LIFE IN THE ROMAN WORLD OF NERO AND ST. PAUL
T. G. TUCKER
The reception accorded to my Life in Ancient Athens has led me to write the present companion work with an eye to the same class of readers. In the preface to the former volume it was said: "I have sought to leave an impression true and sound, so far as it goes, and also vivid and distinct. The style adopted has therefore been the opposite of the pedantic, utilizing any vivacities of method which are consistent with truth of fact." The same principles have guided me in the present equally unpretentious treatise. I agree entirely with Mr. Warde Fowler when he says: "I firmly believe that the one great hope for classical learning and education lies in the interest which the unlearned public may be brought to feel in ancient life and thought."
For the general reader there is perhaps no period in the history of the ancient world which is more interesting than the one here chosen. Yet, so far as I know, there exists no sufficiently popular work dealing with this period alone and presenting in moderate compass a clear general view of the matters of most moment. My endeavour has been to represent as faithfully as possible the Age of Nero, and nowhere in the book is it implied that what is true for that age is necessarily as true for any other. The reader who is not a special student of history or antiquities is perhaps as often confused by descriptions of ancient life which cover too many generations as by those—often otherwise excellent—which include too much detail.
I have necessarily consulted not only the Latin and Greek writers who throw light upon the time, but also all the best-known Standard works of modern date. It is perhaps scarcely necessary to state that in matters of contemporary government, administration, and public life my guides have been chiefly Mommsen, Arnold, and Greenidge; for social life Marquardt, Friedlaender, and Becker-Goell; for topography and buildings Jordan, Huelsen, Lanciani, and Middleton; nor that the Dictionaries of Smith and of Daremberg and Saglio have been always at hand, as well as Baumeister's Denkmaeler, and Guhl and Koner's Life of the Greeks and Romans. The admirable Pompeii of Mau-Kelsey has been, of course, indispensable. I have also derived profit from the writings of Prof. Sir W. M. Ramsay in connexion with St. Paul, and from Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of the Apostle. Useful hints have been found in Mr. Warde Fowler's Social Life in Rome in the Age of Cicero, and in Prof. Dill's Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius. A personal study of ancient sites, monuments, and objects of antiquity at Rome, Pompeii, and elsewhere has naturally been of prime value. Those intimately acquainted with the immense amount of the available material will best realize the difficulty there has been in deciding how much to say and how much to "leave in the inkstand."
For the drawings other than those of which another source is specified I have to thank Miss M. O'Shea, on whom has occasionally fallen the difficult task of giving ocular form to the mental visions of one who happens to be no draughtsman. For the rest I make acknowledgment to those books from which the illustrations have been directly derived for my own purposes, without reference to more original sources.
I am especially grateful for the permission to use so considerable a number of illustrations from the Pompeii of Mau-Kelsey, from Professor Waldstein's Herculaneum, and from Lanciani's New Tales of Old Rome.
I EXTENT AND SECURITY OF THE EMPIRE
II TRAVEL WITHIN THE EMPIRE
III A BRIEF SURVEY OF THE PROVINCES
IV THE IMPERIAL SYSTEM: EMPEROR, SENATE, KNIGHTS, AND PEOPLE
V NERO THE EMPEROR
VI ADMINISTRATION AND TAXATION OF THE EMPIRE
VII ROME: THE IMPERIAL CITY
VIII STREETS, WATER-SUPPLY, AND BUILDING MATERIAL
IX THE ROMAN TOWN HOUSE
X THE COUNTRY HOMESTEAD AND COUNTRY SEAT
XI ROMAN FURNITURE
XII SOCIAL DAY OF A ROMAN ARISTOCRAT—MORNING
XIII SOCIAL DAY OF A ROMAN ARISTOCRAT (continued)—AFTERNOON AND DINNER
XIV LIFE IN THE MIDDLE AND LOWER CLASSES
XV HOLIDAYS AND AMUSEMENTS: THEATRE, CIRCUS, AMPHITHEATRE
XVI THE WOMEN: MARRIAGE, THE ROMAN MATRON, AND HER DRESS
XVII CHILDREN AND EDUCATION
XVIII THE ARMY: MILITARY SERVICE: PUBLIC CAREER
XIX ROMAN RELIGION—STATE AND INDIVIDUAL
XX STUDY AND SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE AMONG THE ROMANS
XXI PHILOSOPHY—STOICS AND EPICUREANS
XXII THE ROMAN PROFUSION OF ART
XXIII THE LAST SCENE OF ALL—BURIAL AND TOMBS
View into Roman Forum from Temple of Vesta, A.D. 64. (Restoration partly after Auer, Huelsen, Tognetti, etc.).
1. The Pont du Gard (Aqueduct and Bridge).
2. The Appian Way by the so-called Tomb of Seneca (Laneiani, New Tales of Old Rome).
3. Plan of Inn at Pompeii. (After Mau).
4. Ship beside the Quay at Ostia. (Hill, Illustrations of School Classics, FIG. 498 ).
6. The Acropolis at Athens. (From D'Ooge).
7. Plan of Antioch.
8. Emblem of Antioch. (Dict. of Geog. i. 116 ).
9. Emblem of Alexandria. (Mau, Pompeii, Fig 187).
10. Emblem of Rome. (From the column of Antoninus at Rome).
11. Augustus as Emperor.
12. Coin of Nero. (In the British Museum).
13. Bust of Seneca. (Archaeiologische Zeitung).
14. Agrippina, Mother of Nero. (Photo, Mansell & Co.).
15. Bust of Nero.
16. Some Remains of the Claudian Aqueduct.
17. The Rostra: back view. (Modified from Huelsen).
18. Ruins of Forum. (Record-Office in background with modern building above.) (Photo, Anderson).
19. N.E. of Forum, A.D. 64. (Complementary to Frontispiece).
20. Temple of Fortuna Augusta at Pompeii. (Mau, FIG. 58).
21. So-called Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli.
22. Vestal Virgin. (Hill, FIG. 340 ).
23. Temple of Mars the Avenger in Forum of Augustus. (After Ripostelli).
24. Exterior of Theatre of Marcellus. (Present state).
25. Exterior of Theatre of Marcellus. (Restored).
26. A Greek Exedra. (Baumeister).
27. Circus Maximus (restored). (Modified from Guhl and Koner).
28. Building Materials. (From Middleton).
29. Typical Scheme of Roman House.
30. Entrance to House of Pansa.
31. Interior of Roman House. (Restored).
32. House of Cornelius Rufus. (Mau, FIG. 121 ).
33. Peristyle with Garden and al fresco Dining-Table. (After Guhl and Koner).
34. Peristyle in House of the Vettii. (Present state) (Mau, FIG. 162).
35. Kitchen Hearth in the House of the Vettii. (Mau, FIG. 125).
36. Cooking Hearths. (Dict. Ant. i. 672).
37. Shrine in House of the Tragic Poet. (Mau, FIG. 153 ).
38. Household Shrine. (Hill, FIG. 345).
38A. Leaden Pipes in House of Livia. (From a photograph).
39. Portable Braziers. (Daremberg and Saglio).
40. Manner of Roofing with Tiles.
41. House of Pansa at Pompeii. (After Mau).
42. House of the Vettii at Pompeii. (After Mau).
43. Specimen of Painted Room.
44. Specimen of Wall-Painting. (Mau, FIG. 264).
45. Plan of Homestead at Boscoreale. (After Mau).
46. Roman Folding Chair. (Schreiber).
47. Bronze Seat. (Overbeck).
48. Framework of Roman Couch. (Mau, FIG. 188).
49. Plan of Dining-Table with Three Couches.
51. Tripod from Herculaneum. (From Waldstein, Herculaneum, Plate 41).
52. Chest (Strong-box). (Mau, FIG. 120).
53. Mirrors. (Mau, FIG. 213).
54. Lamps. (Mau, FIG. 196).
55. Lampholder as Tree. (Mau, FIG. 202).
56. Cup from Herculaneum. (Waldstein, Plate 45).
57. Kitchen Utensils. (Mau, FIG. 204).
58. Pail from Herculaneum. (Waldstein, Plate 42).
59. Patrician Shoes. (Dict. Ant. i. 335).
60. Roman in the Toga. (Waldstein, Plate 18).
61. Slave in Fetters.
62. Litter. (Dict. Ant. ii. 15).
63. Reading a Proclamation. (Mau, FIG. 17).
64. Sealed Receipt of Jueundus. (Mau, FIG. 275).
65. Discus-Thrower. (Photo, Anderson).
66. Stabian Baths. (Mau, Plate 5).
67. Bathing Implements. (Mau, FIG. 209).
68. Acrobats. (Baumeister, i. 585).
69. Surgical Instruments. (Guhl and Koner).
70. Bakers' Mills. (Mau, FIG. 218).
71. Cupids as Goldsmiths. (Wall-Painting.)(Mau, FIG. 167).
72. Garland-Makers. (Abhandlungen, historische-philologische Classe Koeniglich Saechsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften).
73. Bust of Caecilius Jueundus. (Mau, FIG. 256).
74. Ploughs. (Hill, FIG. 383; Dict. Ant. i. 160).
75. Tools on Tomb. (Dict. Ant. ii. 243).
76. Pompeian Cook-Shop. (Mau, FIG. 131).
77. In a Wine-Shop. (Mau, FIG. 234).
78. Boxing-Gloves. (Dict. Ant. i. 329).
79. Theatre at Orange. (Restored.) (Baumeister, iii. 1742).
80. Theatre at Aspendus. (Guhl and Koner).
81. Tragic Actor. (Hill, FIG. 421).
82. Comic Masks. (Terence's Andria).
83. Scene from Comedy. (Hill, FIG. 422).
84. Plan of Circus.
85. The Turn in the Circus.
86. Chariot Race. (Dict. Ant. i. 434).
87. Amphitheatre at Pompeii. (Mau, Plate 6).
88. Barracks of Gladiators. (Mau, Plate 4).
89. Stocks for Gladiators. (Remains from Pompeii.) (Mau, FIG. 74).
90. Gladiators Fighting. (Guhl and Koner).
91. Toilet Scene. (Wall-Painting.) (Waldstein, Plate 32).
92. Woman in Full Dress. (Waldstein, Plate 7).
93. Hairpins. (Mau, FIG. 211).
94. Writing Materials.
95. Horsing a Boy. (After Saechs.) (Baumeister, iii. FIG. 1653).
96. Papyri and Tabulae. (From Dyer's Pompeii).
97. Roman Standards. (Guhl and Koner).
98. Armed Soldier.
99. A Roman General. (Hill, FIG. 465).
100. Centurion. (Hill, FIG. 466).
101. Standard-Bearer. (Hill, FIG. 470).
102. Baggage-Train. (Daremberg and Saglio, FIG. 1196).
103. Soldiers with Packs. (Seyffert, Dict. Class. Ant. p. 348).
104. Roman Soldiers Marching. (Schreiber).
105. Imperial Guards. (Guhl and Koner).
106. Besiegers with the "Tortoise." (Hill, FIG. 481).
107. Roman Artillery. (Dict. Ant. ii. 855).
108. Auxiliary Cavalryman. (Dict. Ant. i. 790).
109. Jupiter. (Vatican Museum).
110. A Sacrifice. (Mau, FIG. 44).
111. Isis Worship. (Wall-Painting.) (Mau, FIG. 81).
112. Household Shrine. (Mau, FIG. 127).
113. The World (approximately) as conceived about A.D. 100.
114. The Dying Gaul.
115. A "Candeliera" or Marble Pilaster of the Basilica Aemilia (Lanciani, New Tales, etc., p. 147).
116. Fragments of the Architecture of the Regia. (Lanciani, p. 70).
117. Wall-Painting. (Woman with Tablets.) (Waldstein, Herculaneum, Plate 35).
118. Wall-Painting from Herculaneum. (Women playing with Knuckle-Bones.) (Waldstein, Plate 4).
119. Lyre and Harp.
120. "Conclamatio" of the Dead. (Guhl and Koner).
121. Tomb of Caecilia Metella.
122. Street of Tombs. (Mau, Plate 10).
123. Columbarium. (Guhl and Koner).
124. Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol.
MAPS AND PLANS:
Map of Roman Empire, A.D. 64.
Plan of Rome with Chief Topographical Features.
Plan of Forum, A.D. 64.
The subject of this book is "Life in the Roman World of Nero and St. Paul." This is not quite the same thing as "Life in Ancient Rome" at the same date. Our survey is to be somewhat wider than that of the imperial city itself, with its public and private structures, its public and private life. The capital, and these topics concerning it, will naturally occupy the greater portion of our time and interest. But it is quite impossible to realise Rome, its civilisation, and the meaning of its monuments, unless we first obtain some general comprehension of the empire—the Roman world—with its component parts, its organisation and administration. The date is approximately anno Domini 64, although it is not desirable, even if it were possible, to adhere in every detail to the facts of that particular year. In A.D. 64 the Emperor Nero was at the height of his folly and tyranny, and, so far as our information goes, the Apostle Paul was journeying about the Roman world in the interval between his first and second imprisonments in the capital.
One cannot, perhaps, achieve a wholly satisfying picture in a treatise of the present dimensions. It would require a very bulky volume to realise with any adequateness the ideal aim. It would be well if, in the first instance, we could imagine ourselves standing somewhere far aloft over the centre of the empire, and possessing as wide-ranging a vision as that of the Homeric gods. From that exalted standpoint we might gaze upon the active life of towns, upon the labourers working their lands from the Atlantic to the Euphrates, and upon the men who go down to the sea in ships and do their business in great waters. We should perceive their occupations and amusements, their material surroundings, their various dress and manners, their methods of travel, the degree of their personal safety and liberty. Then we should descend to earth in the middle of Rome itself, and become for the time being inhabitants of that city, privileged to take part in its public business and its public pleasures, to enter the houses of what may be called its representative citizens, to share in the various elements of its social day, and to estimate the moral, intellectual, and artistic cultivation of Roman society.
Such would be the ideal. Here it must suffice, to select the most essential or interesting matters, and to present them with such vividness as the necessary brevity will permit. Very little preliminary knowledge will be taken for granted; the use of Latin or technical terms will be shunned, and every topic will be dealt with, as far as possible, in the plainest of English.
Nevertheless, while aiming at entire lucidity, the following chapters will aim even more scrupulously at telling the truth. There are doubtless a number of matters—though generally of relatively small moment—about which we are, and probably always shall be, uncertain. The best way to deal with these, in a work which is descriptive rather than argumentative, is to omit them. For the rest it must be expected of any one whose professional concern it has been to saturate himself for many years in the literature of the times, and to study carefully their monumental remains, that he should occasionally make some statement, drop some passing remark or judgment, which may appear to be in conflict with assertions made in other quarters. If a few examples are met with in the present book, they may be taken as made with all deference, but with deliberation.
It is perhaps well to say this with some emphasis, in view of the blunders often innocently committed by those who happen to be speaking of this period. There are those who know it almost only through the medium of the Acts of the Apostles, and who entertain the most erroneous notions concerning Gallio or Festus, concerning Roman justice, Roman taxation, or Roman moral and religious attitudes. There are those, again, who know it almost only through the manuals of history; that is to say, they know the dates and facts of the reigns of the emperors, but have never realised, not to say visualised, the contemporary Roman as a human being. There exist denunciations of the morals of the Roman world of this date which would lead one to believe that every man was a Nero and every woman a Messalina: denunciations so lurid that, if they were a third part true, the continuance of the Roman Empire, or even of the Roman race, for a single century would be simply incomprehensible. On the other hand there have been accounts of the material glory of Rome which have conjured up visions of splendour worthy only of the Arabian Nights; and sometimes the comment is added that it was all won from the blood and sweat heartlessly wrung from a world of miserable slaves. It is not too much to say that none of these descriptions could come from a writer or speaker who knew the period at first hand.
The most dangerous form of falsehood is that which contains some portion of truth. The life of many a Roman was deplorably dissolute; the splendour of Rome was beyond doubt astonishing; of oppression there were too many scattered instances; but we do not judge the civilisation of the British Empire by the choicest scandals of London, nor the good sense of the United States by the freak follies of New York. We do not take it that the modern satirist who vents his spleen on an individual or a class is describing each and all of his contemporaries, nor even that what he says is necessarily true of such individual or class. Nor is the professional moralist himself immune from jaundice or from the disease of exaggeration.
The endeavour here will be to realise more veraciously what life in the Roman world was like. For those who are familiar with the political history and the escapades of Nero there may be some filling in of gaps and adjusting of perspective. For those who are familiar with the journeyings and experiences of St. Paul there may be some correction of errors and misconceptions. For those who have any thought of visiting the ruins of Rome and Pompeii, it may prove helpful to have secured some comprehension of this period. Pompeii was destroyed only fifteen years after our date, and all those houses, large and small, were occupied in the year 64 by their unsuspecting inhabitants. Meanwhile mansions, temples, and halls stood in splendour above those platforms and foundations over which we tread amid the broken columns in the Roman Forum or on the Palatine Hill.
EXTENT AND SECURITY OF THE EMPIRE
The best means of realising the extent of the Roman Empire in or about the year 64 is to glance at the map. It will be found to reach from the Atlantic Ocean to the Euphrates, from the middle of England—approximately the river Trent—to the south of Egypt, from the Rhine and the Danube to the Desert of Sahara. The Mediterranean Sea is a Roman lake, and there is not a spot upon its shores which is not under Roman rule. In round numbers the empire is three thousand miles in length and two thousand in breadth. Its population, which, at least in the western parts, was much thinner then than it is over the same area at present, cannot be calculated with any accuracy, but an estimate of one hundred millions would perhaps be not very far from the mark.
Beyond its borders—sometimes too dangerously near to them and apt to overstep them—lay various peoples concerning whom Roman knowledge was for the most part incomplete and indefinite. Within its own boundaries the Roman government carefully collected every kind of information. Such precision was indispensable for the carrying out of those Roman principles of administration which will be described later. But of the nations or tribes beyond the frontiers only so much was known as had been gathered from a number of more or less futile campaigns, from occasional embassies sent to Rome by such peoples, from the writings of a few venturous travellers bent on exploration, from slaves who had been acquired by war or purchase, or from traders such as those who made their way to the Baltic in quest of amber, or to Arabia, Ethiopia, and India in quest of precious metals, jewels, ivory, perfumes, and fabrics.
There had indeed been sundry attempts to annex still more of the world. Roman armies had crossed the Rhine and had twice fought their way to the Elbe; but it became apparent to the shrewd Augustus and Tiberius that the country could not be held, and the Rhine was for the present accepted as the most natural and practical frontier. In the East the attempts permanently to annex Armenia, or a portion of Parthia, had so far proved but nominal or almost entirely vain.
On the Upper Euphrates at this date there was a sort of acknowledgment of vague dependence on Rome, but the empire had acquired nothing more solid. Forty years before our date a Roman expedition had penetrated into South-west Arabia, of which the wealth was extravagantly over-estimated, but it had met with complete failure. Into Ethiopia a punitive campaign had been made against Queen Candace, and a loose suzerainty was claimed over her kingdom, but the Roman frontier still stopped short at Elephantine. Over the territories of the semi-Greek semi-Scythian settlements to the north of the Black Sea Rome exercised a protectorate, which was for obvious reasons not unwelcome to those concerned. Along or near the eastern frontier she well understood the policy of the "buffer state," and, within her own borders in those parts, was ready to make tools of petty kings, whose own ambitions would both assist her against external foes and relieve her of administrative trouble.
At no time did the Roman Empire possess so natural or scientific a frontier as at this, when it was bounded by the Rhine, the Danube, the Black Sea, the Euphrates, the Desert, and the Atlantic. The only exception, it will be perceived, was in Britain, but the Roman idea there also was to annex the whole island, a feat which was never accomplished. Two generations after our chosen date Rome had conquered as far as the Firths of Clyde and Forth; it had crossed the Southern Rhine, and annexed the south-west corner of Germany, approximately from Cologne to Ratisbon; it had passed the Danube, and secured and settled Dacia, which is roughly the modern Roumania; and it had pushed its power somewhat further into the East. But it had not thereby increased either its strength or its stability.
At the period then with which we are to deal, the Roman Empire included the countries now known as Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, the southern half of the Austrian Empire, Greece, Turkey, Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine, Egypt, Tripoli and Tunis, Algeria, Morocco, and also the southern two-thirds of England. Within these borders there prevailed that greatest blessing of the Roman rule, the pax Romana, or "Roman peace." Whatever defects may be found in the Roman administration, on whatever abstract grounds the existence of such an empire may be impugned, it cannot be questioned that for at least two centuries the whole of this vast region enjoyed a general reign of peace and security such as it never knew before and has never known since. That peace meant also social and industrial prosperity and development. It meant an immense increase in settled population and in manufactures, and an immense advance—particularly in the West—in civilised manners and intellectual interests.
Peoples and tribes which had been at perpetual war among themselves or with some neighbour were reduced to quietude. Communities which had been liable to sudden invasion and to all manner of arbitrary changes in their conditions of life, in their burdens of taxation, and even in their personal freedom, now knew exactly where they stood, and, for the most part, perceived that they stood in a much more tolerable and a distinctly more assured position than before. If there must sometimes be it would be the Roman tyrant, and he, as we shall find, affected them but little. All irresponsible local tyrannies, whether of kings or parties, were abolished.
On the high seas within the empire you might voyage with no fear whatever of pirates. If you looked for pirates you must look beyond the Roman sphere to the Indian Ocean. There might also be a few to be found in the Black Sea. On the high road you might travel from Jerusalem to Rome, and from Rome to Cologne or Cadiz, with no fear of any enemy except such banditti and footpads as the central or local government could not always manage to put down. On the whole there was nearly everywhere a clear recognition of the advantages conferred by the empire.
It is quite true that during these two centuries we meet with frequent trouble on the borders and with one or two local revolts of more or less strength. At our chosen date the Jews were being stirred by their fanatical or "zealot" party into an almost hopeless insurrection; within two years the rebellion broke out. Three years later still, certain ambitious semi-Romans took advantage of a troubled time to make a determined but futile effort to form a Gaulish or German-Gaulish empire of their own. Half a century after Nero the Jews once again rose, but were speedily suppressed. But apart from these abortive efforts—made, one by a unique form of religious zeal, one by adventurous ambition, at opposite extremities of the Roman world—there was established a general, and in most cases a willing, acceptance of the situation and a proper recognition of its benefits.
The only serious war to be feared within the empire itself was a civil war, begun by some aspiring leader when his chance seemed strong of ousting the existing emperor or of succeeding to his throne. Four years from the date at which we have placed ourselves such a war actually did break out. Nero was driven from the throne in favour of Galba, and the history of the year following is the history of Otho murdering Galba, Vitellius overthrowing Otho, and Vespasian in his turn overthrowing Vitellius. Yet all this is but the story of one entirely exceptional year, the famous "year of four emperors." Take out that year from the imperial history; count a hundred years before and more than a hundred years after, and it would be impossible to find in the history of the world any period at which peace, and probably contentment, was so widely and continuously spread. Think of all the countries which have just been enumerated as lying within the Roman border; then imagine that, with the exception of one year of general commotion, two or three provincial and local revolts, and occasional irruptions and retaliations upon the frontier, they have all been free from war and its havoc ever since the year 1700. In our year of grace 64, although the throne is occupied by a vicious emperor suffering from megalomania and enormous self-conceit, the empire is in full enjoyment of its pax Romana.
Another glance at the map will show how secure this internal peace was felt to be. The Roman armies will be found almost entirely upon the frontiers. It was, of course, imperative that there should be strong forces in such positions—in Britain carrying out the annexation; on the Rhine and Danube defending against huge-bodied, restless Germans and their congeners; on the Euphrates to keep off the nimble and dashing Parthian horse and foot; in Upper Egypt to guard against the raids of "Fuzzy-Wuzzy "; in the interior of Tunis or Algeria to keep the nomad Berber tribes in hand. In such places were the Roman legions and their auxiliary troops regularly kept under the eagles, for there lay their natural work, and there do we find them quartered generation after generation.
It is, of course, true that they might be employed inwards as well as outwards; but it must be manifest that, if there had been any widespread disaffection, any reasonable suspicion that serious revolts might happen, there would have been many other large bodies of troops posted in garrison throughout the length and breadth of the provinces. In point of fact the whole Roman military force can scarcely have amounted to more than 320,000 men, while the navy consisted of two small fleets of galleys, one regularly posted at Misenum at the entrance to the Bay of Naples, the other at Ravenna on the Adriatic. To these we may add a flotilla of boats operating on the Lower Rhine and the neighbouring coasts. Except during the year of civil war the two fleets have practically no history. They enjoyed the advantage of having almost nothing to fight against. If pirates had become dangerous—as for a brief time they threatened to do during the Jewish revolt—the imperial ships would have been in readiness to suppress them. They could be made useful for carrying despatches and imperial persons or troops, or they might be used against a seaside town if necessary. Beyond this they hardly correspond to our modern navies. There was no foreign competition to build against, and no "two-power standard" to be maintained.
The Roman troops, it has already been said, were almost wholly on the frontier. So far as there are exceptions, they explain themselves. It was found necessary at all times to keep at least one legion regularly quartered in Northern Spain, where the mountaineers were inclined to be predatory, and where they were skilful, as they have always been, at carrying on guerilla warfare. We may, if we choose, regard this comparatively small army as policing a lawless district. In but few other places do we find a regular military force. Rome itself had both a garrison and also a large body of Imperial Guards. The garrison, consisting of some 6000 men, was in barracks inside the city, and its purpose was to protect the wealth of the metropolis and the seat of government from any sudden riot or factious tumult. It must be remembered that among the Romans it was soldiers who served as police, whether at Rome or in the provinces. The Imperial Guards, consisting of 12,000 troops, were stationed just outside the gates, in order to secure the safety and position of the emperor himself, if any attempt should be made against his person or authority. The rich and important town of Lugdunum (or Lyons) had a small garrison of 1200 men, and a certain number of troops were always to be found in garrison in those great towns where factious disturbances were either probable or possible. Thus at Alexandria, where the Jews were fanatical and at loggerheads with the Greeks, and where the native Egyptians were no less fanatical and might be at loggerheads with both, it was necessary to keep a disciplinary force in readiness. Somewhat similar was the case at Antioch, where the discords of the Greeks, Syrians, and Jews stood in need of the firm Roman hand. Nor could a similar regiment be spared from Jerusalem. The western towns were generally smaller in size, more homogeneous, and more tranquil. It was around the Levant that the popular emeute was most to be feared. Doubtless one may meet, whether in the New Testament or in Roman and Greek writers, with frequent mention of soldiers, and we make acquaintance with an occasional centurion—something socially above a colour-sergeant and below a captain—or other officer in various parts of the empire. But it should be understood that, except in such places as those which have been named, soldiers were distributed in small handfuls, to act as gendarmerie, to deal with brigands, to serve as bodyguard and orderlies to a governor, to bear despatches, to be custodians of state prisoners. To these classes belong the centurions of the Acts of the Apostles, while Lysias was the colonel of the regiment keeping order in Jerusalem.
What the Roman army was like, whence it was recruited, how it was armed, and what were its operations, are matters to be shown in a later chapter. Regarded then as a controlling agent, maintaining widespread peace, the Roman Empire answers closely to the British raj in India. The analogy could indeed be pressed very much further and with more closeness of detail, but this is scarcely the place for such a discussion.
TRAVEL WITHIN THE EMPIRE
Of the administration in Rome and throughout the provinces enough will be said in the proper place. Meanwhile we may look briefly at one or two questions of interest which will presumably suggest themselves at this stage. Since all this vast region now formed one empire, since Roman magistrates and officers were sent to all parts of it, since trade and intercourse were vigorous between all its provinces, it will be natural to ask, for example, by what means the traveller got from place to place, at what rate of progress, and with what degree of safety and comfort.
In setting forth by land you would elect, if possible, to proceed by one of the great military roads for which the Roman world was so deservedly famous. Not only were they the best kept and the safest; they were also generally the shortest. As far as possible the Roman road went straight from point to point. It did not circumvent a practicable hill, nor, where necessary, did it shrink from cutting through a rock, say to the depth of sixty feet or so. It did not avoid a river, but bridged it with a solid structure such as often remains in use till this day. If it met with a marsh, wooden piles were driven in and the road-bed laid upon them. When it came to a deep narrow valley it built a viaduct on arches.
The road so laid was meant for permanence. A width of ground was carefully prepared, trenches were dug at the sides, three different layers of road material were deposited, with sufficient upward curve to throw off the water, and then the whole was paved with closely-fitting many-cornered blocks of stone. In the chief instances there were sidewalks covered with some kind of gravel. The width was not great, but might be anything between ten and fifteen feet. Along such roads the Roman armies marched to their camps, along them the government despatches were carried by the imperial post, and along them were the most conveniently situated and commodious houses of accommodation. For their construction a special grant might be made by the Roman treasury—the cost being comparatively small, since the work, when not performed by the soldiers, was done by convicts and public slaves—and for their upkeep a rate was apparently levied by the local corporations. Besides the paved roads there was, needless to say, always a number of smaller roads, many of them mere strips of four feet or so in width; there were also short-cuts, by-paths, and ill-kept tracks of local and more or less fortuitous creation.
Beside the great highways stood milestones in the shape of short pillars, and generally there were in existence charts or itineraries, sometimes pictured, giving all necessary directions as to the turnings, distances, stopping-places, and inns, and even as to the sights worth seeing on the way. Wherever there were such objects of interest—in Egypt, Syria, Greece, or any other region of art, history, and legend—the traveller could always find a professional guide, whose information was probably about as reliable as that of the modern cicerone. In Rome itself there was displayed, in one of the public arcades, a plan of the empire, with notes explaining the dimensions and distances.
The vehicle employed by the traveller would depend upon circumstances. You would meet the poor man riding on an ass, or plodding on foot with his garments well girt; the better provided on a mule; a finer person or an official on a horse; the more luxurious or easy-going either in some form of carriage or borne in a litter very similar to the oriental palanquin. To carriages, which were of several kinds—two-wheeled, four-wheeled, heavy and light—it may be necessary to make further reference; here it is sufficient to observe that, in order to assist quick travelling, there existed individuals or companies who let out a light form of gig, in which the traveller rode behind a couple of mules or active Gaulish ponies as far as the next important stopping-place, where he could find another jobmaster, or keeper of livery-stables, to send him on further. The rich man, travelling, as he necessarily would, with a train of servants and with full appliances for his comfort, would journey in a coach, painted and gilded, cushioned and curtained, drawn by a team showily caparisoned with rich harness and coloured cloths. This must have presented an appearance somewhat similar to that of the extravagantly decorated travelling-coach of the fourteenth century. The ordinary man of modest means would be satisfied with his mule or horse, and with his one or two slaves to attend him. On the less frequented stretches of road, where there was no proper accommodation for the night, his slaves would unpack the luggage and bring out a plain meal of wine, bread, cheese, and fruits. They would then lay a sort of bedding on the ground and cover it with a rug or blanket. The rich folk might bring their tents or have a bunk made up in their coaches.
Where there was some sort of lodging for man and horse the average wayfarer would make the best of it. In the better parts of the empire and in the larger places of resort there were houses corresponding in some measure to the old coaching-inns of the eighteenth century; in the East there were the well-known caravanserais; but for the most part the ancient hostelries must have afforded but undesirable quarters. They were neither select nor clean. You journeyed along till you came to a building half wine-shop and store, half lodging-house. Outside you might be told by an inscription and a sign that it was the "Cock" Inn, or the "Eagle," or the "Elephant," and that there was "good accommodation." Its keeper might either be its proprietor, or merely a slave or other tenant put into it by the owner of a neighbouring estate and country-seat. Your horses or mules would be put up—with a reasonable suspicion on your part that the poor beasts would be cheated in the matter of their fodder—and you would be shown into a room which you might or might not have to share with someone else. In any case you would have to share it with the fleas, if not with worse.
Perhaps you base brought your food with you, perhaps you send out a slave to purchase it, perhaps you obtain it from the innkeeper. That is your own affair. For the rest you must be prepared to bear with very promiscuous and sometimes unsavoury company, and to possess neither too nice a nose nor too delicate a sense of propriety. Your only consolation is that the charges are low, and that if anything is stolen from you the landlord is legally responsible.
Doubtless there were better and worse establishments of this kind. There must have been some tolerably good quarters at Rome or Alexandria, and at some of the resorts for pleasure and health, such as Balae on the Bay of Naples, or Canopus at the Nile mouth. It is true also that for those who travelled on imperial service there were special lodgings kept up at the public expense at certain stations along the great roads. Nevertheless it may reasonably be asked why, in view of the generally accepted standards of domestic comfort and even luxury of the time—what may be called middle-class standards—there was no sufficiency of even creditable hotels. The answer is that in antiquity the class of people who in modern times support such hotels seldom felt the need of their equivalent. In the first place, they commonly trusted to the hospitality of individuals to whom they were personally or officially known, or to whom they carried private or official introductions. If they were distinguished persons, they were readily received, whether in town or country, on their route. In less frequented districts they trusted to their own slaves and to the resources of their own baggage. Their own tents, bedding, provisions and cooking apparatus were carried with them. If they made a stay of any length in a town, they might hire a suite of rooms.
We must not dwell too long upon this topic. Suffice it that travel was frequent and extensive, whether for military and political business, for commerce, or for pleasure. Some roads, particularly that "Queen of Roads," the Appian Way—the same by which St. Paul came from Puteoli to Rome—must have presented a lively appearance, especially near the metropolis. Perhaps on none of these great highways anywhere near an important Roman city could you go far without meeting a merchant with his slaves and his bales; a keen-eyed pedlar—probably a Jew—carrying his pack; a troupe of actors or tumblers; a body of gladiators being taken to fight in the amphitheatre or market-place of some provincial town; an unemployed philosopher gazing sternly over his long beard; a regiment of foot-soldiers or a squadron of cavalry on the move; a horseman scouring along with a despatch of the emperor or the senate; a casual traveller coming at a lively trot in his hired gig; a couple of ladies carefully protecting their complexions from sun and dust as they rode in a kind of covered wagonette; a pair of scarlet-clad outriders preceding a gorgeous but rumbling coach, in which a Roman noble or plutocrat is idly lounging, reading, dictating to his shorthand amanuensis, or playing dice with a friend; a dashing youth driving his own chariot in professional style to the disgust of the sober-minded; a languid matron lolling in a litter carried by six tall, bright-liveried Cappadocians; a peasant on his way to town with his waggon-load of produce and cruelly belabouring his mule. If you are very fortunate you may meet Nero himself on one of his imperial progresses. If so, you had better stand aside and wait. It will take him a long time to pass; or, if this is one of his more serious undertakings, there will be a thousand carriages, many of them resplendent with gold and silver ornament in relief upon the woodwork, and drawn by horses or mules whose bridles are gleaming with gold. And, if the beautiful and conscienceless Poppaea is with him, there may be a Procession of some five hundred asses, whose it is to supply her with the milk in which she bathes for the preservation of her admirable velvety skin.
There are, of course, many other individuals and types to be met with. If you happen to be traversing certain parts of Spain, the mountains of Greece, the southern provinces of Asia Minor, or the upper parts of Egypt, you will perhaps also meet with a bandit, or even with a band of them. In that case, prepare for the worst. Some of the gang have been caught and crucified: you may have passed the crosses upon your way. This does not render the rest more amiable. St. Paul takes it as natural to be thus "in peril of robbers." Perhaps certain regions of Italy itself were as dangerous as any. We have more than one account of a traveller who was last seen at such-and-such a place, and was never heard of again. It is therefore well, before undertaking a journey through suspected parts, to ascertain whether any one else is going that way. There is sure to be either an official with a military escort or some other traveller with a retinue; at least there will be some trusty man bearing letters, or some sturdy fellow whom you can hire expressly to accompany you.
After allowing for this occasional embarrassment—which was certainly not greater and almost certainly very much less than you would have encountered in the same parts of the world a century ago—it must be declared that, on the whole, travel by land in the Roman world of the year 64 was remarkably safe. If it was not very expeditious, it was probably on the average quite as much so as in the eighteenth century.
Ordinary travelling by road may not have averaged more than sixty or seventy miles a day, although hundred miles could be done without much difficulty, while a courier on urgent business could greatly increase that speed.
Next let us suppose that our friend proposes to travel by sea. As a rule navigation takes place only between the beginning of March and the middle of November, ships being kept snug in harbour during the winter months. The traveller may be sailing from Alexandria to the capital or from Rome to Cadiz or to Rhodes. If a trader of sufficient boldness, he may even be proceeding outside the empire as far as India. If so, he will pass up the Nile as far as Coptos, then take either the canal or the caravan route to Myos Hormos on the Red Sea, and thence find ship for India, with a reasonable prospect—if he escapes the Arab pirates—of completing his business and returning home in about six months. Over 120 ships, small and great, leave the above-mentioned harbour each year on the voyage to India, for Alexandria is the great depot for the trade round the Indian Ocean, and the products of India are in lively demand at Rome.
On such a remote course, however, we will not follow. Let us rather suppose that our traveller is proceeding from Alexandria, the second city of the empire, to Rome, which is the first. In this case he may enjoy the great advantage of going on board one those merchantmen belonging to the imperial service, which sail regularly with a freight of corn to feed the empire city. His port of landing will be Puteoli (Puzzuoli) in the Bay of Naples, which was then the Liverpool of Italy. The rest of the journey he will either make by the Appian Road, or, less naturally, by smaller freight-ship, putting in at Ostia, the port of Rome recently constructed by the Emperor Claudius at the mouth of the river Tiber. His ship, a well-manned and strongly-built vessel of from 500 tons up to 1100 or more, will carry one large mainsail, formed of strips of canvas strengthened by leather at their joinings, a smaller foresail, and a still smaller topsail. It will be steered by a pair of huge paddles on either side of the stern. There will be a crow's-nest on the mast, and at the bows a rehead of Rome or Alexandria or of some deity, perhaps of Castor and Pollux combined. A tolerable, but by no means a liberal, amount of cabin accommodation will be provided. A good-sized ship might reach 200 feet in length by 50 in breadth. One of them brought to Rome the great obelisk which now stands in the Piazza of St. Peter's; another ship had brought another obelisk, 400,000 bushels of wheat and other cargo, and a very large number of passengers. At a favourable season, and with a quite favourable wind, the ship may expect to reach the Bay of Naples in as little as eight or nine days: sometimes it will take ten days, sometimes as many as twelve. The ship may either proceed directly south of Crete, or it may run across to Myra in Asia Minor, or to Rhodes, and thence proceed due west. As a rule the ancient navigator preferred to keep somewhat near the shore. Other ships, picking up and putting down cargo and passengers as they went along, would pass up the Syrian coast, calling at Caesarea, Tyre, Sidon, and other places before passing either north or south of Cyprus. From such a ship it might be necessary—as it was with St. Paul and the soldiers to whose care he was committed—to tranship into another vessel proceeding directly to Italy. If, as we have imagined, the traveller is on a cornship of the Alexandria-Puteoli line, he will reach the Bay one day after passing the straits of Messina, and his vessel will sail proudly up to port without striking her topsail, the only kind of ship which was permitted to do this being such imperial liners.
There were other famous trade routes of the period. One is from Corinth; another from the Graeco-Scythian city at the mouth of the Sea of Azov, whence corn and salted fish were sent in abundance; a third from Cadiz, outside the straits of Gibraltar, by which were brought the wool and other produce of Andalusia; a fourth from Tarragona across to Ostia, the regular route for official and passenger intercourse with Spain. Yet another took you to Carthage in three days. Across the Adriatic from Brindisi you would reach in one day either Corfu or the Albanian coast at Dyrrhachium (Durazzo), where began the great highroad to the East. Given a fair wind, your ship might average 125 or 130 miles in the twenty-four hours, and, if you left Rome on Monday morning, you had a reasonable prospect of landing in Spain on the following Saturday. From Cadiz you would probably require ten or eleven days. There was, it is true, no need to come by sea from that town. There was a good road all the way, with a milestone at every Roman mile, or about 1600 yards. Unfortunately that route would generally take you nearly a month.
It is not probable that sea travelling was at all comfortable; but it was apparently quite as much so, and quite as rapid, as it was on the average a century ago. Ships were made strong and sound; nevertheless shipwrecks were very frequent, as they always have been in sailing days. Wreckers who showed false lights were not unknown. There is also little doubt that the vessels were often terribly overcrowded; one ship, it is said, brought no less than 1200 passengers from Alexandria. That on which St. Paul was wrecked had 276 souls on board, and one upon which Josephus once found himself had as many as 600. It is incidentally stated in Tacitus that a body of troops, who had been both sent to Alexandria and brought back thence by sea, were greatly debilitated in mind and body by that experience. On the other hand, as has been already stated, there was generally no such thing as a pirate to be heard of in all the waters of the Mediterranean.
A BRIEF SURVEY OF THE PROVINCES
After thus considering, however incompletely, the manner in which the people of the Roman world contrived to move about within the empire itself, we may proceed to glance at the constituent parts of the world in which they thus travelled to and fro.
And first we must draw a distinction of the highest importance between the western and eastern halves. Naturally enough, Italy itself was before all others the land of the Romans. It was the favoured land, enjoyed the fullest privileges, and was the most completely romanized in population, manners, and sentiment. Besides its larger and smaller romanized towns—of which there were about 1200—it was dotted from end to end with the country-seats and pleasure resorts of Romans. North and west of Italy were various peoples, differing widely in character, habits, and religion, as well as in physique. East of it were various other peoples differing also from each other in such respects, but for the most part marked by a common civilisation in which the West had but an almost inconsiderable share. Before the Roman conquest the nations and tribes of the West had been in general rude, unlettered, and unorganised. Except here and there in Spain, where the Phoenicians or Carthaginians had been at work, and in the Greek colonies sprung from Marseilles, they had hardly possessed such a thing as a town. They scarcely knew what was meant by civic life, with its material luxuries and graces, its art and literature. They were commonly small peoples without unity, brave fighters, but, in all those matters commonly classed as civilisation, distinctly behind the times. The superiority of the Roman in these parts was not merely one of organised strength, military skill, and political method, it was a superiority also of intellectual life and culture. In Spain, Gaul, Britain, Switzerland, the Tyrol and southern Austria, and also in North-West Africa, the Roman proceeded to organise after his own heart, to settle his colonies, to impose his language, and to inculcate his ideals. He was dealing with inferiors; this he fully recognised, and so for the most part did they.
Meanwhile to the eastward also Rome spread her conquests. Here, however, she was dealing with peoples who had already passed under influences in many respects superior to those brought by the conqueror, influences which were in a sense only beginning to educate the conqueror himself. Let us here, for the sake of clearness, make a brief digression into previous history.
Throughout the eastern half of the Mediterranean countries, conquering Rome had been face to face with an older, a more polished, a more keenly intellectual, and more artistic culture than her own. This was the civilisation of Greece. We need not dwell upon the character of Hellenic culture. Anyone who has made acquaintance with the richness of Greek literature, the clear sureness of Greek art, the keen insight of Greek science and philosophy, and the bold experiments of Greek society—especially as represented by Athens—will understand at once what is meant. When the Romans, more than two hundred years before our date, conquered Greece, in so far as they were a people of letters or of effort in abstract thought, in so far as they possessed the arts of sculpture, architecture, painting, and music, they were almost wholly indebted to Greece. Their own strength lay in solidity and gravity of character, in a strong sense of national and personal discipline, in the gift of law-making and law-obeying. In culture they stood to the Greeks of that time very much as the Germans of two centuries ago stood to the French. After their conquest by the Romans the Greeks perforce submitted to the rule of might, but the typical Greek never looked upon the Roman as socially or intellectually his equal. He became himself the philosophic, artistic, and social teacher of his conqueror. His own language was richer in literature, and it was better adapted to every form of conversation. The Latin of the Romans therefore made no progress in Greece or the Greek world. It might be made the language of the Roman courts and of official documents; but beyond this the ordinary Greek disdained to study it. On the other hand the ordinary well-educated Roman could generally speak Greek. Magistrates and officials were almost invariably thus accomplished, and in Athens or Ephesus they talked Greek as we should naturally talk French in Paris—only better, inasmuch as they learned the language in a more rational and practical way. Nero himself could act, or thought he could act, a Greek play and sing a Greek ode among the Greeks. Most probably the Roman noble had been brought up by a Greek nurse, just as so many English families formerly employed a nurse imported from France. Nor did the Greeks merely ignore the Latin language. They refused to be romanized in any other respect. Even the Roman amusements tended to disgust them, and it is to the credit of his superior refinement that the average Greek was repelled by those brutal exhibitions of gladiatorial bloodshed and slaughter over which the coarser Roman gloated.
When, next, we pass from Greece proper—that is to say, from the Grecian peninsula and the islands and Asiatic shores of the Aegean Sea—into Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, we still find the Roman conqueror annexing peoples more versed in the higher arts of life than himself. For ages there had existed in these regions various forms of advanced civilisation. The Assyrian, Babylonian, Phoenician, Hebrew, and Egyptian cultures were old before Rome was born. Later the Persian subjugated all these peoples. And then, four hundred years before the time with which we are dealing, had come the Macedonian Greek Alexander the Great, and had conquered every one of those provinces which were subsequently to form the eastern part of the Roman Empire as represented on our map. The language and culture of Alexander were Greek, and he carried these and settled them with the most determined policy in every available quarter. After his death his empire broke up into kingdoms, but those kings who succeeded him—every Antiochus of Syria and every Ptolemy of Egypt—were Greek. Their court was Greek, and Hellenism was everywhere the fashion in life, thought, letters, and art. All round the coasts, in all the great cities, on all the main routes, up all the great river valleys of these eastern kingdoms, this graecizing proceeded. Alexander had founded the city of Alexandria, and soon that great and opulent city became more the home of Greek science and literature than Athens itself. His successors founded other great cities, such as Antioch, and there also the civilisation was Greek.
Egyptians, Jews, and Syrians who were possessed of any kind of public, social, or even mercantile ambition therefore naturally spoke Greek, either only, or more often in conjunction with their native tongue. This is the reason why the Septuagint appeared in Greek; why Greek as well as Hebrew and Latin was written over the Cross; why our New Testament was written in Greek; and why Paul could travel about the eastern half of the Roman world and talk fluently wherever he went. He could address a Roman governor directly at Paphos because that governor had learned Greek at Rome, either in school or under his nurse or tutor. He could stand before the Areopagus at Athens and address that distinguished body in its own tongue because it was also one of his own tongues.
Not that one could expect the Greek culture, or even the language, to remain pure when thus spread abroad. There were blendings of Oriental elements, Egyptian, Jewish, or Syrian; but these elements were themselves derived from advanced and time-honoured civilisations.
It follows, therefore, that all through the Eastern half of its domain Rome could not contrive to romanize. She did not attempt to suppress Greek ideas; she preferred to utilise them. So long as the Roman rule was obeyed in its essentials, Rome was satisfied.
In the main, then, we have, outside Italy, two very distinct halves of the Roman world: the Eastern, with its large cities, its active civic life, its high culture, its contributions to science, art, and luxury—and, it must be added, its general dissoluteness—with here and there its pronounced leanings to Oriental fanaticism; and the Western, with very few large towns, with a life more determined by clans and tribes or country districts, with comparatively little social culture, contributing almost nothing to art or science, stronger in its contribution of natural products and virile men than in those of the more refined or artificial luxury. Over this half the Roman tongue, Roman dress, and Roman manners spread rapidly. In it Roman settlers made themselves more at home. The aim of the better classes of the natives was to render themselves as Roman as possible. It is in the western part of the empire that you will find the names which mark systematic Roman settlement and which often denote the work of an emperor. Towns such as Saragossa (Caesarea Augusta), Aosta, Augsburg, Autun (Augustodunum), and Augst are foundations of Augustus. Hence the fact that Spain and Prance speak a Latin tongue at this day, while no Latin was ever even temporarily the recognised language between the southern Adriatic and the Euphrates.
This prime division made, let us now pass quickly round the empire, making such brief observations as may appear most helpful as we go.
In the year 64 the south of Spain, the province of Baetica—of which we may speak more familiarly as Andalusia—was prosperous and peaceful, almost completely romanized and latinized. Many of its inhabitants were true Latins, most had made themselves indistinguishable from Latins. Along the river Guadalquivir there were flourishing towns, chief among them being those now known as Seville and Cordova. The whole region was one of rich pasture and tillage, and from it the merchant ships from Cadiz brought to Rome cargoes of the finest wool and of excellent olives and other fruits. The east of Spain, with Tarragona for its capital, stood next in order for its settled life and steady produce, including wine, salt fish and sauces, while in the interior the finest steel—corresponding to the Bilbao blades of more modern history—was tempered in the cold streams of the hills above the sources of the Tagus. From Portugal came cochineal and olives. In several parts of the peninsula—in Portugal, in the Asturias, and near Cartagena—were mines of gold and silver, which had been worked by the old Phoenicians and which the Romans had reopened. The chief trouble of Spain, it may be interesting to learn, was the rabbits, and against these there were no guns and no poison, but only dogs, traps, and ferrets. In Gaul there is one province long-established and fully romanized, with its capital at Narbonne, and with flourishing Roman towns, which are now familiar under such names as Aries and Nimes. This is a region over the coast of which the culture of Greece had managed to stray, centuries before, through the accident of a Greek colony having been founded at Marseilles. In this province a Roman might live and feel that he was still as good as in Italy. But beyond lay what was known as "Long-haired" Gaul, sometimes "Trousered" Gaul, so called from the distinguishing externals of its inhabitants, who wore breeches, let their hair grow long, and on their faces grew only a moustache—three things which no Roman did, and from which, even in these districts, the nobles, who were the first to romanize, were beginning to desist.
The peoples of these Gaulish provinces preferred, like all early Celtic communities, to give their adherence only to clans or tribes, and to unite no further than impulse or expediency dictated, forming no towns larger than a village, living for the most part in poor huts scattered through forests, hills, marshes, and pasture land, and content to sleep on straw, if only they could wear a fine plaid and boast of a gold ornament. The names of many such tribes still remain in the names of the towns which grew up from the chief village of each canton. Such were the Ambiani, who have given us Amiens, and the Remi, who have given us Rheims. Paris and Treves denote the administrative villages of the Parisii and Treveri. Nevertheless the country had its corn-lands and was rich in minerals and cattle, from which the hides came regularly down the Rhone to be carried to the Mediterranean markets. "Long-haired" Gaul was at this date rude and superstitious, with that weird druidical religion which the Emperor Claudius had done his best to suppress. Its chief vice was that of drunkenness. As with the French, who have largely descended from them, the proverbial passions of the Gauls were for war and for the art of speaking; but at our date the former passion was decaying and the latter gaining ground. The Gaulish provinces united at a point on the Rhone, near which necessarily arose the largest city of that part of the world, namely, Lugdunum, or Lyons, which speedily became not only a seat of administration but a noted school of eloquence.
Of Britain there is as yet little to say. For the last twenty years the Romans had done their best to conquer the Celtic tribes, who suffered, as Celtic tribes were always apt to suffer, from their own disunion. They had now reached the Trent—or rather a line from Chester to Lincoln—had just punished Boudicca (or Boadicea) for her vigorous effort at retaliation and her slaughter of 70,000 Romans or adherents of Rome, and were following the true Roman practice of securing what they had won by building military roads and establishing strong posts of control, as at Colchester, Chester, and Caerleon-on-Usk. Some amount of iron-working was being done in Britain, but its chief exports were, as they had long been, tin, salt, and hides. The British themselves had no towns. The places so called were nothing more than collections of huts, surrounded by rampart and ditch, in some easily defensible spot amid wood or marsh.
Along the Rhine it is enough to note that the Germans were being kept in hand. South of the Danube the region now known as Styria and Carinthia was rich in iron, and both here and all along the mountainous tract of the Tyrol and neighbourhood Rome was steadily pushing her language and habits by means of settlement, trading, and military occupation. It may be remarked by the way that at this date there were in use practically all the Alpine passes now familiar to us—the Mont Genevre, the Little and Great St. Bernard, the Simplon, the St. Gothard, and the Brenner.
The Upper Balkans were necessarily under military occupation, but Macedonia was a flourishing graecized province with Thessalonica—the modern Salonika—for its capital. Greece proper, known officially as Achaia, had declined in every respect since the classical age of Athens. The monuments of that city were, indeed, as sumptuous as ever; a number had been added in Roman times, though generally in inferior taste. Athens was still a sort of university, but its professors were for the most part sophists or rhetoricians, beating over again the old straws of philosophies which had once possessed a living meaning and exercised a living force. Athens herself had never properly recovered from the migration of learning to Alexandria. Delphi, the great oracular seat of the Greek world, had also declined in importance, although it could still boast of an imposing array of buildings and memorials. The centre of commerce and of official life, a Roman colony in the midst of Greece, a cosmopolitan and a dissolute place, was Corinth on the Isthmus. Here Nero had intended to cut a canal through from sea to sea—he had turned the first sod with his own hand—but his personal extravagance caused an insufficiency of funds, and the project met with the fate of the first enterprise at Panama. It was, therefore, still necessary for a traveller proceeding to the East to cross the Isthmus and reship at Cenchreae. The rest of Greece was almost all poor and sparsely populated, and many ancient sites and monuments were already suffering from neglect and dropping into ruin.
Across the Aegean, Asia Minor was in a condition of unprecedented prosperity. It contained no less than five hundred towns of considerable repute, chief among them being Smyrna and Ephesus, with their handsome public buildings, open squares, theatres, gardens, and promenades. Smyrna in particular boasted of its wide marble-paved streets crossing each other at right angles, and provided with arcades running along their sides. Its one defect was the want of proper sewers. Among the sights of the world was the huge temple at Ephesus, dedicated to Artemis, the "Great Diana" of the Acts of the Apostles. This temple, the largest in the ancient world, was 425 feet long, 220 wide, and its columns were 60 feet in height and numbered 127.
South-east of the Aegean was situated the opulent Rhodes, the handsomest and strongest port in the Mediterranean, provided with fine harbour buildings, a seat of learning, and so full of art that it contained no less than 3000 statues. In the somewhat desolate interior of Asia Minor were spacious runs for sheep and horses, but wheat also was grown, and the country could at least produce tall and sturdy slaves. In northern Galatia the common people had not yet forgotten the Celtic tongue which they had brought from Gaul over three centuries ago. In the south-east, opposite Cyprus, lay Tarsus, the birthplace of Paul, a city which combined the art of manufacturing goats' hair into tent-cloth with the pursuit of what may be called a university instruction in philosophy, science, and letters. In both these local avocations the apostle employed his youth to good purpose. Across the water Cyprus produced the copper which still bears its name.
Of Syria, rich in corn and fruits, the chief city—the third in the empire—was Antioch, a town splendidly laid out upon the Orontes in a strikingly modern fashion. A broad street with colonnades extended in a straight line through and beyond the city for four miles, and was crossed by others at right angles. This street is said to have been lighted at nights, while the Roman streets remained dark and dangerous. In the neighbourhood of the city was the celebrated park called Daphne, where the voluptuous and almost incredible dissipation of the ancient world perhaps reached its acme. Like Alexandria, Antioch was furiously addicted to horseracing.
Further down the coast Sidon produced its famous glass, and Tyre its famous purple dye. Inland from these lay the handsome city of Damascus, famed for its gardens and for its work in fine linen. Still farther south was Hierosolyma, or Jerusalem, of which it is perhaps not necessary here to give details. Its population was reckoned at a quarter of a million.
On the coast of Egypt, after you had caught sight, some thirty miles away, of the first glint from the huge marble lighthouse standing 400 feet high upon the island of Pharos, you arrived at Alexandria, the second city of the Roman world and the great emporium for the trade of Egypt, of all Eastern Africa as far as Zanzibar, and of India. From it came the papyrus paper, delicate glass-work, muslin, embroidered cloths, and such additions to luxury as roses out of season. Alexandria, built like Antioch on a rectangular plan, with its chief streets 100 feet in width, contained a Jewish quarter, controlled by a Jewish headman and a Sanhedrin; an Egyptian quarter; and a Greek quarter, in which were the splendid buildings of the Library with its 600,000 volumes, and the University, devoted to all branches of learning and science—including medicine—and provided with botanical and zoological gardens. Here also were the temple of Caesar and the fine harbour buildings. Its population, exceedingly money-loving and pleasure-loving, and comprising representatives of every Oriental people, may have numbered three-quarters of a million. The circuit of the city was about thirteen miles, and its chief street some four miles in length.
Behind it lay Egypt, with its irrigation and traffic canals kept in good order; with its monuments in far better preservation than now—the pyramids, for example, being still coated with their smooth marble sides, and not to be mounted by the present steps, from which the marble has been torn; with its rich corn-lands, its convict mines and quarries, the Siberia of antiquity; with its string of towns along the Nile and its seven or, eight millions of inhabitants—mostly speaking Coptic—and full of strange superstitions and peculiar worship of animals.
Coming westward we reach the prosperous Cyrene, and then, by the rather out-of-the-world Bight of Tripoli, Africa proper, where once ruled mighty Carthage, the colony of Tyre, and where the Phoenician or Punic language still survived among the population of mixed Phoenicians and Berbers. Here, too, are wide and luxuriant stretches of corn-land, upon which Rome depends only next, if next, to those of Alexandria. Further west are the Berber tribes of Mauretania, governed by Rome but hardly yet fully assimilated into the Roman system.
In the Mediterranean Sea lie Crete, a place which had now become of little importance; Sicily, as much Greek as Roman, fertile in crops and possessed of many a splendid Greek temple and theatre; Sardinia, an unhealthy island infested by banditti, and employed as a sort of convict station, producing some amount of grain and minerals; and Corsica, which bore much the same character for savagery as it did in times comparatively recent, and which had little reputation for any product but its second-rate honey and its wax. The Balearic Islands were chiefly noted for their excellence in the art of slinging for painters' earth, and for breeding snails for the Roman table.
It remains to say that the feeling of local pride was very strong in the rival towns of the empire. Each gloried in its distinguishing commerce and natural advantages, and the chosen emblems of the greater cities set forth their boasts with much artistic ingenuity. Thus Antioch is symbolised by a female figure seated on a rock, crowned with a turreted diadem, and holding in her hand a bunch of ears of corn, while her foot is planted on the shoulder of a half-buried figure representing the river Orontes. Alexandria, with her Horn of Plenty, her Egyptian fruits, and the representations of her elephants, asps, and panthers, as well as of her special deities, appears in relief upon a silver vessel found at Boscoreale near Pompeii and here reproduced.
Such in brief was the Roman Empire. How all this empire was governed, what was meant by emperor, governor, taxation, and justice, is matter for other chapters.
THE IMPERIAL SYSTEM: EMPEROR, SENATE, KNIGHTS, AND PEOPLE
We have seen, and succinctly traversed, the extent of the Roman world. The next step is to consider, as tersely as possible, its system of government and administration about the year 64. This task is not only entirely necessary to our immediate purpose; it is also one of great interest and profit in itself. If we are either to see in their proper light the experiences of such a man as St. Paul, or to understand the long continuance of so wide an empire, we must observe carefully the principles and methods adopted by the Romans as rulers.
We speak fluently of the "Roman Emperor" and of the "reign of Nero." What was an emperor? What were his powers, and how did he exercise them?
In the first place, it must be noted that, strictly speaking, Rome acknowledged no such thing as an autocrat. It had no monarch; the title "king" was disowned by the Caesars and entirely denied by the people; the emperor was technically not a superior sovereign, but, on the contrary, something inferior to a sovereign. He was the first citizen, the "first man of the state." The state was nominally a commonwealth, and the emperor its most important officer.
He was, to begin with, the representative of Rome as civil and military governor of all provinces containing an army, or apparently calling for an army. "Emperor" means military commander, and he was the commander-in-chief of all the forces of the empire, military or naval, but in a sense far more liberal than would now be intended by such an expression. Of all the fighting forces he had absolute control, determining their numbers, their service, all appointments, their pay, and their discharge. He moved them where he chose, and, beyond this, he possessed the power of declaring war and concluding peace. Wherever there existed an armed force, whether in the far-off field or in garrison, its obedience was due to him. In sign of this every soldier, on the first of January and on the anniversary of the emperor's accession, took a solemn oath—and an oath in those days was felt as no mere matter of form, but as a solemn act of religion—that he would loyally obey the commander-in-chief. The emperor's effigy was conspicuous in the middle of every camp, and, in small, it figured on the standard of every regiment. The sacred obligation of the soldier to an Augustus or a Nero was kept perpetually in evidence, and he was never allowed to forget it. Wherever the emperor appeared or intervened in the provinces, all other powers became subordinate to his.
Theoretically such a commander might always be deposed by the Roman people, acting through its Senate. In reality he was master of the situation. If he was ever deposed, or if a new commander was ever appointed, it was by the army. If he proved a tyrant, there was no other means of getting rid of him than by the army, unless it were by assassination. At such times the Senate might make a show of naming the successor, and the army might make a show of agreeing with the Senate, but such expressions, as Tacitus repeats, were "empty and meaningless words." The madman Caligula had been assassinated. When, four years after our date, Nero was compelled to flee from his palace and was persuaded into committing suicide, it was because the soldiers had declared against him and had elected another.
The vast powers of the emperor had come into the hands of one man simply because the republic had been found incompetent to handle its empire, whether from a military or a financial point of view. It managed neither so consistently nor so honestly as did the individual.
The emperor, then, by a constitutional fiction, was an officer of the commonwealth, commanding its forces, not only with the freedom of action which Rome had always allowed to its experts in dealing with the enemy, but with that freedom greatly enlarged, and with a tenure of the office perpetually renewed.
But to him that hath shall be given—especially if he is in a position to insist on the gift. The emperor's military authority, his position as governor of provinces, could not alone rightfully qualify him to control Rome itself, with its laws, its magistrates, its domestic and provincial policy. Theoretically the Roman emperor never did control these matters.
In practice he did with them very much as he chose. If he seriously wished a certain course to be followed, a certain law to be passed or abolished, even a certain man to be elected to an office, it was promptly done. But how could he thus perpetually interfere and yet appear to remain a constitutional officer? Not through the mere obsequiousness of every one concerned, including the Senate. That would be too transparent, clumsy, and invidious. It was necessary that he should possess some adequate appearance of real authority, and he was therefore ingeniously invested with that authority. It was thus. There were under the commonwealth certain annual officers of wide and rather indefinite powers called "tribunes of the commons." These persons could veto any measure which they declared to be in opposition to the interests of the people. They could also summon the Senate, and bring proposals before it. Meanwhile their persons were "sacrosanct," or inviolable, during their term of office. Here lay the opportunity. The emperor was invested by the Senate with these "powers of the tribune." He was not actually elected a tribune, for the office was only annual and could not be held along with any other, whereas the emperor must have the prerogatives always, and in conjunction with any other functions which he might choose to hold. He, therefore, only received the corresponding "powers" and privileges. This position enabled him to veto a measure whenever he chose, and with impunity. Naturally therefore it became the custom, as far as possible, to find out his wishes beforehand, and to move accordingly. He could also, in the same right, summon the Senate and bring measures, or get them brought, before it. To make certainty doubly certain, he was granted the right to what we should call "the first business on the notice-paper."
Observe further the shrewdness of the first emperor, Augustus, when he selected this particular position. The "tribunes of the commons" were constitutionally popular champions; they represented the interests of the common people. By assuming a position similar to theirs, the emperor—or commander-in-chief—made it appear to the common people that he was their chief and perpetual representative, and that their interests were bound up with his authority. He took them under his wing, and saw, among other things, that they did not starve or go stinted of amusements. He saw to it that they had corn for their bread, plenty of water, and games in the circus. His "bread and games" kept them quiet.
Supported by the army on one side, with his person secure, enjoying the right of initiative and the right of veto, this officer of the "commonwealth" became indeed the Colossus who bestrode the Roman world. He was invariably made also the Pontifex Maximus, or chief guardian of the religious interests of Rome. He might in addition receive other constitutional appointments—for example, that of supervisor or corrector of morals—whenever these might suit a special purpose. What more could a man desire, if he was satisfied to forego the name of autocrat so long as he possessed the substance? It was quite as much to the purpose to be called Princeps, or "head of the state," as to be called a king, like the Parthian or other Oriental monarchs. Among the Romans, therefore, "Princeps" was his regular title. The Graeco-Oriental half of the empire, which had long been accustomed to kings and to treating them almost as gods, frankly styled this head of the state "king" or "autocrat," but no true Roman would forget himself so far as to lapse into this vulgar truth.
One other title, however, the Romans did attach to their "Princeps." Something was still wanting to bring home, to both the Roman and the provincial, the peculiarly exalted position of so great a man; something which should be a recognition of that majesty which made him almost divine, at least with the divinity that doth hedge a king. The title selected for this purpose was Augustus, a word for which there is no nearer English equivalent than "His Highness," or perhaps "His Majesty," if we imagine that term applied to one who, by a legal fiction, is not a king. The insane Caligula called himself, or let himself be called, "Lord and Master," and later Domitian temporarily added to this title "God," but even Nero claimed neither of these modest epithets.
Here, then, is the position of Nero: Commander-in-chief of all the forces of Rome by land and sea, and master of its foreign policy; the titular protector of its commons and therefore inviolable of person and virtual controller of laws and resolutions; official head of the state religion; rejoicer in the style of "His Highness the Head of the State." To speak ill of him, or to do anything derogatory to his authority, was lese majeste.
Reference has several times been made to the Senate. It is time now to speak briefly of that body. For the sake of clearness, however, we must include a survey of the recognised constituent elements or "orders" of Roman society.
The body politic consisted nominally of all who where known as "Roman citizens." These included men of every rank, from the artisan, the agricultural labourer, or even the idle loafer—of whom there was more than plenty—up through every grade of the middle classes to the richest and bluest-blooded aristocrat who considered himself in point of birth more than the equal of the emperor. Any such citizen was secured in person and property by the Roman laws. It was a punishable act for the local authorities at Philippi to take Paul, a "Roman citizen," and, before he was condemned, chastise him with rods.
According to the letter of the constitution, the power of electing all officers of state, and of passing laws, had belonged to this miscellaneous body, the "people," gathered in assembly. Meanwhile the power of determining foreign policy and controlling the finances had lain with a special body, consisting largely of the aristocracy and of ex-officers of state, known as the "Senate." We are not here concerned with the causes of the changes which buried this constitution out of sight, but only with the actual state of things in the year 64.
In point of fact there were, under the emperors, no longer any assemblies of the "people"; the people at large neither elected nor legislated. The chief articles of the constitution had fallen into complete abeyance during the troublous times which preceded the establishment of that poorly disguised monarchy which we know as the empire. All real power of electing and law-making came to be in the hands of the Senate, acting with the emperor. While the emperor dominated the Senate, he was nevertheless glad to fall back upon that body in justification of his own actions and as a means of keeping up the constitutional pretence. He permitted the Senate to pass resolutions, and to exercise authority, just so far as there was no conflict with his own pronounced wishes and interests. It was not his policy to interfere and irritate when there was no occasion. On the other hand, when he desired a piece of legislation or an important administrative novelty, he preferred that it should be backed up by the sanction, or promoted by the apparently spontaneous action, of the Senate. It then bore a better appearance, and was less open to cavil. The people are no longer consulted at all in such matters. They have no say in them, for they have neither plebiscite nor representative government.
It must not be supposed that there never was friction between emperor and Senate. The Senate was often—or rather generally—servile, because it was intimidated. But there were times when it was inclined to assert itself; some of its members occasionally allowed themselves a certain freedom of speech, toward which one emperor might be surprisingly lenient or good-naturedly contemptuous, and another outrageously vindictive. In the year 64 the Senate was outwardly docile enough, although at heart it was anything but loyal to his Highness Nero the Head of the State. It must always be remembered that among the Senate were included many of the highest-born, proudest, and strictest of the Roman nobles or men of eminence. To them the whole succession of emperors was still a series of upstarts—the family of the Caesars—usurping powers which properly belonged to the Senate. You could not expect these persons, aristocrats at heart, and many of them true patriots, bearing names distinguished throughout Roman history, to acquiesce in the spectacle of one who was no better than they, as he passed up to his huge palace on the Palatine Hill, escorted by his guards, or as he entered the Senate-House to give what were practically his orders, perhaps scarcely deigning to recognise men whose families had been illustrious while his was obscure. At times a member here or there was calculating his own chances of supplanting the man who galled him by condescension, or coldness, or even insult. These aristocrats felt as the French nobles might feel with Napoleon. And on his side the emperor, good or bad, never felt quite safe from a plot to overthrow him. On the whole these earlier emperors were much engaged in keeping the Senate in its place, and were inclined, with quite sufficient reason, to be jealous and suspicious of its more important members.
It was natural, therefore, that they should keep a very practical control over the composition of that body. The situation was much as if a modern nation were ruled by a virtual autocrat assisted by a House of Peers. The senators and their families formed a "senatorial order." So far as the Romans had such a thing as a peerage under the empire, it is to be found in the senatorial order. And as a title may now be either hereditary or conferred by the sovereign as the "fount of honour," so, under the Roman emperors, the right to belong to the senatorial order might come from birth or from the choice of the head of the state. Normally you belonged to the "order" if you were the son of a senator; you ranked in that class of society. To belong to the Senate itself and to take part in its debates you must then have held a certain public office and must possess not less than L8000. The L8000 is the minimum. Most senators were rich, and some were enormously wealthy. They are found with a capital of L3,000,000 or L4,000,000 and an income up to L150,000. As for the public office which you must first hold, you could not even be a candidate for it unless you were already of the "order." If, when you are a senator, there is anything serious against you, or if you become impoverished, your name may be expunged from the list. Otherwise you remain a senator all your life, and your son in turn is of the "order," and may pass into the Senate by the same process. If you were a popular or highly deserving person, and from any accident had lost your property, the emperor would frequently make up the deficiency, or your brother senators would subscribe the necessary amount.
But an emperor could meanwhile raise to the "order" anyone he chose. He could give him standing, and so make him eligible as a candidate for that public office which was preliminary to entering the actual Senate. Moreover, when it came to the elections to this office which served as the indispensable stepping-stone to the Senate-House, the vacancies were limited in number, and the emperor had the right of either nominating or recommending the candidates whom he preferred. Needless to say, those candidates were invariably elected. It was, of course, monstrous arrogance for Caligula to boast that he could make his horse a consul if he chose, but the taunt contained a measure of truth.
Let us then put the case thus. Imagine that a modern senate is recruited from persons whose names are in the Peerage and Baronetage, and that, before any scion of such a family can enter the Senate itself, he must go through some sort of under-secretaryship, to which he must first be elected.
But next imagine that the sovereign can raise to the rank of "peerage or baronetage" some favoured person whose family does not yet figure in Debrett. Such a man is then entitled to put his name on the list of candidates for the necessary under-secretaryship, and, when the sovereign reviews that list, he marks the candidate as nominated or recommended by himself. So he passes into the Senate.
Most emperors did this but sparingly. They made the Senate an aristocratic and wealthy body, keeping its numbers at somewhere near 600. We must not be perpetually assuming that the Caesars were either reckless or unscrupulous, because two or three were of that character. Many of them were remarkably capable and sagacious men. They recognised the need of ability and high character in their Senate. They had themselves enough of the old Roman exclusiveness to keep their honours from being made too cheap, and the probability is that under their rule the Senate was quite as honourable and quite as able a body as it was at any time under the republic.