Nationality, Religion, and Education

Paramount Ascendency of Latinism and Hellenism

In the great struggle of the nationalities within the wide circuit of the Roman empire, the secondary nations seem at this period on the wane or disappearing. The most important of them all, the Phoenician, received through the destruction of Carthage a mortal wound from which it slowly bled to death. The districts of Italy which had hitherto preserved their old language and manners, Etruria and Samnium, were not only visited by the heaviest blows of the Sullan reaction, but were compelled also by the political levelling of Italy to adopt the Latin language and customs in public intercourse, so that the old native languages were reduced to popular dialects rapidly decaying. There no longer appears throughout the bounds of the Roman state any nationality entitled even to compete with the Roman and the Greek.


On the other hand the Latin nationality was, as respected both the extent of its diffusion and the depth of its hold, in the most decided ascendant. As after the Social war any portion of Italian soil might belong to any Italian in full Roman ownership, and any god of an Italian temple might receive Roman gifts; as in all Italy, with the exception of the region beyond the Po, the Roman law thenceforth had exclusive authority, superseding all other civic and local laws; so the Roman language at that time became the universal language of business, and soon likewise the universal language of cultivated intercourse, in the whole peninsula from the Alps to the Sicilian Straits. But it no longer restricted itself to these natural limits. The mass of capital accumulating in Italy, the riches of its products, the intelligence of its agriculturists, the versatility of its merchants, found no adequate scope in the peninsula; these circumstances and the public service carried the Italians in great numbers to the provinces.(1) Their privileged position there rendered the Roman language and the Roman law privileged also, even where Romans were not merely transacting business with each other.(2) Everywhere the Italians kept together as compact and organized masses, the soldiers in their legions, the merchants of every larger town as special corporations, the Roman burgesses domiciled or sojourning in the particular provincial court-district as "circuits" (-conventus civium Romanorum-) with their own list of jurymen and in some measure with a communal constitution; and, though these provincial Romans ordinarily returned sooner or later to Italy, they nevertheless gradually laid the foundations of a fixed population in the provinces, partly Roman, partly mixed, attaching itself to the Roman settlers. We have already mentioned that it was in Spain, where the Roman army first became a standing one, that distinct provincial towns with Italian constitution were first organized—Carteia in 583,(3) Valentia in 616,(4) and at a later date Palma and Pollentia.(5) Although the interior was still far from civilized,—the territory of the Vaccaeans, for instance, being still mentioned long after this time as one of the rudest and most repulsive places of abode for the cultivated Italian—authors and inscriptions attest that as early as the middle of the seventh century the Latin language was in common use around New Carthage and elsewhere along the coast. Gracchus first distinctly developed the idea of colonizing, or in other words of Romanizing, the provinces of the Roman state by Italian emigration, and endeavoured to carry it out; and, although the conservative opposition resisted the bold project, destroyed for the most part its attempted beginnings, and prevented its continuation, yet the colony of Narbo was preserved, important even of itself as extending the domain of the Latin tongue, and far more important still as the landmark of a great idea, the foundation- stone of a mighty structure to come. The ancient Gallic, and in fact the modern French, type of character, sprang out of that settlement, and are in their ultimate origin creations of Gaius Gracchus. But the Latin nationality not only filled the bounds of Italy and began to pass beyond them; it came also to acquire intrinsically a deeper intellectual basis. We find it in the course of creating a classical literature, and a higher instruction of its own; and, though in comparison with the Hellenic classics and Hellenic culture we may feel ourselves tempted to attach little value to the feeble hothouse products of Italy, yet, so far as its historical development was primarily concerned, the quality of the Latin classical literature and the Latin culture was of far less moment than the fact that they subsisted side by side with the Greek; and, sunken as were the contemporary Hellenes in a literary point of view, one might well apply in this case also the saying of the poet, that the living day-labourer is better than the dead Achilles.


But, however rapidly and vigorously the Latin language and nationality gain ground, they at the same time recognize the Hellenic nationality as having an entirely equal, indeed an earlier and better title, and enter everywhere into the closest alliance with it or become intermingled with it in a joint development. The Italian revolution, which otherwise levelled all the non-Latin nationalities in the peninsula, did not disturb the Greek cities of Tarentum, Rhegium, Neapolis, Locri.(6) In like manner Massilia, although now enclosed by Roman territory, remained continuously a Greek city and, just as such, firmly connected with Rome. With the complete Latinizing of Italy the growth of Hellenizing went hand in hand. In the higher circles of Italian society Greek training became an integral element of their native culture. The consul of 623, the -pontifex maximus- Publius Crassus, excited the astonishment even of the native Greeks, when as governor of Asia he delivered his judicial decisions, as the case required, sometimes in ordinary Greek, sometimes in one of the four dialects which had become written languages. And if the Italian literature and art for long looked steadily towards the east, Hellenic literature and art now began to look towards the west. Not only did the Greek cities in Italy continue to maintain an active intellectual intercourse with Greece, Asia Minor, and Egypt, and confer on the Greek poets and actors who had acquired celebrity there the like recognition and the like honours among themselves; in Rome also, after the example set by the destroyer of Corinth at his triumph in 608, the gymnastic and aesthetic recreations of the Greeks— competitions in wrestling as well as in music, acting, reciting, and declaiming—came into vogue.(7) Greek men of letters even thus early struck root in the noble society of Rome, especially in the Scipionic circle, the most prominent Greek members of which—the historian Polybius and the philosopher Panaetius—belong rather to the history of Roman than of Greek development. But even in other less illustrious circles similar relations occur; we may mention another contemporary of Scipio, the philosopher Clitomachus, because his life at the same time presents a vivid view of the great intermingling of nations at this epoch. A native of Carthage, then a disciple of Carneades at Athens, and afterwards his successor in his professorship, Clitomachus held intercourse from Athens with the most cultivated men of Italy, the historian Aulus Albinus and the poet Lucilius, and dedicated on the one hand a scientific work to Lucius Censorinus the Roman consul who opened the siege of Carthage, and on the other hand a philosophic consolatory treatise to his fellow-citizens who were conveyed to Italy as slaves. While Greek literary men of note had hitherto taken up their abode temporarily in Rome as ambassadors, exiles, or otherwise, they now began to settle there; for instance, the already-mentioned Panaetius lived in the house of Scipio, and the hexameter-maker Archias of Antioch settled at Rome in 652 and supported himself respectably by the art of improvising and by epic poems on Roman consulars. Even Gaius Marius, who hardly understood a line of his -carmen- and was altogether as ill adapted as possible for a Maecenas, could not avoid patronizing the artist in verse. While intellectual and literary life thus brought the more genteel, if not the purer, elements of the two nations into connection with each other, on the other hand the arrival of troops of slaves from Asia Minor and Syria and the mercantile immigration from the Greek and half-Greek east brought the coarsest strata of Hellenism—largely alloyed with Oriental and generally barbaric ingredients—into contact with the Italian proletariate, and gave to that also a Hellenic colouring. The remark of Cicero, that new phrases and new fashions first make their appearance in maritime towns, probably had a primary reference to the semi-Hellenic character of Ostia, Puteoli, and Brundisium, where with foreign wares foreign manners also first found admission and became thence more widely diffused.

Mixture of Peoples

The immediate result of this complete revolution in the relations of nationality was certainly far from pleasing. Italy swarmed with Greeks, Syrians, Phoenicians, Jews, Egyptians, while the provinces swarmed with Romans; sharply defined national peculiarities everywhere came into mutual contact, and were visibly worn off; it seemed as if nothing was to be left behind but the general impress of utilitarianism. What the Latin character gained in diffusion it lost in freshness; especially in Rome itself, where the middle class disappeared the soonest and most entirely, and nothing was left but the grandees and the beggars, both in like measure cosmopolitan. Cicero assures us that about 660 the general culture in the Latin towns stood higher than in Rome; and this is confirmed by the literature of this period, whose most pleasing, healthiest, and most characteristic products, such as the national comedy and the Lucilian satire, are with greater justice described as Latin, than as Roman. That the Italian Hellenism of the lower orders was in reality nothing but a repulsive cosmopolitanism tainted at once with all the extravagances of culture and with a superficially whitewashed barbarism, is self-evident; but even in the case of the better society the fine taste of the Scipionic circle did not remain the permanent standard. The more the mass of society began to take interest in Greek life, the more decidedly it resorted not to the classical literature, but to the most modern and frivolous productions of the Greek mind; instead of moulding the Roman character in the Hellenic spirit, they contented themselves with borrowing that sort of pastime which set their own intellect to work as little as possible. In this sense the Arpinate landlord Marcus Cicero, the father of the orator, said that among the Romans, just as among Syrian slaves, each was the less worth, the more he understood Greek.

National Decomposition

This national decomposition is, like the whole age, far from pleasing, but also like that age significant and momentous. The circle of peoples, which we are accustomed to call the ancient world, advances from an outward union under the authority of Rome to an inward union under the sway of the modern culture resting essentially on Hellenic elements. Over the ruins of peoples of the second rank the great historical compromise between the two ruling nations is silently completed; the Greek and Latin nationalities conclude mutual peace. The Greeks renounce exclusive claims for their language in the field of culture, as do the Romans for theirs in the field of politics; in instruction Latin is allowed to stand on a footing of equality—restricted, it is true, and imperfect— with Greek; on the other hand Sulla first allows foreign ambassadors to speak Greek before the Roman senate without an interpreter. The time heralds its approach, when the Roman commonwealth will pass into a bilingual state and the true heir of the throne and the ideas of Alexander the Great will arise in the west, at once a Roman and a Greek.

The suppression of the secondary, and the mutual interpenetration of the two primary nationalities, which are thus apparent on a general survey of national relations, now fall to be more precisely exhibited in detail in the several fields of religion, national education, literature, and art.


The Roman religion was so intimately interwoven with the Roman commonwealth and the Roman household—so thoroughly in fact the pious reflection of the Roman burgess-world—that the political and social revolution necessarily overturned also the fabric of religion. The ancient Italian popular faith fell to the ground; over its ruins rose—like the oligarchy and the -tyrannis- rising over the ruins of the political commonwealth—on the one side unbelief, state-religion, Hellenism, and on the other side superstition, sectarianism, the religion of the Orientals, The germs certainly of both, as indeed the germs of the politico-social revolution also, may be traced back to the previous epoch (iii. 109-117). Even then the Hellenic culture of the higher circles was secretly undermining their ancestral faith; Ennius introduced the allegorizing and historical versions of the Hellenic religion into Italy; the senate, which subdued Hannibal, had to sanction the transference of the worship of Cybele from Asia Minor to Rome, and to take the most serious steps against other still worse superstitions, particularly the Bacchanalian scandal. But, as during the preceding period the revolution generally was rather preparing its way in men's minds than assuming outward shape, so the religious revolution was in substance, at any rate, the work only of the Gracchan and Sullan age.

Greek Philosophy

Let us endeavour first to trace the tendency associating itself with Hellenism. The Hellenic nation, which bloomed and faded far earlier than the Italian, had long ago passed the epoch of faith and thenceforth moved exclusively in the sphere of speculation and reflection; for long there had been no religion there—nothing but philosophy. But even the philosophic activity of the Hellenic mind had, when it began to exert influence on Rome, already left the epoch of productive speculation far behind it, and had arrived at the stage at which there is not only no origination of truly new systems, but even the power of apprehending the more perfect of the older systems begins to wane and men restrict themselves to the repetition, soon passing into the scholastic tradition, of the less complete dogmas of their predecessors; at that stage, accordingly, when philosophy, instead of giving greater depth and freedom to the mind, rather renders it shallow and imposes on it the worst of all chains—chains of its own forging. The enchanted draught of speculation, always dangerous, is, when diluted and stale, certain poison. The contemporary Greeks presented it thus flat and diluted to the Romans, and these had not the judgment either to refuse it or to go back from the living schoolmasters to the dead masters. Plato and Aristotle, to say nothing of the sages before Socrates, remained without material influence on the Roman culture, although their illustrious names were freely used, and their more easily understood writings were probably read and translated. Accordingly the Romans became in philosophy simply inferior scholars of bad teachers.

Leading Schools
Newer Academy
Epicurus and Zeno

Besides the historico-rationalistic conception of religion, which resolved the myths into biographies of various benefactors of the human race living in the grey dawn of early times whom superstition had transformed into gods, or Euhemerism as it was called,(8) there were chiefly three philosophical schools that came to be of importance for Italy; viz. the two dogmatic schools of Epicurus (484) and Zeno (491) and the sceptical school of Arcesilaus (513) and Carneades (541-625), or, to use the school-names, Epicureanism, the Stoa, and the newer Academy. The last of these schools, which started from the impossibility of assured knowledge and in its stead conceded as possible only a provisional opinion sufficient for practical needs, presented mainly a polemical aspect, seeing that it caught every proposition of positive faith or of philosophic dogmatism in the meshes of its dilemmas. So far it stands nearly on a parallel with the older method of the sophists; except that, as may be conceived, the sophists made war more against the popular faith, Carneades and his disciples more against their philosophical colleagues. On the other hand Epicurus and Zeno agreed both in their aim of rationally explaining the nature of things, and in their physiological method, which set out from the conception of matter. They diverged, in so far as Epicurus, following the atomic theory of Democritus, conceived the first principle as rigid matter, and evolved the manifoldness of things out of this matter merely by mechanical variations; whereas Zeno, forming his views after the Ephesian Heraclitus, introduces even into his primordial matter a dynamic antagonism and a movement of fluctuation up and down. From this are derived the further distinctions—that in the Epicurean system the gods as it were did not exist or were at the most a dream of dreams, while the Stoical gods formed the ever-active soul of the world, and were as spirit, as sun, as God powerful over the body, the earth, and nature; that Epicurus did not, while Zeno did, recognize a government of the world and a personal immortality of the soul; that the proper object of human aspiration was according to Epicurus an absolute equilibrium disturbed neither by bodily desire nor by mental conflict, while it was according to Zeno a manly activity always increased by the constant antagonistic efforts of the mind and body, and striving after a harmony with nature perpetually in conflict and perpetually at peace. But in one point all these schools were agreed with reference to religion, that faith as such was nothing, and had necessarily to be supplemented by reflection— whether this reflection might consciously despair of attaining any result, as did the Academy; or might reject the conceptions of the popular faith, as did the school of Epicurus; or might partly retain them with explanation of the reasons for doing so, and partly modify them, as did the Stoics.

Carneades at Rome

It was accordingly only a natural result, that the first contact of Hellenic philosophy with the Roman nation equally firm in faith and adverse to speculation should be of a thoroughly hostile character. The Roman religion was entirely right in disdaining alike the assaults and the reasoned support of these philosophical systems, both of which did away with its proper character. The Roman state, which instinctively felt itself assailed when religion was attacked, reasonably assumed towards the philosophers the attitude which a fortress assumes towards the spies of the army advancing to besiege it, and as early as 593 dismissed the Greek philosophers along with the rhetoricians from Rome. In fact the very first debut of philosophy on a great scale in Rome was a formal declaration of war against faith and morals. It was occasioned by the occupation of Oropus by the Athenians, a step which they commissioned three of the most esteemed professors of philosophy, including Carneades the master of the modern sophistical school, to justify before the senate (599). The selection was so far appropriate, as the utterly scandalous transaction defied any justification in common sense; whereas it was quite in keeping with the circumstances of the case, when Carneades proved by thesis and counter-thesis that exactly as many and as cogent reasons might be adduced in praise of injustice as in praise of justice, and when he showed in the best logical form that with equal propriety the Athenians might be required to surrender Oropus and the Romans to confine themselves once more to their old straw huts on the Palatine. The young men who were masters of the Greek language were attracted in crowds by the scandal as well as by the rapid and emphatic delivery of the celebrated man; but on this occasion at least Cato could not be found fault with, when he not only bluntly enough compared the dialectic arguments of the philosophers to the tedious dirges of the wailing-women, but also insisted on the senate dismissing a man who understood the art of making right wrong and wrong right, and whose defence was in fact nothing but a shameless and almost insulting confession of wrong. But such dismissals had no great effect, more especially as the Roman youth could not be prevented from hearing philosophic discourses at Rhodes and Athens. Men became accustomed first to tolerate philosophy at least as a necessary evil, and ere long to seek for the Roman religion, which in its simplicity was no longer tenable, a support in foreign philosophy—a support which no doubt ruined it as faith, but in return at any rate allowed the man of culture decorously to retain in some measure the names and forms of the popular creed. But this support could neither be Euhemerism, nor the system of Carneades or of Epicurus.

Euhemerism Not an Adequate Support

The historical version of the myths came far too rudely into collision with the popular faith, when it declared the gods directly to be men; Carneades called even their existence in question, and Epicurus denied to them at least any influence on the destinies of men. Between these systems and the Roman religion no alliance was possible; they were proscribed and remained so. Even in the writings of Cicero it is declared the duty of a citizen to resist Euhemerism as prejudicial to religious worship; and if the Academic and the Epicurean appear in his dialogues, the former has to plead the excuse that, while as a philosopher he is a disciple of Carneades, as a citizen and -pontifex- he is an orthodox confessor of the Capitoline Jupiter, and the Epicurean has even ultimately to surrender and be converted. No one of these three systems became in any proper sense popular. The plain intelligible character of Euhemerism exerted doubtless a certain power of attraction over the Romans, and in particular produced only too deep an effect on the conventional history of Rome with its at once childish and senile conversion of fable into history; but it remained without material influence on the Roman religion, because the latter from the first dealt only in allegory and not in fable, and it was not possible in Rome as in Hellas to write biographies of Zeus the first, second, and third. The modern sophistry could only succeed where, as in Athens, clever volubility was indigenous, and where, moreover, the long series of philosophical systems that had come and gone had accumulated huge piles of intellectual rubbish. Against the Epicurean quietism, in fine, everything revolted that was sound and honest in the Roman character so thoroughly addressing itself to action. Yet it found more partisans than Euhemerism and the sophistic school, and this was probably the reason why the police continued to wage war against it longest and most seriously. But this Roman Epicureanism was not so much a philosophic system as a sort of philosophic mask, under which—very much against the design of its strictly moral founder— thoughtless sensual enjoyment disguised itself for good society; one of the earliest adherents of this sect, for instance, Titus Albucius, figures in the poems of Lucilius as the prototype of a Roman Hellenizing to bad purpose.

Roman Stoa

Far different were the position and influence of the Stoic philosophy in Italy. In direct contrast to these schools it attached itself to the religion of the land as closely as science can at all accommodate itself to faith. To the popular faith with its gods and oracles the Stoic adhered on principle, in so far as he recognized in it an instinctive knowledge, to which scientific knowledge was bound to have regard and even in doubtful cases to subordinate itself. He believed in a different way from the people rather than in different objects; the essentially true and supreme God was in his view doubtless the world-soul, but every manifestation of the primitive God was in its turn divine, the stars above all, but also the earth, the vine, the soul of the illustrious mortal whom the people honoured as a hero, and in fact every departed spirit of a former man. This philosophy was really better adapted for Rome than for the land where it first arose. The objection of the pious believer, that the god of the Stoic had neither sex nor age nor corporeality and was converted from a person into a conception, had a meaning in Greece, but not in Rome. The coarse allegorizing and moral purification, which were characteristic of the Stoical doctrine of the gods, destroyed the very marrow of the Hellenic mythology; but the plastic power of the Romans, scanty even in their epoch of simplicity, had produced no more than a light veil enveloping the original intuition or the original conception, out of which the divinity had arisen—a veil that might be stripped off without special damage. Pallas Athene might be indignant, when she found herself suddenly transmuted into the conception of memory: Minerva had hitherto been in reality not much more. The supernatural Stoic, and the allegoric Roman, theology coincided on the whole in their result. But, even if the philosopher was obliged to designate individual propositions of the priestly lore as doubtful or as erroneous—as when the Stoics, for example, rejecting the doctrine of apotheosis, saw in Hercules, Castor, and Pollux nothing but the spirits of distinguished men, or as when they could not allow the images of the gods to be regarded as representations of divinity—it was at least not the habit of the adherents of Zeno to make war on these erroneous doctrines and to overthrow the false gods; on the contrary, they everywhere evinced respect and reverence for the religion of the land even in its weaknesses. The inclination also of the Stoa towards a casuistic morality and towards a systematic treatment of the professional sciences was quite to the mind of the Romans, especially of the Romans of this period, who no longer like their fathers practised in unsophisticated fashion self-government and good morals, but resolved the simple morality of their ancestors into a catechism of allowable and non-allowable actions; whose grammar and jurisprudence, moreover, urgently demanded a methodical treatment, without possessing the ability to develop such a treatment of themselves.

Wide Influence of Stoicism

So this philosophy thoroughly incorporated itself, as a plant borrowed no doubt from abroad but acclimatized on Italian soil, with the Roman national economy, and we meet its traces in the most diversified spheres of action. Its earliest appearance beyond doubt goes further back; but the Stoa was first raised to full influence in the higher ranks of Roman society by means of the group which gathered round Scipio Aemilianus. Panaetius of Rhodes, the instructor of Scipio and of all Scipio's intimate friends in the Stoic philosophy, who was constantly in his train and usually attended him even on journeys, knew how to adapt the system to clever men of the world, to keep its speculative side in the background, and to modify in some measure the dryness of the terminology and the insipidity of its moral catechism, more particularly by calling in the aid of the earlier philosophers, among whom Scipio himself had an especial predilection for the Socrates of Xenophon. Thenceforth the most noted statesmen and scholars professed the Stoic philosophy—among others Stilo and Quintus Scaevola, the founders of scientific philology and of scientific jurisprudence. The scholastic formality of system, which thenceforth prevails at least externally in these professional sciences and is especially associated with a fanciful, charade-like, insipid method of etymologizing, descends from the Stoa. But infinitely more important was the new state-philosophy and state-religion, which emanated from the blending of the Stoic philosophy and the Roman religion. The speculative element, from the first impressed with but little energy on the system of Zeno, and still further weakened when that system found admission to Rome—after the Greek schoolmasters had already for a century been busied in driving this philosophy into boys' heads and thereby driving the spirit out of it—fell completely into the shade in Rome, where nobody speculated but the money-changers; little more was said as to the ideal development of the God ruling in the soul of man, or of the divine world-law. The Stoic philosophers showed themselves not insensible to the very lucrative distinction of seeing their system raised into the semi-official Roman state- philosophy, and proved altogether more pliant than from their rigorous principles we should have expected. Their doctrine as to the gods and the state soon exhibited a singular family resemblance to the actual institutions of those who gave them bread; instead of illustrating the cosmopolitan state of the philosopher, they made their meditations turn on the wise arrangement of the Roman magistracies; and while the more refined Stoics such as Panaetius had left the question of divine revelation by wonders and signs open as a thing conceivable but uncertain, and had decidedly rejected astrology, his immediate successors contended for that doctrine of revelation or, in other words, for the Roman augural discipline as rigidly and firmly as for any other maxim of the school, and made extremely unphilosophical concessions even to astrology. The leading feature of the system came more and more to be its casuistic doctrine of duties. It suited itself to the hollow pride of virtue, in which the Romans of this period sought their compensation amidst the various humbling circumstances of their contact with the Greeks; and it put into formal shape a befitting dogmatism of morality, which, like every well-bred system of morals, combined with the most rigid precision as a whole the most complaisant indulgence in the details.(9) Its practical results can hardly be estimated as much more than that, as we have said, two or three families of rank ate poor fare to please the Stoa.


Closely allied to this new state-philosophy—or, strictly speaking, its other side—was the new state-religion; the essential characteristic of which was the conscious retention, for reasons of outward convenience, of the principles of the popular faith, which were recognized as irrational. One of the most prominent men of the Scipionic circle, the Greek Polybius, candidly declares that the strange and ponderous ceremonial of Roman religion was invented solely on account of the multitude, which, as reason had no power over it, required to be ruled by signs and wonders, while people of intelligence had certainly no need of religion. Beyond doubt the Roman friends of Polybius substantially shared these sentiments, although they did not oppose science and religion to each other in so gross and downright a fashion. Neither Laelius nor Scipio Aemilianus can have looked on the augural discipline, which Polybius has primarily in view, as anything else than a political institution; yet the national spirit in them was too strong and their sense of decorum too delicate to have permitted their coming forward in public with such hazardous explanations. But even in the following generation the -pontifex maximus- Quintus Scaevola (consul in 659;(10)) set forth at least in his oral instructions in law without hesitation the propositions, that there were two sorts of religion—one philosophic, adapted to the intellect, and one traditional, not so adapted; that the former was not fitted for the religion of the state, as it contained various things which it was useless or even injurious for the people to know; and that accordingly the traditional religion of the state ought to remain as it stood. The theology of Varro, in which the Roman religion is treated throughout as a state institution, is merely a further development of the same principle. The state, according to his teaching, was older than the gods of the state as the painter is older than the picture; if the question related to making the gods anew, it would certainly be well to make and to name them after a manner more befitting and more in theoretic accordance with the parts of the world-soul, and to lay aside the images of the gods which only excited erroneous ideas,(11) and the mistaken system of sacrifice; but, since these institutions had been once established, every good citizen ought to own and follow them and do his part, that the "common man" might learn rather to set a higher value on, than to contemn, the gods. That the common man, for whose benefit the grandees thus surrendered their judgment, now despised this faith and sought his remedy elsewhere, was a matter of course and will be seen in the sequel. Thus then the Roman "high church" was ready, a sanctimonious body of priests and Levites, and an unbelieving people. The more openly the religion of the land was declared a political institution, the more decidedly the political parties regarded the field of the state-church as an arena for attack and defence; which was especially, in a daily-increasing measure, the case with augural science and with the elections to the priestly colleges. The old and natural practice of dismissing the burgess-assembly, when a thunderstorm came on, had in the hands of the Roman augurs grown into a prolix system of various celestial omens and rules of conduct associated therewith; in the earlier portion of this period it was even directly enacted by the Aelian and Fufian law, that every popular assembly should be compelled to disperse if it should occur to any of the higher magistrates to look for signs of a thunderstorm in the sky; and the Roman oligarchy was proud of the cunning device which enabled them thenceforth by a single pious fraud to impress the stamp of invalidity on any decree of the people.

Priestly Colleges

Conversely, the Roman opposition rebelled against the ancient practice under which the four principal colleges of priests filled up their own ranks when vacancies arose, and demanded the extension of popular election to the stalls themselves, as it had been previously introduced with reference to the presidents, of these colleges.(12) This was certainly inconsistent with the spirit of these corporations; but they had no right to complain of it, after they had become themselves untrue to their spirit, and had played into the hands of the government at its request by furnishing religious pretexts for the annulling of political proceedings. This affair became an apple of contention between the parties: the senate beat off the first attack in 609, on which occasion the Scipionic circle especially turned the scale for the rejection of the proposal; on the other hand the project passed in 650 with the proviso already made in reference to the election of the presidents for the benefit of scrupulous consciences, that not the whole burgesses but only the lesser half of the tribes should make the election;(13) finally Sulla restored the right of co-optation in its full extent.(14)

Practical Use Made of Religion

With this care on the part of the conservatives for the pure national religion, it was of course quite compatible that the circles of the highest rank should openly make a jest of it. The practical side of the Roman priesthood was the priestly cuisine; the augural and pontifical banquets were as it were the official gala-days in the life of a Roman epicure, and several of them formed epochs in the history of gastronomy: the banquet on the accession of the augur Quintus Hortensius for instance brought roast peacocks into vogue. Religion was also found very useful in giving greater zest to scandal. It was a favourite recreation of the youth of quality to disfigure or mutilate the images of the gods in the streets by night.(15) Ordinary love affairs had for long been common, and intrigues with married women began to become so; but an amour with a Vestal virgin was as piquant as the intrigues with nuns and the cloister-adventures in the world of the Decamerone. The scandalous affair of 640 seq. is well known, in which three Vestals, daughters of the noblest families, and their paramours, young men likewise of the best houses, were brought to trial for unchastity first before the pontifical college, and then, when it sought to hush up the matter, before an extraordinary court instituted by special decree of the people, and were all condemned to death. Such scandals, it is true, sedate people could not approve; but there was no objection to men finding positive religion to be a folly in their familiar circle; the augurs might, when one saw another performing his functions, smile in each other's face without detriment to their religious duties. We learn to look favourably on the modest hypocrisy of kindred tendencies, when we compare with it the coarse shamelessness of the Roman priests and Levites. The official religion was quite candidly treated as a hollow framework, now serviceable only for political machinists; in this respect with its numerous recesses and trapdoors it might and did serve either party, as it happened. Most of all certainly the oligarchy recognized its palladium in the state- religion, and particularly in the augural discipline; but the opposite party also made no resistance in point of principle to an institute, which had now merely a semblance of life; they rather regarded it, on the whole, as a bulwark which might pass from the possession of the enemy into their own.

Oriental Religions in Italy

In sharp contrast to this ghost of religion which we have just described stand the different foreign worships, which this epoch cherished and fostered, and which were at least undeniably possessed of a very decided vitality. They meet us everywhere, among genteel ladies and lords as well as among the circles of the slaves, in the general as in the trooper, in Italy as in the provinces. It is incredible to what a height this superstition already reached. When in the Cimbrian war a Syrian prophetess, Martha, offered to furnish the senate with ways and means for the vanquishing of the Germans, the senate dismissed her with contempt; nevertheless the Roman matrons and Marius' own wife in particular despatched her to his head-quarters, where the general readily received her and carried her about with him till the Teutones were defeated. The leaders of very different parties in the civil war, Marius, Octavius, Sulla, coincided in believing omens and oracles. During its course even the senate was under the necessity, in the troubles of 667, of consenting to issue directions in accordance with the fancies of a crazy prophetess. It is significant of the ossification of the Romano-Hellenic religion as well as of the increased craving of the multitude after stronger religious stimulants, that superstition no longer, as in the Bacchic mysteries, associates itself with the national religion; even the Etruscan mysticism is already left behind; the worships matured in the sultry regions of the east appear throughout in the foremost rank. The copious introduction of elements from Asia Minor and Syria into the population, partly by the import of slaves, partly by the augmented traffic of Italy with the east, contributed very greatly to this result.

The power of these foreign religions is very distinctly apparent in the revolts of the Sicilian slaves, who for the most part were natives of Syria. Eunus vomited fire, Athenion read the stars; the plummets thrown by the slaves in these wars bear in great part the names of gods, those of Zeus and Artemis, and especially that of the mysterious Mother who had migrated from Crete to Sicily and was zealously worshipped there. A similar effect was produced by commercial intercourse, particularly after the wares of Berytus and Alexandria were conveyed directly to the Italian ports; Ostia and Puteoli became the great marts not only for Syrian unguents and Egyptian linen, but also for the faith of the east. Everywhere the mingling of religions was constantly on the increase along with the mingling of nations. Of all allowed worships the most popular was that of the Pessinuntine Mother of the Gods, which made a deep impression on the multitude by its eunuch-celibacy, its banquets, its music, its begging processions, and all its sensuous pomp; the collections from house to house were already felt as an economic burden. In the most dangerous time of the Cimbrian war Battaces the high-priest of Pessinus appeared in person at Rome, in order to defend the interests of the temple of his goddess there which was alleged to have been profaned, addressed the Roman people by the special orders of the Mother of the Gods, and performed also various miracles. Men of sense were scandalized, but the women and the great multitude were not to be debarred from escorting the prophet at his departure in great crowds. Vows of pilgrimage to the east were already no longer uncommon; Marius himself, for instance, thus undertook a pilgrimage to Pessinus; in fact even thus early (first in 653) Roman burgesses devoted themselves to the eunuch-priesthood.

Secret Worships

But the unallowed and secret worships were naturally still more popular. As early as Cato's time the Chaldean horoscope-caster had begun to come into competition with the Etruscan -haruspex- and the Marsian bird-seer;(16) star-gazing and astrology were soon as much at home in Italy as in their dreamy native land. In 615 the Roman -praetor peregrinus- directed all the Chaldeans to evacuate Rome and Italy within ten days. The same fate at the same time befel the Jews, who had admitted Italian proselytes to their sabbath. In like manner Scipio had to clear the camp before Numantia from soothsayers and pious impostors of every sort. Some forty years afterwards (657) it was even found necessary to prohibit human sacrifices. The wild worship of the Cappadocian Ma, or, as the Romans called her, Bellona, to whom the priests in their festal processions shed their own blood as a sacrifice, and the gloomy Egyptian worships began to make their appearance; the former Cappadocian goddess appeared in a dream to Sulla, and of the later Roman communities of Isis and Osiris the oldest traced their origin to the Sullan period. Men had become perplexed not merely as to the old faith, but as to their very selves; the fearful crises of a fifty years' revolution, the instinctive feeling that the civil war was still far from being at an end, increased the anxious suspense, the gloomy perplexity of the multitude. Restlessly the wandering imagination climbed every height and fathomed every abyss, where it fancied that it might discover new prospects or new light amidst the fatalities impending, might gain fresh hopes in the desperate struggle against destiny, or perhaps might find merely fresh alarms. A portentous mysticism found in the general distraction— political, economic, moral, religious—the soil which was adapted for it, and grew with alarming rapidity; it was as if gigantic trees had grown by night out of the earth, none knew whence or whither, and this very marvellous rapidity of growth worked new wonders and seized like an epidemic on all minds not thoroughly fortified.


Just as in the sphere of religion, the revolution begun in the previous epoch was now completed also in the sphere of education and culture. We have already shown how the fundamental idea of the Roman system—civil equality—had already during the sixth century begun to be undermined in this field also. Even in the time of Pictor and Cato Greek culture was widely diffused in Rome, and there was a native Roman culture; but neither of them had then got beyond the initial stage. Cato's encyclopaedia shows tolerably what was understood at this period by a Romano-Greek model training;(16) it was little more than an embodiment of the knowledge of the old Roman householder, and truly, when compared with the Hellenic culture of the period, scanty enough. At how low a stage the average instruction of youth in Rome still stood at the beginning of the seventh century, may be inferred from the expressions of Polybius, who in this one respect prominently censures the criminal indifference of the Romans as compared with the intelligent private and public care of his countrymen; no Hellene, not even Polybius himself, could rightly enter into the deeper idea of civil equality that lay at the root of this indifference.

Now the case was altered. Just as the naive popular faith was superseded by an enlightened Stoic supernaturalism, so in education alongside of the simple popular instruction a special training, an exclusive -humanitas-, developed itself and eradicated the last remnants of the old social equality. It will not be superfluous to cast a glance at the aspect assumed by the new instruction of the young, both the Greek and the higher Latin.

Greek Instruction

It was a singular circumstance that the same man, who in a political point of view definitively vanquished the Hellenic nation, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, was at the same time the first or one of the first who fully recognized the Hellenic civilization as— what it has thenceforth continued to be beyond dispute—the civilization of the ancient world. He was himself indeed an old man before it was granted to him, with the Homeric poems in his mind, to stand before the Zeus of Phidias; but his heart was young enough to carry home the full sunshine of Hellenic beauty and the unconquerable longing after the golden apples of the Hesperides in his soul; poets and artists had found in the foreigner a more earnest and cordial devotee than was any of the wise men of the Greece of those days. He made no epigram on Homer or Phidias, but he had his children introduced into the realms of intellect. Without neglecting their national education, so far as there was such, he made provision like the Greeks for the physical development of his boys, not indeed by gymnastic exercises which were according to Roman notions inadmissible, but by instruction in the chase, which was among the Greeks developed almost like an art; and he elevated their Greek instruction in such a way that the language was no longer merely learned and practised for the sake of speaking, but after the Greek fashion the whole subject-matter of general higher culture was associated with the language and developed out of it—embracing, first of all, the knowledge of Greek literature with the mythological and historical information necessary for understanding it, and then rhetoric and philosophy. The library of king Perseus was the only portion of the Macedonian spoil that Paullus took for himself, with the view of presenting it to his sons. Even Greek painters and sculptors were found in his train and completed the aesthetic training of his children. That the time was past when men could in this field preserve a merely repellent attitude as regarded Hellenism, had been felt even by Cato; the better classes had probably now a presentiment that the noble substance of Roman character was less endangered by Hellenism as a whole, than by Hellenism mutilated and misshapen: the mass of the upper society of Rome and Italy went along with the new mode. There had been for long no want of Greek schoolmasters in Rome; now they arrived in troops—and as teachers not merely of the language but of literature and culture in general—at the newly-opened lucrative market for the sale of their wisdom. Greek tutors and teachers of philosophy, who, even if they were not slaves, were as a rule accounted as servants,(17) were now permanent inmates in the palaces of Rome; people speculated in them, and there is a statement that 200,000 sesterces (2000 pounds) were paid for a Greek literary slave of the first rank. As early as 593 there existed in the capital a number of special establishments for the practice of Greek declamation. Several distinguished names already occur among these Roman teachers; the philosopher Panaetius has been already mentioned;(18) the esteemed grammarian Crates of Mallus in Cilicia, the contemporary and equal rival of Aristarchus, found about 585 at Rome an audience for the recitation and illustration, language, and matter of the Homeric poems. It is true that this new mode of juvenile instruction, revolutionary and anti-national as it was, encountered partially the resistance of the government; but the edict of dismissal, which the authorities in 593 fulminated against rhetoricians and philosophers, remained (chiefly owing to the constant change of the Roman chief magistrates) like all similar commands without any result worth mentioning, and after the death of old Cato there were still doubtless frequent complaints in accordance with his views, but there was no further action. The higher instruction in Greek and in the sciences of Greek culture remained thenceforth recognized as an essential part of Italian training.

Latin Instruction
Public Readings of Classical Works

But by its side there sprang up also a higher Latin instruction. We have shown in the previous epoch how Latin elementary instruction raised its character; how the place of the Twelve Tables was taken by the Latin Odyssey as a sort of improved primer, and the Roman boy was now trained to the knowledge and delivery of his mother-tongue by means of this translation, as the Greek by means of the original: how noted teachers of the Greek language and literature, Andronicus, Ennius, and others, who already probably taught not children properly so called, but boys growing up to maturity and young men, did not disdain to give instruction in the mother-tongue along with the Greek. These were the first steps towards a higher Latin instruction, but they did not as yet form such an instruction itself. Instruction in a language cannot go beyond the elementary stage, so long as it lacks a literature. It was not until there were not merely Latin schoolbooks but a Latin literature, and this literature already somewhat rounded-off in the works of the classics of the sixth century, that the mother-tongue and the native literature truly entered into the circle of the elements of higher culture; and the emancipation from the Greek schoolmasters was now not slow to follow. Stirred up by the Homeric prelections of Crates, cultivated Romans began to read the recitative works of their own literature, the Punic War of Naevius, the Annals of Ennius, and subsequently also the Poems of Lucilius first to a select circle, and then in public on set days and in presence of a great concourse, and occasionally also to treat them critically after the precedent of the Homeric grammarians. These literary prelections, which cultivated -dilettanti- (-litterati-) held gratuitously, were not formally a part of juvenile instruction, but were yet an essential means of introducing the youth to the understanding and the discussion of the classic Latin literature.

Rhetorical Exercises

The formation of Latin oratory took place in a similar way. The Roman youth of rank, who were even at an early age incited to come forward in public with panegyrics and forensic speeches, can never have lacked exercises in oratory; but it was only at this epoch, and in consequence of the new exclusive culture, that there arose a rhetoric properly so called. Marcus Lepidus Porcina (consul in 617) is mentioned as the first Roman advocate who technically handled the language and subject-matter; the two famous advocates of the Marian age, the masculine and vigorous Marcus Antonius (611- 667) and the polished and chaste orator Lucius Crassus (614-663) were already complete rhetoricians. The exercises of the young men in speaking increased naturally in extent and importance, but still remained, just like the exercises in Latin literature, essentially limited to the personal attendance of the beginner on the master of the art so as to be trained by his example and his instructions.

Formal instruction both in Latin literature and in Latin rhetoric was given first about 650 by Lucius Aelius Praeconinus of Lanuvium, called the "penman" (-Stilo-), a distinguished Roman knight of strict conservative views, who read Plautus and similar works with a select circle of younger men—including Varro and Cicero—and sometimes also went over outlines of speeches with the authors, or put similar outlines into the hands of his friends. This was instruction, but Stilo was not a professional schoolmaster; he taught literature and rhetoric, just as jurisprudence was taught at Rome, in the character of a senior friend of aspiring young men, not of a man hired and holding himself at every one's command.

Course of Literature and Rhetoric

But about his time began also the scholastic higher instruction in Latin, separated as well from elementary Latin as from Greek instruction, and imparted in special establishments by paid masters, ordinarily manumitted slaves. That its spirit and method were throughout borrowed from the exercises in the Greek literature and language, was a matter of course; and the scholars also consisted, as at these exercises, of youths, and not of boys. This Latin instruction was soon divided like the Greek into two courses; in so far as the Latin literature was first the subject of scientific lectures, and then a technical introduction was given to the preparation of panegyrics, public, and forensic orations. The first Roman school of literature was opened about Stilo's time by Marcus Saevius Nicanor Postumus, the first separate school for Latin rhetoric about 660 by Lucius Plotius Gallus; but ordinarily instructions in rhetoric were also given in the Latin schools of literature. This new Latin school-instruction was of the most comprehensive importance. The introduction to the knowledge of Latin literature and Latin oratory, such as had formerly been imparted by connoisseurs and masters of high position, had preserved a certain independence in relation to the Greeks. The judges of language and the masters of oratory were doubtless under the influence of Hellenism, but not absolutely under that of the Greek school-grammar and school-rhetoric; the latter in particular was decidedly an object of dread. The pride as well as the sound common sense of the Romans demurred to the Greek assertion that the ability to speak of things, which the orator understood and felt, intelligibly and attractively to his peers in the mother-tongue could be learned in the school by school-rules. To the solid practical advocate the procedure of the Greek rhetoricians, so totally estranged from life, could not but appear worse for the beginner than no preparation at all; to the man of thorough culture and matured by the experience of life, the Greek rhetoric seemed shallow and repulsive; while the man of serious conservative views did not fail to observe the close affinity between a professionally developed rhetoric and the trade of the demagogue. Accordingly the Scipionic circle had shown the most bitter hostility to the rhetoricians, and, if Greek declamations before paid masters were tolerated doubtless primarily as exercises in speaking Greek, Greek rhetoric did not thereby find its way either into Latin oratory or into Latin oratorical instruction. But in the new Latin rhetorical schools the Roman youths were trained as men and public orators by discussing in pairs rhetorical themes; they accused Ulysses, who was found beside the corpse of Ajax with the latter's bloody sword, of the murder of his comrade in arms, or upheld his innocence; they charged Orestes with the murder of his mother, or undertook to defend him; or perhaps they helped Hannibal with a supplementary good advice as to the question whether he would do better to comply with the invitation to Rome, or to remain in Carthage, or to take flight. It was natural that the Catonian opposition should once more bestir itself against these offensive and pernicious conflicts of words. The censors of 662 issued a warning to teachers and parents not to allow the young men to spend the whole day in exercises, whereof their ancestors had known nothing; and the man, from whom this warning came, was no less than the first forensic orator of his age, Lucius Licinius Crassus. Of course the Cassandra spoke in vain; declamatory exercises in Latin on the current themes of the Greek schools became a permanent ingredient in the education of Roman youth, and contributed their part to educate the very boys as forensic and political players and to stifle in the bud all earnest and true eloquence.

As the aggregate result of this modern Roman education there sprang up the new idea of "humanity," as it was called, which consisted partly of a more or less superficial appropriation of the aesthetic culture of the Hellenes, partly of a privileged Latin culture as an imitation or mutilated copy of the Greek. This new humanity, as the very name indicates, renounced the specific characteristics of Roman life, nay even came forward in opposition to them, and combined in itself, just like our closely kindred "general culture," a nationally cosmopolitan and socially exclusive character. Here too we trace the revolution, which separated classes and blended nations.

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