Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/218

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
206
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

well as against outer enemies. The "mount-men" of the Palatine and the "hill-men" of the Quirinal were habitually at feud; and, even among the minor divisions of those who occupied the Palatine, there were dissensions. As Mommsen says, primitive Rome was "rather an aggregate of urban settlements than a single city." And that the clans who formed these settlements brought with them their enmities is to be inferred from the fact that not only did they fortify the hills on which they fixed themselves, but even '* the houses of the old and powerful families were constructed somewhat after the manner of fortresses."

So that again, in the case of Rome, we a see a cluster of small independent communities allied in blood but partially antagonistic, which had to coöperate against enemies on such terms as all would agree to. In early Greece the means of defense were, as Grote remarks, greater than the means of attack; and it was the same in early Rome. Hence, while coercive rule within each family and small group was easy, there was difficulty in extending coercion over many groups—fortified as they were against one another. Moreover, the stringency of government within each settlement constituting the primitive city was diminished by facility of escape from one and admission into another. As we have seen among simple tribes, desertions take place when the rule is unduly harsh; and we may infer that, within each of these clustered settlements, there was a check on exercise of force by the heads of the more powerful families over those of the less powerful, caused by the fear that migration might weaken the settlement and strengthen an adjacent one. Thus the circumstances were such that when, for defense of the primitive city, coöperation became needful, the heads of the clans included in the several settlements came to have substantially equal powers. The original senate was the collective body of clan-elders; and "this assembly of elders was the ultimate holder of the ruling power": it was "an assembly of kings." At the same time, the heads of families in each clan, forming the body of burgesses, stood, for like reasons, on equal footing. Primarily for command in war, there was an elected head, who was also chief magistrate. Though not having the authority given by alleged divine descent, he had the authority given by supposed divine approval; and, himself bearing the insignia of a god, he retained till death the absoluteness appropriate to one. But, besides the fact that the choice, originally made by the senate, had to be again practically made by it in case of sudden vacancy, and besides the fact that each king, nominated by his predecessor, had to be approved by the assembled burgesses, there is the fact that his power was exclusively executive. The assembly of burgesses "was in law superior to, rather than coördinate with, the king." Further, in the last resort was exercised the still superior power of the senate, which was the guardian of the law, and could veto the joint decision of king and burgesses. Thus the con-