Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/546

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XXIX

THE CÆSARS BETWEEN THE SEA AND THE GREAT PLAINS OF THE OLD WORLD[1]

§ 1. A Short Catalogue of Emperors. § 2. Roman Civilization at its Zenith. § 3. Limitations of the Roman Mind. § 4. The Stir of the Great Plains. § 5. The Western (true Roman) Empire crumples up. § 6. The Eastern (revived Hellenic) Empire.
 

§ 1

WESTERN writers are apt, through their patriotic predispositions, to overestimate the organization, civilizing work, and security of the absolute monarchy that established itself in Rome after the accession of Augustus Cæsar. From it we derive the political traditions of Britain, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy, and these countries loom big in the perspectives of European writers. By the scale of a world history the Roman Empire ceases to seem so overwhelmingly important. It lasted about four centuries in all before it was completely shattered. The Byzantine Empire was no genuine continuation of it; it was a resumption of the Hellenic Empire of Alexander; it spoke Greek; its monarch had a Roman title no doubt, but so for that matter had the late Tsar of Bulgaria. During its four centuries of life the empire of Rome had phases of division and complete chaos; its prosperous years, if they are gathered together and added up, do not amount in all to a couple of centuries. Compared with the quiet steady expansion, the security, and the civilizing task of the contemporary Chinese Empire, or with Egypt between 4000 and 1000 B.C., or with Sumeria before the Semitic conquest, this amounts to a

  1. The best book in a compact compass for expanding this chapter is H. Stuart Jones's The Roman Empire.

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