ePub 版

the French, and the German, -have successively explored the mines of Roman learning. The name of Justinian is still authoritative in courts of law; and the name of Cæsar is almost synonymous with that of sovereign. Still there was room for a history of Rome, both absolutely as regards the subject itself, and relatively as regards the demands of the present age. Mr. Merivale appears to have discerned both the need for such a work and the conditions under which it may be competently executed.

No one can have looked into that agreeable miscellany of scholarship, the · Arundines Cami,' without becoming aware that Mr. Merivale possesses one qualification at least for an historian of the Romans — an intimate acquaintance with their language and literature. We do not rate very highly mere elegance in Latin versification. It is frequently an accomplishment dearly bought. But in Latin composition, as in every other art, there is a degree of excellence which few persons attain, yet which, when attained, amounts to a power, and should be estimated accordingly. Cowper thought · Vinney · Bourne' as good a poet as Tibullus ; Buchanan and Gray wrote Latin verses which would not have disgraced Virgil or Ovid; and it was from Addison's hexameters that Boileau first learned the English were no longer ignorant barbarians. Mr. Merivale's translations need not shrink from comparison with any productions of the kind; and the mastery over Latin idiom which they display has been of no small service to the Roman historian. His • History of the Augustan Age,' published some years ago, attracted less notice than it deserved. It formed one of a series of educational treatises, of which the public had become weary. But it contains the most satisfactory account of Rome under its first emperor, and was a fitting prelude to the more extensive work he has now entered upon with maturer insights and researches.

Rome, which absorbed into itself the annals and civilisation of the ethnic world, and which was not more remarkable for the extent than for the duration of its empire, has transmitted no complete history of its own revolutions. Fortune, indeed, in this respect, has been singularly capricious. Its great native annalists have either perished utterly or been preserved only in fragments; and the most learned and accomplished of its modern historians have either left their works imperfect, or treated only of particular eras of the commonwealth or the empire. What remains to us of Livy is little more than a portico to the courts and adytum of his entire work. And this remnant, with the exception of the war with Hannibal, is precisely the portion we

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

the faculty of-tunities for both had access to the les and his Opually favourable of all the leadin he was

could best have spared, if by such a sacrifice we might recover his later decades. For Livy was an indifferent archæologist, and imperfectly understood the character of the regal period and the patrician aristocracy. He confounded the tribunes of the fourth century with the demagogues of the eighth, and viewed the struggle between the permanence of caste and the progress of the commons through the medium of his Pompeian prejudices. But he possessed, in higher measure than any other Roman chronicler, the faculty of relating what he had himself heard and seen; and his opportunities for both oral and personal information were unusually favourable. He had access to the libraries, the archives, and the society of all the leading families in Rome. He was intimate with Asinius Pollio, and he was caressed by Augustus. A native of Cisalpine Gaul, his grandfather may have beheld the Cimbric columns defiling upon the Raudian plains; his father may have conversed with one of Sulla's centurions, fresh from the Pontic wars; and the historian himself have listened to some 'ancient citizen of Verona' or Padua, recounting Cæsar's canvass of the Cisalpine towns in B. c. 52, or the breathless suspense which attended his passage of the Rubicon three years afterwards. For the social and civil wars, for Catilina's conspiracy, for the tribunate of Clodius, and for every scene of the great revolutionary drama between Pharsalia and Actium, Livy unmutilated would be for Roman history what Clarendon is for English, -an unsafe guide but an incomparable companion. Nor is Livy alone imperfect. Tacitus forsakes us just as we most need his assistance, - at the close of one dynasty and before the establishment of another. The era of Trajan and the Antonines, which, from its containing a succession of five 'good princes,' Horace Walpole calls the most remarkable

period of the world,' is buried under the rubbish of the • Augustan historians,' or dimly reflected in scattered inscriptions, obscure laws, and declining literature. The epitomists are too brief; the panegyrists too faithless; the Greek writers, like Dion, never apprehended the Roman character; Plutarch's Lives are the Waverley Novels of antiquity, and Suetonius, where he is not corroborated by Tacitus, is about as good authority for facts and motives as the Standard at the present day is for the intentions of the Cabinet. Modern scholars, again, have either been mere antiquaries like Lipsius, or, in our country, at least with the brilliant exceptions of Gibbon and Arnold, unequal to the task. But the master-work of Gibbon records the decline, and not the establishment of the empire: Arnold did not live to complete the structure he was raising upon Niebuhr's foundations; Middleton's Life of

just before the which, frowalpole callider the

againis for the arts and morated by Tantiquity,

• Cicero' is an extravagant eulogy, in which whatever is good is borrowed from Bellendenus; and the complete histories of Hooke* and Ferguson are generally found in all libraries, and as generally avoided by all readers.

Mr. Merivale, therefore, has entered a field in which he has no rival, and scarcely a competent predecessor. There is, however, a latent disadvantage in his subject on which he may not have reckoned, and of which — as partially affecting ourselves, also, as his critics — we will endeavour to dispose at once. Most liberally educated persons are more or less acquainted with the general outlines of Roman history. Many persons will, therefore, not unnaturally presume that the whole case (so to speak) has been thoroughly sifted, and that the last investigator of it can, at best, present them rather with a new form than with new matter. We believe this to be a delusion; and we will illustrate the grounds of our belief by a familiar example. Not many months back, a reader, of average information, would have felt himself insulted if his knowledge of the English revolution of 1688 had been called in question. Am I "ignorant as «« dirt,"' he might have replied, “ to be deemed unversed in this • period? Have I not read Hume, and Lingard, and Sir James • Mackintosh, that I should be unacquainted with Monmouth's

execution and the acquittal of the Bishops, with the “ Bloody 6.66 Assize," and the rumours of the “ Warming-pan”?' Yet, in spite of Hume and other adjuncts, how many — or, rather, how few — of our readers will scruple to confess that they have derived fresh insights into this momentous period from Mr. Macaulay ? Supposing that such can possibly be the case with regard to any chapter of English history,- how much more probable is it that we may have something yet to learn of the history of Rome! Indeed, if ever the great problems of any period have been overlooked, they are, in our opinion, the problems of the Roman commonwealth at the era of its decline and transition to monarchy. Every schoolboy can tell that Sulla cut the throats of the Samnites, and Cicero changed his politics; that Pompeius was an artful but unsuccessful intriguer, and Cato an honest but impracticable statesman ; that one Cæsar was killed in the Capitol, and that another Casar established the empire. So much he may learn from Pinnock's Catechism. But why Sulla butchered the Italians, or Cicero turned conservative, — what motives whetted the daggers of both his partisans and his opponents against Julius, - and by what

dirt" be mie I not read be unacquainopes, with the "?

ackintosh me move the replica certion of the English would have

y haenglish histo possibly bed from My have

* We beg pardon of the Editor of Lynam's History of the Roman • Emperors,' just published: we see by his preface that he classes together Gibbon and Hooke as two great historians.


Character of the Subject.

series of measures Augustus founded the Imperial system, these are questions to which neither Middleton nor Hooke furnish an answer. And these, moreover, are questions lying on the very surface of the great Roman revolution, — the steps of its transition, the contortions of its long agony through a century of convulsion. Much more momentous problems are involved in the decline and fall of the republic, - problems whose solution determined not only the later destinies of Pagandom, but eventually affected also, by remote impulse or immediate contact, the institutions of Christendom itself. We shall presently follow Mr. Merivale in his discussion of some of these questions. But we may remark, in this place, that the history of Rome exhibits, on a broad scale, many theories of modern date and experiment;—such, for example, as poor-laws, colonisation, the extension of the suffrage, the government of dependencies, and the combination of local with central administration. There were, indeed, organic differences—besides those which a purer religion has introduced— between the principles and feelings of the Roman and the Christian world. We must not, therefore, expect strict analogies, or even available precedents; but we may obtain from the comparison some pertinent suggestions, and, at least for a while, indulge in the contemplation of a state of society which embraced and pervaded, for many centuries, the most civilised portion of mankind.

The following extract exhibits the proposed design and extent of Mr. Merivale's work:

*As the people became gradually aware that the great revolution of the social war had brought with it more good and less evil than had been anticipated, the extension of the rights of the metropolis to the distant provinces lost the character of an inconsistency and anomaly in the constitution. Local prejudices died away in the familiar contemplation of the vastness of the empire, and the mutual relationship of its several members. The mind of the nation expanded to the conception of infusing unity of sentiment into a body which was wielded by a single effort and from a common centre. One after another there arose political crises, which demanded the central combination of all the powers of the State in a single hand. The success of each experiment became an argument for its repetition, till the idea of submission to the permanent rule of one man first ceased to shock, and was finally hailed with acclamation. The monarchy was at first veiled under the old republican forms. Gradually the veil was dropped. Lastly, the theory of a republic was dismissed from men's minds, and fell into the same oblivion into which its real forces had already sunk. Under the supremacy of a single ruler all varieties of class became merged together; and when the citizens ceased to be discriminated among one another, there seemed no reason for maintaining distinctions between the constituent races of which the empire was composed.

· The task to which the following pages are devoted is that of tracing the expansion of the Roman nation, together with the developement of the ideas of unity and monarchy, from the last days of the republic to the era of Constantine. We commence with a period when the senate still fondly imagined that the government of the world was the destined privilege of one conquering race,- that its life-source was enshrined in the curia of Romulus and Camillus. The point at which our review may appropriately terminate is the day when the civilised world received its laws and religion from the mouth of an autocrat, whose sole will transferred the seat of empire without a shock from the sacred circle of the seven hills to a village on the Bosporus.'

The great catastrophe of modern history is the French revolution of 1789 : the great crisis of the ethnic world was the revolution which converted the Roman commonwealth into an empire. Among many points in common, these memorable consummations of their respective eras have one prominent feature of resemblance—the long duration of the struggle. The convulsions which shook down the Capet dynasty still reverberate, and even still at times explode in Europe after the lapse of sixty years. The undulations of the Roman earthquake continued to be felt for a century after the tribunate of the Gracchi, and were not completely lulled until the reign of Tiberius.

It is not easy, therefore, to assign a period more eventful, or a revolution more important, than the era comprised in Mr. Merivale's present volumes. The age was fruitful in great men ; his work, therefore, properly abounds in portraiture. The revolution was dramatic in its career, and epic in its continuity; these volumes present us accordingly with diversified and vivid scenes in combination with an organic unity of result and purpose ; and, lastly, the great mutations' affected not Rome alone, but mankind at large, so that our interest in the story is political and universal, not merely personal and national. To Rome, indeed, alone among the governments of antiquity was vouchsafed the boon of a political metempsychosis. It was powerful as a kingdom, progressive as a commonwealth and for centuries steadfast as an empire. With no blameable enthusiasm even in its declining age, one of its latest and not its worst poet adverted to this characteristic of its fortune

Illud te reparat quod cetera regna resolvit:

Ordo renascendi est crescere posse malis ;' So sang Claudius Rutilius in the fourth century of our era, and the perpetuity of the empire was not unfrequently identified, by both Pagan and Christian writers, with the duration of the world. We will now, partly under Mr. Merivale's guidance, partly from a somewhat different point of view, briefly trace the

« 上一頁繼續 »