Page:The imperial peace; an ideal in European history.djvu/16

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The Imperial Peace

make this land what it should be. Dante and Virgil stood on common ground.

The reference to the ruler of Italy, Octavian, though more diffused than the allusion to the Eastern member of the governing pair, suggests and animates the poem; and no one at the time or later could fail to seize it. But there is a divine or a Roman idea, which is far more important than the reference to Octavian. The child, the new and young Roman, was already born out of the long sufferings of his goddess-mother in the Civil Wars: he was about to begin his education, the education that befitted a Roman, in war and in public office.

History gave a meaning to the idea. The young Rome was the Imperial Rome; and, as it turned out, the Emperor was the incarnate god on earth, and the bearer of the majesty of Rome. Of this development Virgil, as he wrote, was unconscious. There is no dynastic idea in this poem, though it easily adapted itself to the Imperial idea, as that idea was formed. Virgil was too true a prophet to dream merely of external forms in the future. He saw the young and new Rome, not the child of any individual Roman. He foresaw dimly the glory of a regenerated and ordered world, not the continuation of a dynastic succession.

The Empire, as it was gradually formed by Augustus from 27 B.C. onwards, corresponded in a real though very imperfect way to Dante's ideal. Augustus and his successors governed as guardians of the people, and dated their reign by their tribunician authority as champions of the commons. The Emperor was always in theory, and very often in fact, on the outlook for opportunities to do good to the Roman people and their subject provincials. It was one of the best purposes of the Imperial policy to educate the subject provincials to be worthy