Compendium of the History of Rome/Book I

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I. Cities founded by the Greeks on their return from Troy; acts of Orestes; arrival of Tyrrhenus in Italy—II. Return of the Heraclidæ; death of Codrus; founding of Megara, Gades, and Utica.—III. Of the Achæans, Pelasgi, Thessalians, and the settlement of Corinth—IV. Chalcis, Magnesia, Cumæ, Naples, and many other cities, founded—V. Age and character of Homer—VI. Of the Assyrian empire, Lycurgus, and the origin of Carthage—VII. Of Hesiod, and the building of Capua and Nola—VIII. The Olympic games; the founding of Rome—IX. The second Macedonian war—X. Of Antiochus the Great, and Æmilius Paulus—XI. Pseudo-Philippus; Metellus Macedonicus—XII. Destruction of Corinth and Carthage—XIII. Death of Cato; characters of Mummius and Scipio Africanus—XIV-XV. Establishment of Roman colonies—XVI-XVII. Considerations why many eminent men, in the several arts, arise at the same time—XVIII. Commencement of similar observations on cities.

I[edit]

​* * * * [Epeus,] being parted[1] by a storm from Nestor his commander, built Metapontum[2]. Teucer, not being received at home by his father Telamon, for his pusillanimity in not avenging the injustice shown to his brother[3], sailed to Cyprus, where he built Salamis, a city named after his own birthplace. Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, took possession of Epirus, and Phidippus[4] of Ephyra in Thesprotia. As to Agamemnon, the king of kings, he was driven by a tempest on the island of Crete, where he founded three cities, Mycenæ, Tegea, and Pergamus, of which two had named from his own country, and the third from the recollection of his recent victory. Soon after, being entrapped by the treachery of his cousin[5] Ægisthus, who bore a hereditary hatred towards him, and by the malice of his wife, he was murdered. Ægisthus held the throne for seven years; when Orestes, in concert with his sister Electra, a woman of masculine courage, and sharer in all his designs, slew both Ægisthus and his own mother. That his deed was approved by the gods, was apparent from the length of his life and the prosperity of his reign; for he lived ninety years and reigned seventy. He also revenged himself on Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, with similar spirit; for Pyrrhus having supplanted him by marrying Hermione, the daughter of Menelaus and Helen, who had been betrothed to Orestes, Orestes slew him at Delphi.

During this period, the brothers Lydus and Tyrrhenus, who reigned in Lydia, were compelled, by the unproductiveness of their corn-fields, to cast lots which of the two, taking half of the people with him, should quit their country. The lot fell upon Tyrrhenus[6], who, sailing into Italy, gave, from his own name, an illustrious and enduring appellation to the country, its inhabitants, and the adjacent sea. After the death of Orestes, his sons, Penthilus and Tisamenus, reigned three years.

II[edit]

At this time, about eighty years after Troy was taken, and a hundred and twenty after the translation of Hercules to the gods, the family of Pelops, which, after expelling the Heraclidæ, had held, during the whole of this period, the sovereignty of the Peloponnesus, was in turn expelled by them. The leaders in recovering the dominion were Temenus, Cresphontes, and Aristodemus, of whom Hercules was great-grandfather.

About the same period, Athens ceased to be ruled by kings, its last monarch being Codrus, the son of Melanthus, a man deserving of particular notice; for when the Spartans were severely pressing the Athenians in war, and Apollo had given an oracle that that side would be victorious whose leader should be killed by the enemy, Codrus, having laid aside his royal apparel, put on the attire of a shepherd, and went into the midst of the enemy’s camp, where, intentionally provoking a quarrel, he was slain without being known[7]. From his death, eternal glory accrued to Codrus, and victory to the Athenians. Who can help admiring a man that sought for death with the same stratagems with which, by those of meaner spirit, life is wont to be sought? His son Medon was the first archon at Athens; from whom his descendants were called by the Athenians Medontidæ; and these, as well as the following archons, down to the time of Charops, held their office during life. The Peloponnesians, on retiring from the Athenian territory, founded Megara, a city equally distant from Corinth and Athens.

At this time, also, a fleet of the Tyrians, then very powerful at sea, founded the city of Gades, on the remotest coast of Spain, at the extremity of one part of the world, and on an island surrounded by the Ocean, divided from the continent only by a very narrow strait. By the same people, also, a few years afterwards, Utica, in Africa, was built. The children of Orestes, being expelled by the Heraclidæ, and harassed by various misfortunes, as well as by hardships at sea, found a settlement, in the fifteenth year after their expulsion, opposite the island of Lesbos.

III[edit]

During this period Greece was shaken by violent commotions. The Achæans, driven from Laconia, settled in those tracts which they now occupy. The Pelasgi removed to Athens; and a young man of warlike spirit, by name Thessalus, and by birth a Thesprotian, took forcible possession, with the aid of a numerous body of his countrymen, of that region which is now, from his name, called Thessaly, but which was before termed the country of the Myrmidons. Hence there is reason to wonder at those authors, who, in their accounts of the Trojan period, speak of that country by the name of Thessaly; a fault which not only other writers commit, but writers of tragedy more frequently than any; though in them, least of all, is such licence to be excused, for they express nothing in their own character of poets, but narrate everything under the persons of those who lived at the time. But if any one shall maintain that they were called Thessalians from Thessalus, the son of Hercules[8], he will have to give a reason why the people did not assume this name till the time of the latter Thessalus. A little before this, Aletes, sixth in descent from Hercules, and son of Hippotes, rebuilt[9] Corinth on the Isthmus, which was previously called Ephyre, and which forms the principal barrier of the Peloponnesus. Nor is there any reason for us to wonder that it was called Corinth by Homer; for, in his character of poet, he calls both this city, and some of the Ionian colonies, built long after the taking of Troy, by the same names which they bore in his own times.

IV[edit]

The Athenians settled colonies at Chalcis and Eretria in Eubœa; the Lacedæmonians established another at Magnesia in Asia. Not long afterwards, the people of Chalcis, who were sprung, as I have just said, from the Athenians, founded Cumæ in Italy, under the leadership of Hippocles and Megasthenes. The course of their fleet was directed, as some say, by the flight of a dove that preceded it, or, as others state, by the sound of brazen instruments during the night, such as is commonly made at the rites of Ceres. Some natives of this city, a long time after, built Neapolis; and the exemplary fidelity of both these cities to the Romans, renders them eminently worthy of their high reputation, and of the delightful situations which they enjoy. But the institutions of their original country have been more diligently preserved by the Neapolitans; for the neighbourhood of the Osci altered the manners of the people of Cumæ. The present extent of the walls of these cities shows the greatness of their power in former days.

At a subsequent period, a vast number of Grecian youth, seeking, from a redundance of population, for new settlements, poured into Asia. The Ionians, sailing from Athens under the conduct of Ion, took possession of the finest part of the sea-coast, now called Ionia, and built the cities of Ephesus, Miletus, Colophon, Priene, Lebedus, Myus, Erythra, Clazomenæ, and Phocæa. They also seized on many of the island in the Ægean and Icarian seas, as Samos, Chios, Andros, Tenos, Paros, Delos, and others of less note. Soon after, the Æolians also, setting out from Greece, and wandering about for a long time, found at length settlements not less valuable, and founded some famous cities, as Smyrna, Cyme, Larissa, Myrina, and Mitylene, with others in the island of Lesbos.

V[edit]

It was at this time that the illustrious genius of Homer shone forth; a genius great beyond example; for by the grandeur of his subjects, and the splendour of his verse, he has gained an exclusive right[10] to the name of poet. What is most remarkable with respect to him, is, that neither was there any one before him whom he could imitate, nor has any one since been found who could imitate him. Nor can we point to any other author, except Homer and Antilochus, who arrived at the highest excellence in the kind of writing of which he was the inventor. He lived longer after the Trojan war, which he took for his subject, than some suppose; for he flourished about nine hundred and fifty years ago, and was born within a thousand. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that he frequently uses the expression οἷοι νῦν βροτοί εἰσι, such as men now are; for by this the difference in mankind, as well as in age, is signified. Whoever believes that he was born blind, must be himself deprived of all his senses.

VI[edit]

In the subsequent period, about eight hundred and seventy years ago, the empire of Asia was transferred from the Assyrians, who had held it a thousand and seventy years, to the Medes. For Arbaces, a Mede, dethroned and put to death their monarch Sardanapalus, a man immersed in luxurious gratifications, and courting extravagant pleasures to his own destruction; and who was the thirty-third in succession from Ninus and Semiramis, the founders of Babylon, a succession so regular that the son had in every instance inherited the throne of his father.

In this age, too, Lycurgus, the Lacedæmonian, a man of royal birth, was the author of a most severe and just body of laws, and of a system of education most suitable[11] to the character of his countrymen; and Sparta, as long as she adhered to it, was eminently prosperous.

During the same period, sixty-five years before the foundation of Rome, the city of Carthage was built by Elissa of Tyre, whom some suppose to be the same as Dido. About the same time, Caranus, a man of regal extraction, being the sixteenth in descent from Hercules, took his departure from Argos, and seized on the kingdom of Macedonia. The great Alexander, being the seventeenth in succession from Caranus, might justly boast of his lineages, as being on his mother’s side from Achilles, and on his father’s from Hercules[12].

VII[edit]

Coeval with these events, and separated by about a hundred and twenty years from Homer, lived Hesiod, a man of exquisite taste, remarkable for the gentle sweetness of his numbers, and a great lover of ease and retirement. As he was nearest in time to his illustrious predecessor, he was also nearest in the reputation of his writings. He avoided resembling Homer in one respect, for he has mentioned both his country and his parents; but the former in the bitterest terms of reproach, on account of a fine which it had imposed upon him.

While I am treating of foreign matters, a point in our own history occurs to me, which has given rise to many mistakes, and about which there is the greatest discrepancy in the opinions of writers. Some authors say that, during this period, about eight hundred and thirty years ago, Capua and Nola were founded by the Tuscans; and to their opinion I readily assent. But how greatly does Marcus Cato differ from them, who states that “Capua was first founded by the Tuscans, and Nola some time afterwards; but that Capua had stood, before it was taken by the Romans, about two hundred and sixty years.” If this be the case, and as only two hundred and forty years have elapsed since the taking of Capua, it can be but five hundred years since it was built. For my own part, speaking with deference to the accuracy of Cato, I can scarcely believe that so great a city rose, flourished, fell, and sprung up again, in so short a space of time.

VIII[edit]

The Olympic games, the most celebrated of all spectacles of entertainment, and best adapted for invigorating the mind and the body, had their commencement soon afterwards, the founder of them being Iphitus of Elis, who instituted these contests, as well as a market, eight hundred and four years before you, Marcus Vinicius, entered upon your consulship. By some, however, Atreus is said to have commenced this solemnity, when he exhibited, in this same place, funeral games in honour of his father Pelops, about twelve hundred and fifty years ago, on which occasion Hercules was victor in every kind of contest.

It was at this time that the archons at Athens ceased to be elected for life, Alcmæon being the last that was so appointed, and were chosen only for ten years; an arrangement which lasted for seventy years, when the administration was committed to annual magistrates. Of those who held office for ten years, the first was Charops, and the last was Eryxias; of those who retained it but one year, the first was Creon.

In the sixth Olympiad, twenty-two years from the commencement of the first, Romulus, the son of Mars, having avenged the wrong done to his grandfather, founded the city of Rome on the Palatine hill, on the day of the feast of Pales[13]; from which time, to that of your consulate, is a period of seven hundred and eighty-three years. This event took place four hundred and thirty-seven years after the taking of Troy. The work was effected by Romulus, with the assistance of the Latin legions of his grandfather; for I can readily believe those who give this account, since, without such assistance, and with merely a defenceless band of shepherds, he could hardly have established a new city, while the Vejentines, the other Etruscans, and the Sabines, were so close upon him, how much soever he strengthened it by opening an asylum being the two groves. He had a hundred chosen men, called Fathers, as a public council. Such origin had the term Patricians[14]. The seizure of the Sabine virgins * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

IX[edit]

​* * * proved a more powerful enemy[15] than the Romans had apprehended; for he maintained a struggle, during two years, with such variation of fortune, that he had generally the advantage, and drew a great part of Greece into alliance with him. Even the Rhodians, who had previously been most faithful to the Romans, began, with wavering allegiance, to watch the turns of fortune, and appeared rather inclined to the side of the king. Eumenes, too, in this war, was undecided in his views, and acted consistently neither with his brother’s[16] proceedings at first, nor with his own general conduct. At length the senate and people of Rome elected to the consulship Lucius Æmilius Paulus, who had previously triumphed both as prætor and consul; a man deserving of the highest honour which merit can be conceived to attain. He was the son of that Paulus who commenced with such reluctance the battle of Cannæ, so fatal to the commonwealth, and who met death in it with so much fortitude. He routed Perses, in a great battle, near a city named Pydna in Macedonia, and drove him from his camp; and at last, after destroying his troops, forced him to flee from his dominions. The king, after quitting Macedonia, took refuge in the island of Samothrace, and committed himself, as a suppliant, to the sanctuary of the temple. Cnæus Octavius, the prætor, who had the command of the fleet, followed him thither, and prevailed on him, rather by persuasion than by force, to trust himself to the honour of the Romans. Æmilius Paulus, in consequence, led this most eminent and celebrated prince in triumph.

In this year, too, were two other famous triumphs; that of Octavius, the naval commander, and that of Anicius, who drove before his chariot Gentius the king of the Illyrians. How constantly envy attends eminent fortune, and how closely it pursues the highest characters, may be understood from the follow circumstance, that while no one objected to the triumphs of Anicius and Octavius, there were some who endeavoured to hinder that of Paulus, though it far exceeded the others, as well in the greatness of Perses as a monarch, as in the magnificent display of war-trophies, and the quantity of money carried in it; as it brought into the treasury two hundred thousand sestertia[17], being beyond comparison more splendid than any triumph that preceded it.

X[edit]

During the same time, while Antiochus Epiphanes, who built the Temple of Jupiter at Athens, and who was then king of Syria, was besieging Ptolemy the young king of Egypt, in Alexandria, Marcus Popilius Lænas was sent as ambassador to him, to require him to desist from the siege. Popilius delivered his message, and the king replying that he would consider of the matter, he drew a circle round him with a rod upon the sand, desiring him to give a decisive answer before he passed that boundary. Roman firmness overcame the king’s hesitation, and the consul was obeyed.

Lucius Æmilius Paulus, who obtained the great victory over Perses, had four sons; of whom he had allowed the two eldest to be adopted, one by Publius Scipio, the son of Africanus, who retained nothing of his father’s greatness but the splendour of his name and the force of his eloquence, and the other by Fabius Maximus; the two younger, at the time when he gained the victory, he had still at home, as being yet under age. Previously to the day of his triumph, when, according to ancient usage, he was making a statement of his services to an assembly without the city, he intreated the immortal gods, that if any of them looked enviously on his actions and fortune, they would vent their displeasure on himself rather than on the Commonwealth. This expression, as if uttered by an oracle, robbed him of a great part of his offspring; for of the two sons whom he had in his house, he lost one a few days before his triumph, and the other in fewer days after it.

About this time occurred the censorship of Fulvius Flaccus and Posthumius Albinus, which was exercised with great severity; for Cnæus Fulvius, the brother of Fulvius the censor, and partner with him in property[18], was expelled from the senate by those very censors.

XI[edit]

Subsequently to the conquest and capture of Perses, who died four years afterwards in private custody[19] at Alba, a man who, from his false representations concerning his birth, was called Pseudo-Philippus, (for he said that his name was Philip, and that he was of the royal blood, though he was, in reality, of the meanest extraction,) seized the government of Macedonia by force of arms, and assumed the ensigns of royalty. But he soon paid the penalty of his rashness; for the prætor Quintus Metellus, who, from his merit in war, had received the surname of Macedonicus, gained a noble victory over both the imposter and his nation, and subdued at the same time, in a great battle, the Achæans[20] who had recommenced hostilities. This is the Metellus Macedonicus who erected the porticos round the two temples without an inscription, now encircled by the porticos of Octavia, and who brought from Macedonia the group of equestrian statues that face the front of the temples, and form at present the chief ornament of the place. Of this group the following origin is related. Alexander the Great, it is said, desired Lysippus, an eminent artist in such performances, to make statues of such horsemen of his own troop as had fallen at the river Granicus, representing their likenesses in the figures, and placing one of Alexander himself among them. It was this Metellus, too, who first built at Rome a temple of marble[21], among the edifices just mentioned, and who was consequently the introducer of what is to be called either magnificence or luxury. It would be difficult to find, indeed, a man of any nation, age, or rank, whose felicity can be compared with that of Metellus; for besides his splendid triumph, his distinguished honours, his acknowledged pre-eminence in the state, his long extent of life, and his zealous yet harmless contests with opponents for the good of his country, he was the father of four sons, whom he saw arrive at manhood, and whom he left surviving, and in enjoyment of the highest honours. These four sons supported his bier before the Rostra, one of them having been consul and censor, another consul, the third being consul at the time, and the fourth a candidate for the honour, which he afterwards obtained. Such an end may rather be called a happy retirement from life, than death.

XII[edit]

The whole of Achaia, of which a great part had been reduced by the conduct and arms of Metellus, was now, as we have said, strongly inclined to hostilities, being instigated chiefly by the Corinthians, who were guilty even of great insults to the Romans; and to conduct the war against them the consul Mummius was chosen. About the same time, too, rather because the Romans wished to believe whatever was said against the Carthaginians, than because anything was said against them worthy of belief, the senate resolved on the destruction of Carthage. Accordingly Publius Scipio Æmilianus, a man who emulated alike the virtues of his grandfather Publius Africanus and his father Lucius Paulus; who, in every qualification for war or peace, was the most eminent of his age as well in natural ability as in acquired knowledge; who, through the whole of his life, neither did, nor said, nor thought anything but what was praiseworthy; and who, as I have observed, had been adopted by Scipio the son of Africanus, was elected consul, though at the time he was only candidate for an ædileship. He had been previously honoured in Spain with a mural, and in Africa with an obsidional crown; in Spain, also, in consequence of a challenge, he had, though but of moderate bodily strength, slain an antagonist of extraordinary stature; and he now pressed on the war against Carthage, which had been conducted for two years by the preceding consuls, with additional vigour. This city, which, rather from jealousy of its power than from any recent offence, was an object of hatred to Rome, he utterly destroyed, and made it as much a monument of his own military prowess as it had previously been of his grandfather’s clemency.

Carthage was demolished a hundred and seventy-seven years ago, in the consulship of Cnæus Cornelius Lentulus and Lucius Mummius, after having stood six hundred and seventy-two years. Such was the end of Carthage, the rival of the empire of Rome, with which our forefathers commenced war in the consulate of Claudius and Fulvius, two hundred and ninety-six years before you, Marcus Vinicius, entered upon your consulship. Thus for a hundred and twenty years there subsisted between these two nations either war, or preparations for war, or unsettled peace. Nor did Rome, though the whole world were subdued, trust the she should be safe while there was left even the name of Carthage unremoved. So apt is hatred, arising from contentions, to continue longer than the fear of danger, and not to be laid aside even when the opposite party is vanquished; nor does the object of enmity cease to be detested until it has ceased to exist.

XIII[edit]

Three years before Carthage was demolished, Marcus Cato, who had been a constant advocate for its destruction, died, in the consulship of Lucius Censorinus and Marcus Manlius. In the very year in which Carthage fell, Lucius Mummius utterly destroyed Corinth, nine hundred and fifty-two years after it had been built by Aletes the son of Hippotes. Each of the generals was honoured with a name from the people whom he conquered, the one being styled Africanus, the other Achaicus. No new man[22], before Mummius, had ever assumed a surname derived from military merit. Of these two commanders, the dispositions, as well as the pursuits, were entirely different. Scipio was so elegant a cultivator and admirer of liberal studies, and of every kind of learning, that he had constantly with him, at home and in the field, two men of eminent talents, Polybius and Panætius; for no man balanced the fatigues of business with the enjoyments of leisure more judiciously than Scipio, as he was constantly studying the arts either of war or of peace, and constantly exercising either his body in toil or his mind in learning. Mummius, on the contrary, was so extremely ignorant, that when, on the taking of Corinth, he was hiring persons to carry pictures and statues, finished by the hands of the greatest masters, into Italy, he ordered notice to be given to the contractors, that, if they lost any of them, they must find new ones. Yet I think you, Vinicius, must be of opinion, that it would have been more for the advantage of our countrymen that their minds should have remained still ignorant of Corinthian elegancies, than that their knowledge of them should have reached its present height; and that the ancient ignorance would have been more conducive to the public honour than our modern skill.

XIV[edit]

As a view of any historical subject, when contracted into one continuous narrative, is retained more easily in the eye and the memory than when left dispersed in different periods, I have determined to introduce between the former and latter part of this volume, a summary of particulars on a not unimportant subject, and to specify, in this part of my work, what colonies, since the capture of Rome by the Gauls, have been established by order of the senate, and at what times; for of the military settlements the occasions and founders are sufficiently known from their names. With this detail I shall unite, I think without impropriety, an account of the enlargement of the state, and the extension of the Roman name, by the communication of its privileges.

Seven years after the Gauls took the city, the colony of Sutrium was settled; the year after, that of Setia; and, after an interval of nine years, that of Nepe. Two-and-thirty years afterwards, the Aricians received the civic franchise. Three hundred and sixty-two years ago, in the consulship of Spurius Posthumius and Veturius Calvinus, the freedom of the city, but without the right of voting, was given to the Campanians and part of the Samnites; and the same year a colony was settled at Cales. Three years afterwards, the people of Fundi and Formiæ were admitted as citizens, in the very year that Alexandria was founded. In the following consulship, when Spurius Posthumius and Philo Publilius were censors, the civic franchise was granted to Acerra. Three years afterwards, that of Luceria; in four years more, that of Suessa Aurunca, and two years later, those of Saticula and Interamna. Then followed ten years in which nothing of the kind occurred; at the end of which time were established the colonies of Sora and Alba, and two years afterwards that of Carseoli. In the consulate of Quintus Fabius for the fifth time, and that of Decius Mus for the fourth time, the year in which Pyrrhus began to reign, colonies were sent to Sinuessa and Minturnæ, and four years afterwards to Venusia. After an interval of two years, in the consulate of Marcus Curius and Rufinus Cornelius, the rights of citizenship, but without that of voting, were given to the Sabines; an event which took place about three hundred and twenty years ago. About three hundred years ago, in the consulship of Fabius Dorso and Claudius Canina, colonies were sent to Cosa and Pæstum, and five years afterwards, in the consulship of Sempronius Sophus and Appius, the son of Appius Cæcus, to Ariminum and Beneventum; and the right of voting was then granted to the Sabines. At the commencement of the first Punic war, Firmum and Castrum were occupied with colonies, and the following year Æsernia; in seventeen years afterwards Æsulum and Alsium; two years later, Fregenæ; in the next year, when Torquatus and Sempronius were consuls, Brundisium; three years after, in the year when the games of Flora commenced, Spoletium. Two years later, Valentia was colonised, and, about the time of Hannibal’s arrival in Italy, Cremona and Placentia.

XV[edit]

Neither while Hannibal remained in Italy, nor for several years immediately succeeding his departure, had the Romans any opportunities of founding colonies; for, while the war lasted, they were obliged to press soldiers, instead of discharging them, and, when it was ended, their strength required to be recruited rather than dispersed. However, in the consulship of Manlius Volso and Fabius Nobilior, about two hundred and seventeen years ago, the colony of Bononia was settled, and five years afterwards, those of Pisaurum and Potentia; in three years more, Aquileia and Gravisca; four years later, Luca. During the same period, though some express a doubt of it, colonies were sent to Puteoli, Salernum, and Buxentum. One hundred and eighty-seven years ago, a colony was sent to Auximum in the Picenian territory; this took place three years before Cassius the censor began to build the theatre looking from the Lupercal[23] towards Mount Palatine, when the great austerity of manners, and the consul Scipio, prevented him[24] from completing it; an occurrence which I number among the most honourable testimonies to the public character in those days. In the consulship of Cassius Longinus and Sextius Calvinus, (who defeated the Salyes[25] at the springs which were from him named Aquæ Sextiae,) about one hundred and fifty-seven years ago, the colony of Fabrateria was settled, and the year after those of Scylacium, Minervium, Tarentum, and Neptunia, as well as Carthage in Africa[26], which was, I have said, the first colony planted beyond the bounds of Italy. Concerning Dertona there is no certainty; but Narbo Martius in Gaul was settled in the consulship of Porcius and Marcius, about a hundred and fifty-three years ago. Twenty-three years after was founded Eporedia among the Bagienni[27], when Marius was consul, for the sixth time, with Valerius Flaccus. Any colony settled since that time, except the military colonies, I am unable to recollect.

XVI[edit]

Though this little portion of my work has exceeded the limits intended, and though I am sensible that in so hasty a composition, which, like a wheel or rapid torrent[28], allows me nowhere to make a stand, I ought rather to omit some things that may seem necessary than to introduce any that are superfluous, I yet cannot refrain from noticing a point on which I have often reflected, and on which I could never arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. For who can sufficiently wonder, that the most eminent geniuses in every art have agreed in one common character, and have fallen within one period of time; and that, as different kinds of animals, shut up in a fold or other inclosure, continue each distinct from those around it, and form themselves into separate bodies, so minds, capable of any great achievements, have formed distinct assemblages about the same time and with similar effect? One age, and that not extending through many years, gave lustre to tragedy by the works of those great authors, men animated by a divine spirit, Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. One age produced the Ancient Comedy, under Cratinus, Aristophanes, and Eupolis. As for the New Comedy, Menander, with Philemon and Diphilus, his equals in age rather than ability, not only invented it within a few years, but left works in it beyond imitation. The distinguished philosophers, too, deriving their knowledge from the lips of Socrates, in how short a time did they all, whom I have a little before enumerated[29], flourish after the death of Plato and Aristotle! And in oratory what splendour was there before Isocrates, or after the death of his hearers and their immediate disciples? So crowded were they into a short space of time, that all who were worthy of being remembered must have been known to each other.

XVII[edit]

Nor has this peculiarity occurred more among the Greeks than among the Romans. Roman tragedy, unless we go back to the rudest and most barbarous efforts, which deserve no praise but as attempts at invention, subsists wholly in the writings of Accius and his contemporaries. The agreeable sportiveness of Latin humour displayed itself, about the same time, in Cæcilius, Terence, and Afranius[30]. As for the historians, a period of less than eighty years (even if we include Livy in the age of the earlier writers) produced them all, with the exception of Cato and some old and obscure annalists. Nor did the assemblage of poets extend further in time, either upwards or downwards. With respect to oratory, forensic pleading, and the perfect beauty of prose eloquence, they burst forth complete (to say nothing of Cato, and to speak with due respect for Publius Crassus, Scipio, Lælius, the Gracchi, Fannius, and Servius Galba) under Cicero, who was the coryphæus in his art; as of all other orators we receive pleasure from few, and admire none, except such as lived in his time, or immediately succeeded it[31]. That the same has been the case with regard to grammarians, statuaries, painters, and sculptors[32], whoever investigates the records of ages will easily convince himself, and will see that the most eminent performances in every art are confined within very narrow limits of time.

Of this concurrence of similar geniuses in the same period, of their corresponding devotion to like pursuits, and their equality of progress, I often inquire for the causes, but find none that I can regard as satisfactory. Some, however, I discover that are probable; among which are the following. Emulation nourishes genius; and at one time envy, at another admiration, kindles a spirit of imitation. Any art, too, which is pursued with extreme zeal, will soon reach the height of excellence; and to stand still on the summit is difficult; as, in the natural course of things, what cannot advance, recedes. And as we are at first excited with ardour to overtake those whom we think our superiors, so, when we once despair of surpassing or equalling them, our zeal flags with our hope, ceases to pursue what it cannot attain, and, relinquishing that object as already pre-occupied, turns to something new. Declining any pursuit in which we cannot arrive at eminence, we endeavour to find one that will allow scope for our exertions; and the consequence is, that such changes, if frequent and unsteady, prove the greatest obstacle to perfection.

XVIII[edit]

Our wonder may well be transferred from ages to cities. One city in Attica was distinguished in eloquence for a greater number of years, and for more achievements in it, than all the rest of Greece; so that, though the natives of that country were dispersed through its different states, we might suppose its genius to have been confined entirely within the walls of Athens. Nor do I more wonder that this should have been the case, than that not a single orator of Argos, Thebes, or Lacedæmon, was thought worthy of notice during his life, or of remembrance after his death. In such studies, these, as well as many other cities, were wholly unproductive, except that the single muse of Pindar conferred some degree of lustre on Thebes. Alcman[33] the Lacedæmonians falsely claim. * * * *

References[edit]

  1. I. [Epeus,] being parted, &c.] The name is wanting in the text at the commencement of this fragment. But it appears from Justin, xx., 2, as well as from Aristotle, De Miraculis, that it was Epeus, the builder of the Trojan horse, (doli fabricator Epeus, Virg. Æn., ii., 264,) who founded Metapontum.
  2. Metapontum] On the coast of Lucania, in the south of Italy.
  3. His brother] Ajax, who was refused the arms of Achilles.
  4. Phidippus] An inferior leader in the Trojan war, from the isles of Calydnæ, on the coast of Caria. Hom. Il., ii., 678.
  5. His cousin] Patruelis. He was son of Thyestes, brother of Atreus, Agamemnon’s father.
  6. Tyrrhenus] He gave name, it is said, to Tyrrhenia, Tuscia, or Etruria, in Italy. The story of his departure from Lydia is taken from Herod., i., 94.
  7. Without being known] Imprudenter. “He was slain by the enemy, not being aware that he was the king.” Lipsius.
  8. III. Thessalus, the son of Hercules] Father of Phidippus above mentioned. Homer, loc. cit.
  9. Rebuilt] Condidit. “Ex integro restituit.” Vossius.
  10. V. An exclusive right, &c.] Solus appellari poeta meruit. “Non summus modo; splendidum judicium.” Krause.
  11. VI. System of education most suitable] Disciplinæ convenientissimæ [vir]. I have omitted vir, which, as Ruhnken says, “nullo pacto tolerari potest.” Heinsius would alter it to virtuti; Ruhnken to viribus; and some other critics, as Krause signifies, having proposed viris.
  12. At the end of this chapter is inserted, in all the editions, a passage from Æmilius (or rather, as Krause thinks, Manilius) Sura. Some person, in old times, seems to have written it in the margin of his manuscript, whence it crept into the text. I have omitted it.
  13. VIII. Feast of Pales] April 21st.
  14. Patricians] Patricii, from patres. Comp. Flor., i., 1.
  15. IX. Proved a more powerful enemy] Here is a great hiatus, all the history of Rome being lost from the foundation of the city to the year U.C. 582. The commencement of the chapter stands thus: . . . . quam timuerit hostis, expetit. Lipsius, for expetit, would substitute extitit, and thinks that the author had written something to this effect: Populo Romano gravior, quam timuerat, hostis extitit, nempe Perses. See Florus, ii., 12.
  16. His brother’s] Attalus.
  17. Two hundred thousand sestertia] 1,776,041l. 13s. 4d.
  18. X. Partner with him in property] Consors. “Consortes are properly coheirs, inheriting a property in common, which they suffer to remain, at least for a time, undivided.” Burman.
  19. XI. Private custody] Liberâ custodiâ. See Sall., Cat., c. 47.
  20. The Achæans] Achæos. That is, the Greeks. The Romans called Greece, as their province, Achaia. See Florus, ii., 7.
  21. A temple of marble] Ædem ex marmore. Burman would take ædem for ædes, understanding a private house for Metellus himself; but this, as Krause says, is not only invitâ Latinitate, but invitâ historiâ; for marble was not used in the erection of private houses till a much later period.
  22. XIII. New man] See Sall., Cat., c. 23.
  23. XV. From the Lupercal] A Lupercali. “The Lupercal was a grotto sacred to Pan, near the Palatine mount.” Krause.
  24. When the great austerity of manners—prevented him, &c.] There are various readings of this passage, but all producing much the same sense. Krause reads, Cui (Cassio) id demoliendo—restitêre; that is, “the austerity of manners, and Scipio the consul, opposed Cassius by pulling it (the theatre) down.”
  25. Salyes] A people of Gallia Narbonensis.
  26. Carthage in Africa] A colony was established on the site of the old city by the Gracchi, and called Colonia Carthago.
  27. Bagienni] Otherwise called Vagienni, a people of Liguria, near the source of the Po.
  28. XVI. Torrent] Gurgitis. The words ac verticis, which follow this, and which Ruhnken and Krause think a mere gloss, I have omitted.
  29. Whom I have a little before enumerated] Quos paulo ante enumeravimus. In some part of the book which is now lost.
  30. Cæcilius, Terence, and Afranius] Why does he omit Plautus? “I must suppose either that the name of Plautus has dropped out of the text, or, what seems more probable, that Paterculus entertained the same opinion of Plautus as Horace expresses, De Arte Poeticâ, 270, and therefore intentionally omitted him.” Krause.
  31. Except such as lived in his time, or immediately succeeded it] Neminem—nisi aut ab illo visum, aut qui illum viderit. This is translated according to the interpretation of Krause. Those who were visi ab illo were his contemporaries, (some of them, perhaps, a little his seniors,) with whom he lived, as it were, face to face; those qui illum viderunt were the men of the succeeding generation, who were just old enough to have had a sight of him. Thus Ovid says of Virgil, Virgilium tantum vidi.
  32. Statuaries—sculptors] Plastis—scalptoribus. Plastes, one that makes figures of any soft matter, as clay; scalptor, or sculptor, one who works with harder material, as stone or wood.
  33. XVIII. Alcman] He was a native of Lydia, and brought to Lacedæmon when very young, as a slave.