Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and the addition of a marginal index, in which the dates before Christ are placed by the side of those of the city; also in the incorporation of the results of " a series of recent investigations, for example, with respect to the political position of the subjects of Rome, and the development of the arts." “Further, in the third book, the internal relations of the Roman community, during the Carthaginian wars, are not merely sketched, as in the first edition, but treated with the fulness demanded as well by the importance as the difficulty of the subject."

If we were to attempt to point out the one feature which distinguishes Mommsen's History of Rome from those of all other writers, it would probably be this, that an intimate knowledge of the coins, inscriptions, and various languages of ancient Italy, to which he devoted years of study, has enabled him to make use of materials to which no former historian has had access. These studies have led him to explore every corner of the peninsula, to examine the relation of the differ

ent dialects — and so of the different races to each other, to . detect national and provincial usages which had until then

lain hidden, and, most of all, to appreciate and bring clearly to light the grand fact of the unity of the Italian race, as distinguished from the various intruders, — Greek, Japygian, Gallic, Etruscan, or Ligurian. “ It is the history of Italy, not the history of the city of Rome, which is to be told here," is the foundation on which he has built. The great Italian

- brother to the Greek and cousin to the Celtic and Slavonian - was divided into two great branches, the Latin and the Sabellian ; this latter again comprised the Umbrians,

1 Samnites, Sabines, Oscans, &c. The first two books, bis zur

. Einigung Italiens (“ to the Union of Italy” — thus through the war with Pyrrhus) form of themselves a noble epic, telling how Rome, originally a simple Latin town, won first the leadership, then the rule of the Latin race; how then the mighty struggle followed between the two branches of the Italian race, headed respectively by Rome and Samnium, in which of course the centralized power of Rome prevailed at last over the brave and free but disunited Samnites; and how the Italian nation, now united and powerful, easily subdued the Greeks, Etruscans,

race

and Gauls who had ventured on their soil. It is on philological grounds that this ethnological theory is built; Prof. Mommsen having proved, in his earlier works, (Die Unteritalischen Dialekte, and others,) the essential identity in race of these Italian nations.

No less striking than the general point of view thus gained is the manner in which he traces the steady and pitiless determination by which Rome extended her sway, one slow step at a time, always binding her new possessions at once as with bars and chains, and never advancing a second step until the former one was made sure. The maxim of her rule was to push forward her military posts (or Latin colonies) to the very farthest point of the conquests, and bind them to the mother city by military roads, – the Appian and Latin ways to the south, the Valerian to the east, the Flaminian and Cassian to the north. Norba and Signia separated the Equians and Volscians, and threatened both; Nepe and Sutrium were a guard on the side of Etruria ; Cales overawed on the one hand the

t newly-acquired Capua, on the other the Samnite Teanum ; Fregellæ, and afterwards Sora and Alba Fucensio, were thorns in the sides of the Pentrian Samnites ; Luceria and Venusia were boldly planted in the rear of the hostile Samnites, to give heart to the Apulian allies; Narnia commanded the Flaminian way; Ilatria and Sena Gallica ruled the Adriatic coast ; Saticula guarded the most important pass between Samnium and Campania. These and others, at first equal members of the Latin confederacy, but, as Rome grew, her subject allies, were like so many iron locks, and the splendid roads which connected them like heavy chains, firmly riveted over the conquered country, and fastening it indissolubly to Rome.

It is natural that so stout a defender of Italian nationality should hold that the Etruscan influence on Rome was much less than it has been represented, and indeed that the Etruscan civilization has been much overrated. In Southern Etruria, indeed, where there was active commerce, and constant intercourse with the Greeks, we find a considerable degree of artistic culture, and a school of native art not much superior to the Chinese; but in the purely Etruscan cities of the North, and particularly Volaterræ, the most secluded and unmixed of them all, we meet with hardly any traces of art. The nations of Italian race, and even the Romans, stern and practical as they were, followed more freely and successfully the impulse of Greek art than their rudely luxurious neighbors. The influence of the Greeks over the Romans he places very early and very high, tracing it in the institutions of Servius Tullius, in the games of the Ludi Romani (almost identical with those of Olympia), in the very early supplanting of the Roman flute by the Greek lyre, in the forms of building in stone, in the alphabet, and in the correspondence of Greek with Roman measures, - amphora, modius (from médiuvos), congius (from xoevs), hemina, cyathus, &c. So far from the Romans having borrowed the alphabet from the Etruscans, they did not even use the same modification of the original Greek alphabet; the Romans having received theirs, as he learns by internal evidence, from Sicily, and having even introduced, from time to time, the changes it underwent in Sicily, while the Etruscans used an older and very different form, obtained, it is likely, from Athens.

Inductions like the above, derived from comparison of alphabets, etymology, weights and measures, coins, &c., are frequently introduced, and are always curious' as well as valuable. Thus in the fact that the oldest Greek colonies in Italy used the coins and weights of Asia Minor, rather than of Greece, he finds a corroboration of the tradition that it was the Phocæans who first of the Greeks penetrated the Western seas. Again, he proves that the list of the Latin cities given by Dionysius was not a contemporary one, from the fact that Gabii stands in the alphabetical order of G, while the letter G did not come into use until long after this period; it would therefore have stood among the C's, had it been the original list. But perhaps the most valuable of this class of results are found in those pages in which he investigates the height of civilization reached by the Greek and Italian races, first at their separation from the Indo-Germanic stock, and again when they separated from each other. By a few simple comparisons of words in the different languages, he shows that at this earlier period the various families were living a pastoral life, agriculture probably not having been yet introduced. But before the second division of races — that of the Italians from the Greeks — took place, the agricultural must have taken the place of the pastoral mode of life, because, while pastoral terms, as well as those expressing domestic relations and other very primitive ideas, agree in the three languages, agricultural terms agree in the Greek and Latin languages, but differ from those in the Sanscrit. Thus the Sanscrit gâus is Latin bos, Greek Boüs ; Sanscrit avis, Latin ovis, Greek õis; Sanscrit açvas, Latin equus, Greek in Tos; while

,

ίππος ; the Sanscrit aritram does not correspond in meaning to the Latin aratrum, but means an oar, in which signification we trace its root in épetuós, remus, and the English rudder. This example shows that, although the plough had not been invented at the dispersion of the races, water-travel was known, the word originally signifying oar having been afterwards applied by the Græco-Latin races to the instrument which turns up the land, as that does the water, thus reversing our modern metaphor of ploughing the waters. But he shows further that, although the boat was known, - Sanscrit nâus, Latin navis, Greek vaùs — and the oar in use, the advance to sail-navigation was made by the Greeks and Romans independently, velum being a wholly distinct word from iotlov. It would be easy to

a . cite illustrations of this process of comparative philology, which is susceptible of very wide application, but we will only adduce one, taken from another part of the work. He shows in the

. chapter on Metrology (Mass und Schrift) that the primitive mode of reckoning time among all nations was by months, and that a considerable time elapsed before the important step was taken of combining these into years. “For this reason," he continues, “ the names of the years are among the Indo-Germanic peoples as recent and various as the name of the month is primitive and identical (uralt und gleichartig).(p. 193.)

With regard to the vexed questions of the Roman Constitution, there is perhaps less room for originality ; but the reader is struck with the freshness given a hackneyed subject by a writer of genius, who is able to bring to it all the erudition of his own nation, illuminated by a common sense equal to the English, — of the institutions of which nation he is an evident admirer and careful student. According to his view, the family, with its absolute head, the pater-familias, is the type of Roman

[ocr errors]

institutions; “the form of the political community (Staatsgemeinschaft) is in particulars as well as in general copied from the family.” (p. 59.) “As the head of the family is in the house, not the most. powerful, but the only powerful, so is the. king, not the first, but the only possessor of power in the state.” (p. 60.) “ The king is thus only a common citizen, whom merit or fortune, but, above all, the necessity that there must be one master in every house, has placed over his equals, the peasant over peasants, the warrior over warriors.” (p. 62.) As the power of the pater-familias is limited by the family council, that of the chief magistrate is by the senate, - neither having power to command, but only to advise. And as the family relation involved the existence of a dependent, protected class, by the side of the free members, so the state consisted of the free citizens (patricians), and the residents (Insassen). From these “there grew up by the side of the citizens (Bürgerschaft) a second Roman community; out of the clients was developed the Plebs.” “In point of law there is no difference between the client and the plebeian, the dependant and the man of the people; but in point of fact a very important one, inasmuch as the one title gives prominence to the relation of dependence on some one of the citizens, with full political rights, while the other merely indicates the want of such rights.” (p. 80.) This ingenious decision of a question which has been disputed ever since the time of Niebuhr, would reconcile many difficulties if admitted.

In the reform of Servius Tullius he sees only a contrivance for shifting upon the plebeians their share of the burdens of the state, which had hitherto rested exclusively on the full citizens. But although the object was certainly not political equality, this was as certainly — once the first step taken — inevitable as a result. The institutions of Servius Tullius, purely military in their origin, were soon extended to civil matters, and it was not long before the equality enjoyed in one field was demanded in another. “He who is forced to become a soldier must have it in his power also to become an officer, so long as the state retains its vigor; in Rome, doubtless, plebeians could now be appointed centurions and military tribunes, and with this even the entrance into the Senate, to

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »