Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/37

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
27
HISTORY

Empire prostrate and open for swift and persistent Greek colonization. As Machiavelli in his "Prince"[1] points out, "his successors had to meet no other difficulty than that which arose among themselves from their own ambitions." This was sufficient, however. It led to a thirty years' war such as had never before been seen. At its end the Graeco-Macedonian world was paralyzed by an unstable balance of power in which Egypt, under the Ptolemies, by using its great wealth to maintain a magnificent fleet held Macedon and Asia in check. The unification of Italy under Rome (343-270 B. C.) and the subsequent destruction of the Carthaginian Empire (264-201 B. C.) brought into hostile conflict with Egypt's enemies a military state which was far stronger than any individual Greek kingdom. This state had a population of 5,000,000, an army list of 750,000, and it could keep 100,000 men in the field for many years at a stretch. Such a force could be stopped only by a federation of the entire Greek world. The Greeks again paid the just penalty for their disunion, and after a bitter struggle they sank under the Roman sway.


THE RISE OF ROME

The Romans who conquered the Greeks were not "gentlemen" like Cicero[2] and Caesar[3] and their contemporaries of a hundred and fifty years later. Their temper is only partially revealed in Plutarch's "Coriolanus,"[4] in which a legend which, however, the Romans and Greeks of Plutarch's time (46-125 A. D.) believed to be a fact is made to illustrate the alleged uncompromising character of their political struggles and the lofty virtues of their domestic life. In fact, they had many of the qualities of Iroquois, and when they took by storm a hostile city, their soldiers uncultured peasants, once the iron bonds of discipline were relaxed often slew every living thing which came in their way: men, women, children, and even animals. The world was not subdued by Rome with rosewater or modern humanitarian methods.

Five generations later the Italians were in a fair way to being Hellenized, so powerful had been the reaction of the eastern provinces upon them in the interval. During this epoch of rapid dena-

  1. H. C., xxxvi, 7.
  2. H. C., xii, 218.
  3. H. C., xii, 264.
  4. H. C., xii, 147.