glorious by setting his people free, the second disgraced it and blackened the name of friendship with a stain that will outlast time, and by a deed second only in infamy to that of Judas Iscariot. The last cry of the murdered master was the cry of a broken heart—'And thou, too, Brutus, my son!' Alexander left chaos behind him; Caesar left Europe, and it may be truly said that the crowning manifestation of his sublime wisdom was his choice of Octavius—of the young Augustus—to complete the carving of a world which he himself had sketched and blocked out in the rough.

The first period of his life ended with his election to the military tribuneship on his return to Rome after his Asian adventures, and his first acts were directed towards the reconstruction of what Sylla had destroyed, by reestablishing the authority of tribunes and recalling some of Sylla's victims from their political exile. From that time onward, in his second period, he was more or less continually in office. Successively a tribune, a quaestor, governor of Farther Spain, aedile, pontifex maximus, praetor, governor of Spain again, and consul with the insignificant Bibulus, a man of so small importance that people used to date documents, by way of a jest, 'in the Consulship of Julius and Caesar.' Then he obtained Gaul for his province, and lived the life of a soldier for nine years, during which he created the army that gave him at last the mastery of Rome. And in the tenth year Rome was afraid, and his enemies tried to deprive him of his power and passed bills against him, and drove out the tribunes of the people who took his part; and if he had returned to Rome then, yielding up his province and his legions, as he was called upon to do, he would have been judged and destroyed by his enemies. But he knew that the people loved him, and he crossed the Rubicon in arms.

This second period of his life closed with the last triumph decreed to him for his victories in Spain. The third and final period had covered but one year when his assassins cut it short.

Nothing demonstrates Caesar's greatness so satisfactorily as this, that at his death Rome relapsed at once into civil war and strife as violent as that to which Caesar had put an end, and that the man who brought lasting peace and unity into the distracted state, was the man of Caesar's choice. But in endeavouring to realize his supreme wisdom, nothing helps us more than the pettiness of the accusations brought against him by such historians as Suetonius—that he once remained seated to receive the whole body of Conscript fathers, that he had a gilded chair in the Senate house, and appointed magistrates at his own pleasure to hold office for terms of years, that he laughed at an unfavourable omen and made himself dictator for life; and such things, says the historian, 'are of so much more importance than all his good qualities that he is considered to have abused his power and to have been justly assassinated.' But it is the people, not the historian, who make history, and when Caius Julius Caesar was dead, the people called him God.

Beardless Octavius, his sister's daughter's son, barely eighteen years old, brings in by force the golden age of Rome. As Triumvir, with Antony and Lepidus, he hunts down the murderers first, then his rebellious colleagues, and wins the Empire back in thirteen years. He rules long and well, and very simply, as commanding general of the army and by no other power, taking all into his hands besides, the Senate, the chief priesthood, and the Majesty of Rome over the whole earth, for which he was called Augustus, the 'Majestic.' And his strength lay in this, that by the army, he was master of Senate and people alike, so that they could no longer strive with each other in perpetual bloodshed, and the everlasting wars of Rome were fought against barbarians far away, while Rome at home was prosperous and calm and peaceful. Then Virgil sang, and Horace gave Latin life to Grecian verse, and smiled and laughed, and wept and dallied with love, while Livy wrote the story of greatness for us all to this day, and Ovid touched another note still unforgotten. Then temple rose by temple, and grand basilicas reared their height by the Sacred Way; the gold of the earth poured in and Art was queen and mistress of the age. Julius Caesar was master in Rome for one year. Augustus ruled nearly half a century. Four and forty years he was sole monarch after Antony's fall at Actium. About the thirtieth year of his reign, Christ was born.

All men have an original claim to be judged by the standard of their own time. Counting one by one the victims of the proscription proclaimed by the triumvirate in which Augustus was the chief power, some historians have brought down his greatness in quick declination to the level of a cold-blooded and cruel selfishness; and they account for his subsequent just and merciful conduct on the ground that he foresaw political advantage in clemency, and extension of power in the exercise of justice. The death of Cicero, sacrificed to Antony's not unreasonable vengeance, is magnified into a crime that belittles the Augustan age.

Yet compared with the wholesale murders done by Marius and Sylla, and by the patricians themselves in their struggles with the people, the few political executions ordered by Augustus sink into comparative insignificance, and it will generally be seen that those who most find fault with him are ready to extol the murderers of Julius Caesar as devoted patriots, if not as glorious martyrs to the divine cause of liberty.

It is easier, perhaps, to describe the growth of Rome from the early Kings to Augustus, than to account for the change from the Rome of the Empire at the beginning of our era to the Rome of the Popes in the year eight hundred. Probably the easiest and truest way of looking at the transition is to regard it according to the periods of supremacy, decadence and ultimate disappearance from Rome of the Roman Army. For the Army made the Emperors, and the Emperors made the times. The great military organization had in it the elements of long life, together with all sudden and terrible possibilities. The Army made Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero, the Julian Emperors; then destroyed Nero and set up Vespasian after one or two experiments. The Army chose such men as Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, and such monsters as Domitian and Commodus; the Army conquered the world, held the world and gave the world to whomsoever it pleased. The Army and the Emperor, each the other's tool, governed Rome for good and ill, for ill and good, by fear and bounty and largely by amusement, but ultimately to their own and Rome's destruction.

For all the time the two great adversaries of the Empire, the spiritual and material, the Christian and the men of the North, were gaining strength and unity. Under Augustus, Christ was born. Under Augustus, Hermann the German chieftain destroyed Varus and his legions. By sheer strength and endurance, the Army widened and broadened the Empire, forcing back the Northmen upon themselves like a spring that gathers force by tension. Unnoticed, at first, Christianity quietly grew to power. Between Christians and Northmen, the Empire of Rome went down at last, leaving the Empire of Constantinople behind it.

The great change was wrought in about five hundred years, by the Empire, from the City of the Republic to what had become the City of the Middle Age; between the reign of Augustus, first Emperor, and the deposition of the last Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, by Odoacer, Rome's hired Pomeranian general.

In that time Rome was transubstantiated in all its elements, in population, in language, in religion and in customs. To all intents and purposes, the original Latin race utterly disappeared, and the Latin tongue became the broken dialect of a mixed people, out of which the modern Italian speech was to grow, decadent in form, degenerate in strength but renascent in a grace and beauty which the Latin never possessed. First the vast population of slaves brought in their civilized and their barbarous words—Greek, Hebrew and Arabic, or Celtic, German and Slav; then came the Goth, and filled all Italy with himself and his rough language for a hundred years. The Latin of the Roman Mass is the Latin of slaves in Rome between the first and fifth centuries, from the time of the Apostles to that of Pope Gelasius, whose prayer for peace and rest is the last known addition to the Canon, according to most authorities. Compare it with the Latin of Livy and Tacitus; it is not the same language, for to read the one by no means implies an understanding of the other.

Or take the dress. It is told of Augustus, as a strange and almost unknown thing, that he wore breeches and stockings, or leg swathings, because he suffered continually with cold. Men went barelegged and wrapped themselves in the huge toga which came down to their feet. In the days of Augustulus the toga was almost forgotten; men wore leggings, tunics and the short Greek cloak.

In the change of religion, too, all customs were transformed, private and public, in a way impossible to realize today. The Roman household, with the father as absolute head, lord and despot, gradually gave way to a sort of half-patriarchal, half-religious family life, resembling the first in principle but absolutely different from it in details and result, and which, in a measure, has survived in Italy to the present time.

In the lives of men, the terror of one man, as each despot lost power, began to give way to the fear of half-defined institutions, of the distant government in Constantinople and of the Church as a secular power, till the time came when the title of Emperor raised a smile, whereas the name of the Pope—of the 'Father-Bishop'—was spoken with reverence by Christians and with respect even by unbelievers. The time came when the army that had made Emperors and unmade them at its pleasure became a mere band of foreign mercenaries, who fought for wages and plunder when they could be induced to fight for Rome at all.

So the change came. But in the long five hundred years of the Western Empire Rome had filled the world with the results of her own life and had founded modern Europe, from the Danube to England and from the Rhine to Gibraltar; so that when the tide set towards the south again, the Northmen brought back to Italy some of the spirit and some of the institutions which Rome had carried northwards to them in the days of conquest; and they came not altogether as strangers and barbarians, as the Huns had come, to ravage and destroy, and be themselves destroyed and scattered and forgotten, but, in a measure, as Europeans against Europeans, hoping to grasp the remnants of a civilized power. Theodoric tried to make a real kingdom, Totila and Teias fell fighting for one; the Franks established one in Gaul, and at last it was a Frank who gave the Empire life again, and conquests and laws, and was crowned by the Christian Pontifex Maximus in Rome when Julius Caesar had been dead more than eight hundred years.

One of the greatest of the world's historians has told the story of the change, calling it the 'Decline and Fall of the Empire,' and describing it in some three thousand pages, of which scarcely one can be spared for the understanding of the whole. Thereby its magnitude may be gauged, but neither fairly judged nor accurately measured. The man who would grasp the whole meaning of Rome's name, must spend a lifetime in study and look forward to disappointment in the end. It was Ampere, I believe, who told a young student that he might get a superficial impression of the city in ten years, but that twenty would be necessary in order to know anything about it worthy to be written. And perhaps the largest part of the knowledge worth having lies in the change from the ancient capital of the Empire to the mediaeval seat of ecclesiastic domination.

And, indeed, nothing in all history is more extraordinary than the rise of Rome's second power under the Popes. In the ordinary course of human events, great nations appear to have had but one life. When that was lived out, and when they had passed through the artistic period so often coincident with early decadence, they were either swept away, or they sank to the insignificance of mere commercial prosperity, thereafter deriving their fashions, arts, tastes, and in fact almost everything except their wealth, from nations far gone in decay.

But in Rome it was otherwise. The growth of the faith which subjected the civilized world was a matter of first importance to civilization, and Rome was the centre of that growing. Moreover, that development and that faith had one head, chosen by election, and the headship itself became an object of the highest ambition, whereby the strength and genius of individuals and families were constantly called into activity, and both families and isolated individuals of foreign race were attracted to Rome. It was no small thing to hold the kings of the earth in spiritual subjection, to be the arbiter of the new Empire founded by Charlemagne, the director of the kingdoms built up in France and England, and, almost literally, the feudal lord over all other temporal powers. The force of a predominant idea gave Rome new life, vivifying new elements with the vitality of new ambitions. The theatre was the same. The actors and the play had changed. The world was no longer governed by one man as monarch; it was directed by one man, who was the chief personage in the vast and intricate feudal system by which strong men agreed to live, and to which they forced the weak to submit.

The Barons came into existence, and Rome was a city of fortresses and towers, as well as churches. Orsini and Colonna, Caetani and Vitelleschi, Savelli and Frangipani, fought with each other for centuries among ruins, built strongholds of the stones of temples, and burned the marble treasures of the world to make lime. And fiercely they held their own. Nicholas Rienzi wanders amid the deserted places, deciphers the broken inscriptions, gathers a little crowd of plebeians about him and tells them of ancient Rome, and of the rights of the people in old times. All at once he rises, a grand shadow of a Roman, a true tribune, brave, impulsive, eloquent. A little while longer and he is half mad with vanity and ambition, a public fool in a high place, decking himself in silks and satins, and ornaments of gold, and the angry nobles slay him on the steps of the Aracoeli, as other nobles long ago slew Tiberius Gracchus, a greater and a better man, almost on the same spot.

Meanwhile the great schism of the Church rages, before and after Rienzi. The Empire and its Kingdoms join issue with each other and with the Barons for the lordship of Christendom; there are two Popes, waging war with nations on both sides, and Rome is reduced to a town of barely twenty thousand souls. Then comes Hildebrand, Pope Gregory the Seventh, friend of the Great Countess, humbler of the Emperor, a restorer of things, the Julius Caesar of the Church, and from his day there is stability again, as Urban the Second follows, like an Augustus; Nicholas the Fifth, the next great Pontiff, comes in with the Renascence. Last of destroyers Charles, the wild Constable of Bourbon, marches in open rebellion against King, State and Church, friend to the Emperor, straight to his death at the walls, his work of destruction carried out to the terrible end by revengeful Spaniards who spare only the churches and the convents. Out of those ashes Rome rose again, for the last time, the Rome of Sixtus the Fifth, which is, substantially, the Rome we see today; less powerful in the world after that time, but more beautiful as she grew more peaceful by degrees; flourishing in a strange, motley way, like no other city in the world, as the Empire of the Hapsburgs and the Kingdoms of Europe learned to live apart from her, and she was concentrated again upon herself, still and always a factor among nations, and ever to be. But even in latter days, Napoleon could not do without her, and Francis the Second of Austria had to resign the Empire, in order that Pius the Seventh might call the self-crowned Corsican soldier, girt with Charlemagne's huge sword, the anointed Emperor of Christendom.

Once more a new idea gives life to fragments hewn in pieces and scattered in confusion. A dream of unity disturbs Italy's sleep. Never, in truth, in all history, has Italy been united save by violence. By the sword the Republic brought Latins, Samnites and Etruscans into subjection; by sheer strength she crushed the rebellion of the slaves and then forced the Italian allies to a second submission; by terror Marius and Sylla ruled Rome and Italy; and it was the overwhelming power of a paid army that held the Italians in check under the Empire, till they broke away from each other as soon as the pressure was removed, to live in separate kingdoms and principalities for thirteen or fourteen hundred years, from Romulus Augustulus—or at least from Justinian—to Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy, in whose veins ran not one drop of Italian blood.

One asks whence came the idea of unity which has had such power to move these Italians, in modern times. The answer is plain and simple. Unity is the word; the interpretation of it is the name of Rome. The desire is for all the romance and the legends and the visions of supreme greatness which no other name can ever call up. What will be called hereafter the madness of the Italian people took possession of them on the day when Rome was theirs to do with as they pleased. Their financial ruin had its origin at that moment, when they became masters of the legendary Mistress of the world. What the end will be, no one can foretell, but the Rome of old was not made great by dreams. Her walls were founded in blood, and her temples were built with the wealth of conquered nations, by captives and slaves of subject races.

The Rome we see today owes its mystery, its sadness and its charm to six and twenty centuries of history, mostly filled with battle, murder and sudden death, deeds horrible in that long-past present which we try to call up, but alternately grand, fascinating and touching now, as we shape our scant knowledge into visions and fill out our broken dreams with the stuff of fancy. In most men's minds, perhaps, the charm lies in that very confusion of suggestions, for few indeed know Rome so well as to divide clearly the truth from the legend in her composition. Such knowledge is perhaps altogether unattainable in any history; it is most surely so here, where city is built on city, monument upon monument, road upon road, from the heart of the soil upwards—the hardened lava left by many eruptions of life; where the tablets of Clio have been shattered again and again, where fire has eaten, and sword has hacked, and hammer has bruised ages of records out of existence, where even the race and type of humanity have changed and have been forgotten twice and three times over.

Therefore, unless one have half a lifetime to spend in patient study and deep research, it is better, if one come to Rome, to feel much than to try and know a little, for in much feeling there is more human truth than in that dangerous little knowledge which dulls the heart and hampers the clear instincts of natural thought. Let him who comes hither be satisfied with a little history and much legend, with rough warp of fact and rich woof of old-time fancy, and not look too closely for the perfect sum of all, where more than half the parts have perished for ever.

It matters not much whether we know the exact site of Virgil's Laurentum; it is more interesting to remember how Commodus, cruel, cowardly and selfish, fled thither from the great plague, caring not at all that his people perished by tens of thousands in the city, since he himself was safe, with the famous Galen to take care of him. We can leave the task of tracing the enclosures of Nero's golden house to learned archaelogists, and let our imagination find wonder and delight in their accounts of its porticos three thousand feet long, its game park, its baths, its thousands of columns with their gilded capitals, and its walls encrusted with mother-of-pearl. And we may realize the depth of Rome's abhorrence for the dead tyrant, as we think of how Vespasian and his son Titus pulled down the enchanted palace for the people's sake, and built the Colosseum where the artificial lake had been, and their great baths on the very foundations of Nero's gorgeous dwelling.


It is impossible to conceive of the Augustan age without Horace, nor to imagine a possible Horace without Greece and Greek influence. At the same time Horace is in many ways the prototype of the old-fashioned, cultivated, gifted, idle, sarcastic, middle-class Roman official, making the most of life on a small salary and the friendship of a great personage; praising poverty, but making the most of the good things that fell in his way; extolling pristine austerity of life and yielding with a smile to every agreeable temptation; painting the idyllic life of a small gentleman farmer as the highest state of happiness, but secretly preferring the town; prudently avoiding marriage, but far too human to care for an existence in which woman had no share; more sensible in theory than in practice, and more religious in manner than in heart; full of quaint superstitions, queer odds and ends of knowledge, amusing anecdotes and pictures of personal experience; the whole compound permeated with a sort of indolent sadness at the unfulfilled promises of younger years, in which there had been more of impulse than of ambition, and more of ambition than real strength. The early struggles for Italian unity left many such half-disappointed patriots, and many less fortunate in their subsequent lives than Horace.

Born in the far South, and the son of a freed slave, brought to Rome as a boy and carefully taught, then sent to Athens to study Greek, he was barely twenty years of age when he joined Brutus after Caesar's death, was with him in Asia, and, in the lack of educated officers perhaps, found himself one day, still a mere boy, tribune of a Legion—or, as we should say, in command of a brigade of six thousand men, fighting for what he believed to be the liberty of Rome, in the disastrous battle of Philippi. Brutus being dead, the dream of glory ended, after the amnesty, in a scribe's office under one of the quaestors, and the would-be liberator of his country became a humble clerk in the Treasury, eking out his meagre salary with the sale of a few verses. Many an old soldier of Garibaldi's early republican dreams has ended in much the same way in our own times under the monarchy.

But Horace was born to other things. Chaucer was a clerk in the Custom House, and found time to be the father of English poetry. Horace's daily work did not hinder him from becoming a poet. His love of Greek, acquired in Athens and Asia Minor, and the natural bent of his mind made him the greatest imitator and adapter of foreign verses that ever lived; and his character, by its eminently Italian combination of prim respectability and elastic morality, gave him a two-sided view of men and things that has left us representations of life in three dimensions instead of the flat, though often violent, pictures which prejudice loves best to paint.

In his admiration of Greek poetry, Horace was not a discoverer; he was rather the highest expression of Rome's artistic want. If Scipio of Africa had never conquered the Carthaginians at Zama, he would be notable still as one of the first and most sincere lovers of Hellenic literature, and as one of the earliest imitators of Athenian manners. The great conqueror is remembered also as the first man in Rome who shaved every day, more than a hundred and fifty years before Horace's time. He was laughed at by some, despised by others and disliked by the majority for his cultivated tastes and his refined manners.

The Romans had most gifts excepting those we call creative. Instead of creating, therefore, Rome took her art whole, and by force, from the most artistic nation the world ever produced. Sculptors, architects, painters and even poets, such as there were, came captive to Rome in gangs, were sold at auction as slaves, and became the property of the rich, to work all their lives at their several arts for their master's pleasure; and the State rifled Greece and Asia, and even the Greek Italy of the south, and brought back the masterpieces of an age to adorn Rome's public places. The Roman was the engineer, the maker of roads, of aqueducts, of fortifications, the layer out of cities, and the planner of harbours. In a word, the Roman made the solid and practical foundation, and then set the Greek slave to beautify it. When he had watched the slave at work for a century or two, he occasionally attempted to imitate him. That was as far as Rome ever went in original art.

But her love of the beautiful, though often indiscriminating and lacking in taste, was profound and sincere. It does not appear that in all her conquests her armies ever wantonly destroyed beautiful things. On the contrary, her generals brought home all they could with uncommon care, and the consequence was that in Horace's day the public places of the city were vast open-air museums, and the great temples picture galleries of which we have not the like now in the whole world. And with those things came all the rest; the manners, the household life, the necessaries and the fancies of a conquering and already decadent nation, the thousands of slaves whose only duty was to amuse their owners and the public; the countless men and women and girls and boys, whose souls and bodies went to feed the corruption of the gorgeous capital, or to minister to its enormous luxuries; the companies of flute-players and dancing-girls, the sharp-tongued jesters, the coarse buffoons, the play-actors and the singers. And then, the endless small commerce of an idle and pleasure-seeking people, easily attracted by bright colours, new fashions and new toys; the drug-sellers and distillers of perfumes, the venders of Eastern silks and linens and lace, the barbers and hairdressers, the jewellers and tailors, the pastry cooks and makers of honey-sweetmeats; and everywhere the poor rabble of failures, like scum in the wake of a great ship; the beggars everywhere, and the pickpockets and the petty thieves. It is no wonder that Horace was fond of strolling in Rome.

In contrast, the great and wonderful things of the Augustan city stand out in high relief, above the varied crowd that fills the streets, with all the dignity that centuries of power can lend. To the tawdry is opposed the splendid, the Roman general in his chiselled corselet and dyed mantle faces the Greek actor in his tinsel; the band of painted, half-clad, bedizened dancing-girls falls back cowering in awestruck silence as the noble Vestal passes by, high-browed, white-robed, untainted, the incarnation of purity in an age of vice. And the old Senator in his white cloak with its broad purple hem, his smooth-faced clients at his elbows, his silent slaves before him and behind, meets the low-chattering knot of Hebrew money-lenders, making the price of short loans for the day, and discussing the assets of a famous spendthrift, as their yellow-turbaned, bearded fathers had talked over the chances of Julius Caesar when he was as yet but a fashionable young lawyer of doubtful fortune, with an unlimited gift of persuasion and an equally unbounded talent for amusement.

Between the contrasts lived men of such position as Horace occupied, but not many. For the great middle element of society is a growth of later centuries, and even Horace himself, as time went on, became attached to Maecenas and then, more or less, to the person of the Emperor, by a process of natural attraction, just as his butt, Tigellius, gravitated to the common herd that mourned his death. The 'golden mean' of which Horace wrote was a mere expression, taught him, perhaps, by his father, a part of his stock of maxims. Where there were only great people on the one side, and a rabble on the other, the man of genius necessarily rose to the level of the high, by his own instinct and their liking. What was best of Greek was for them, what was worst was for the populace.

But the Greek was everywhere, with his keen weak face, his sly look and his skilful fingers. Scipio and Paulus Emilius had brought him, and he stayed in Rome till the Goth came, and afterwards. Greek poetry, Greek philosophy, Greek sculpture, Greek painting, Greek music everywhere—to succeed at all in such society, Virgil and Horace and Ovid must needs make Greek of Latin, and bend the stiff syllables to Alcaics and Sapphics and Hexameters. The task looked easy enough, though it was within the powers of so very few. Thousands tried it, no doubt, when the three or four had set the fashion, and failed, as the second-rate fail, with some little brief success in their own day, turned into the total failure of complete disappearance when they had been dead awhile.

Supreme of them all, for his humanity, Horace remains. Epic Virgil, appealing to the traditions of a living race of nobles and to the carefully hidden, sober vanity of the world's absolute monarch, does not appeal to modern man. The twilight of the gods has long deepened into night, and Ovid's tales of them and their goddesses move us by their own beauty rather than by our sympathy for them, though we feel the tender touch of the exiled man whose life was more than half love, in the marvellous Letters of Heroes' Sweethearts—in the complaint of Briseis to Achilles, in the passionately sad appeal of Hermione to Orestes. Whoever has not read these things does not know the extreme limit of man's understanding of woman. Yet Horace, with little or nothing of such tenderness, has outdone Ovid and Virgil in this later age.

He strolled through life, and all life was a play of which he became the easy-going but unforgetful critic. There was something good-natured even in his occasional outbursts of contempt and hatred for the things and the people he did not like. There was something at once caressing and good-humouredly sceptical in his way of addressing the gods, something charitable in his attacks on all that was ridiculous,—men, manners and fashions.

He strolled wherever he would, alone; in the market, looking at everything and asking the price of what he saw, of vegetables and grain and the like; in the Forum, or the Circus, at evening, when 'society' was dining, and the poor people and slaves thronged the open places for rest and air, and there he used to listen to the fortune-tellers, and among them, no doubt, was that old hag, Canidia, immortalized in the huge joke of his comic resentment. He goes home to sup on lupins and fritters and leeks,—or says so,—though his stomach abhorred garlic; and his three slaves—the fewest a man could have—wait on him as he lies before the clean white marble table, leaning on his elbow. He does not forget the household gods, and pours a few drops upon the cement floor in libation to them, out of the little earthen saucer filled from the slim-necked bottle of Campanian earthenware. Then to sleep, careless of getting up early or late, just as he might feel, to stay at home and read or write, or to wander about the city, or to play the favourite left-handed game of ball in the Campus Marius before his bath and his light midday meal.

With a little change here and there, it is the life of the idle middle-class Italian today, which will always be much the same, let the world wag and change as it will, with all its extravagances, its fashions and its madnesses. Now and then he exclaims that there is no average common sense left in the world, no half-way stopping-place between extremes. One man wears his tunic to his heels, another is girt up as if for a race; Rufillus smells of perfumery, Gargonius of anything but scent; and so on—and he cries out that when a fool tries to avoid a mistake he will run to any length in the opposite direction. And Horace had a most particular dislike for fools and bores, and has left us the most famous description of the latter ever set down by an accomplished observer.

By chance, he says, he was walking one morning along the Sacred Street with one slave behind him, thinking of some trifle and altogether absorbed in it, when a man whom he barely knew by name came up with him in a great hurry and grasped his hand. 'How do you do, sweet friend?' asks the Bore. 'Pretty well, as times go,' answers Horace, stopping politely for a moment; and then beginning to move on, he sees to his horror that the Bore walks by his side. 'Can I do anything for you?' asks the poet, still civil, but hinting that he prefers his own company. The Bore plunges into the important business of praising himself, with a frankness not yet forgotten in his species, and Horace tries to get rid of him, walking very fast, then very slowly, then turning to whisper a word to his slave, and in his anxiety he feels the perspiration breaking out all over him, while his Tormentor chatters on, as they skirt the splendid Julian Basilica, gleaming in the morning sun. Horace looks nervously and eagerly to right and left, hoping to catch sight of a friend and deliverer. Not a friendly face was in sight, and the Bore knew it, and was pitilessly frank. 'Oh, I know you would like to get away from me!' he exclaimed. 'I shall not let you go so easily! Where are you going?' 'Across the Tiber,' answered Horace, inventing a distant visit. 'I am going to see someone who lives far off, in Caesar's gardens—a man you do not know. He is ill.' 'Very well,' said the other; 'I have nothing to do, and am far from lazy. I will go all the way with you.' Horace hung his head, as a poor little Italian donkey does when a heavy load is piled upon his back, for he was fairly caught, and he thought of the long road before him, and he had moreover the unpleasant consciousness that the Bore was laughing at his imaginary errand, since they were walking in a direction exactly opposite from the Tiber, and would have to go all the way round the Palatine by the Triumphal Road and the Circus Maximus and then cross by the Sublician bridge, instead of turning back towards the Velabrum, the Provision Market and the Bridge of AEmilius, which we have known and crossed as the Ponte Rotto, but of which only one arch is left now, in midstream.

Then, pressing his advantage, the Bore began again. 'If I am any judge of myself,' he observed, 'you will make me one of your most intimate friends. I am sure nobody can write such good verses as fast as I can. As for my singing, I know it for a fact that Hermogenes is decidedly jealous of me!' 'Have you a mother, Sir?' asked Horace, gravely. 'Have you any relations to whom your safety is a matter of importance?' 'No,' answered the other, 'no one. I have buried them all!' 'Lucky people!' said the poet to himself, and he wished he were dead, too, at that moment, and he thought of all the deaths he might have died. It was evidently not written that he should die of poison nor in battle, nor of a cough, nor of the liver, nor even of gout. He was to be slowly talked to death by a bore. By this time they were before the temple of Castor and Pollux, where the great Twin Brethren bathed their horses at Juturna's spring. The temple of Vesta was before them, and the Sacred Street turned at right angles to the left, crossing over between a row of shops on one side and the Julian Rostra on the other, to the Courts of Law. The Bore suddenly remembered that he was to appear in answer to an action on that very morning, and as it was already nine o'clock, he could not possibly walk all the way to Caesar's gardens and be back before noon, and if he was late, he must forfeit his bail, and the suit would go against him by default. On the other hand, he had succeeded in catching the great poet alone, after a hundred fruitless attempts, and the action was not a very important one, after all. He stopped short. 'If you have the slightest regard for me,' he said, 'you will just go across with me to the Courts for a moment.' Horace looked at him curiously, seeing a chance of escape. 'You know where I am going,' he answered with a smile; 'and as for law, I do not know the first thing about it.' The Bore hesitated, considered what the loss of the suit must cost him, and what he might gain by pushing his acquaintance with the friend of Maecenas and Augustus. 'I am not sure,' he said doubtfully, 'whether I had better give up your company, or my case,' 'My company, by all means!' cried Horace, with alacrity. 'No!' answered the other, looking at his victim thoughtfully, 'I think not!' And he began to move on again by the Nova Via towards the House of the Vestals. Having made up his mind to sacrifice his money, however, he lost no time before trying to get an equivalent for it. 'How do you stand with Maecenas?' he asked suddenly, fixing his small eyes on Horace's weary profile, and without waiting for an answer he ran on to praise the great man. 'He is keen and sensible,' he continued, 'and has not many intimate friends. No one knows how to take advantage of luck as he does. You would find me a valuable ally, if you would introduce me. I believe you might drive everybody else out of the field—with my help, of course.' 'You are quite mistaken there!' answered Horace, rather indignantly. 'He is not at all that kind of man! There is not a house in Rome where any sort of intrigue would be more utterly useless!' 'Really, I can hardly believe it!' 'It is a fact, nevertheless,' retorted Horace, stoutly. 'Well,' said the Bore, 'if it is, I am of course all the more anxious to know such a man!' Horace smiled quietly. 'You have only to wish it, my dear Sir,' he answered, with the faintest modulation of polite irony in his tone. 'With such gifts at your command, you will certainly charm him. Why, the very reason of his keeping most people at arm's length is that he knows how easily he yields!' 'In that case, I will show you what I can do,' replied the Bore, delighted. 'I shall bribe the slaves; I will not give it up, if I am not received at first! I will bide my time and catch him in the street, and follow him about. One gets nothing in life without taking trouble!' As the man was chattering on, Horace's quick eyes caught sight of an old friend at last, coming towards him from the corner of the Triumphal Road, for they had already almost passed the Palatine. Aristius, sauntering along and enjoying the morning air, with a couple of slaves at his heels, saw Horace's trouble in a moment, for he knew the Bore well enough, and realized at once that if he delivered his friend, he himself would be the next victim. He was far too clever for that, and with a cold-blooded smile pretended not to understand Horace's signals of distress. 'I forget what it was you wished to speak about with me so particularly, my dear Aristius,' said the poet, in despair. 'It was something very important, was it not?' 'Yes,' answered the other, with another grin, 'I remember very well; but this is an unlucky day, and I shall choose another time. Today is the thirtieth Sabbath,' he continued, inventing a purely imaginary Hebrew feast, 'and you surely would not risk a Jew's curse for a few moments of conversation, would you?' 'I have no religion!' exclaimed Horace, eagerly. 'No superstition! Nothing!' 'But I have,' retorted Aristius, still smiling. 'My health is not good—perhaps you did not know? I will tell you about it some other time.' And he turned on his heel, with a laugh, leaving Horace to his awful fate. Even the sunshine looked black. But salvation came suddenly in the shape of the man who had brought the action against the Bore, and who, on his way to the Court, saw his adversary going off in the opposite direction. 'Coward! Villain!' yelled the man, springing forward and catching the poet's tormentor by his cloak. 'Where are you going now? You are witness, Sir, that I am in my right,' he added, turning to look for Horace. But Horace had disappeared in the crowd that had collected to see the quarrel, and his gods had saved him after all.

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse