The History of Rome (Mommsen)/Book 1/Chapter 13

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Agriculture and commerce are so intimately bound up with the constitution and the external history of states, that the former must frequently be noticed in the course of describing the latter. We shall here endeavour to supplement the detached notices which we have already given, by exhibiting a summary view of Italian and particularly of Roman economics.

Agriculture. It has been already observed (P. 20) that the transition from a pastoral to an agricultural economy preceded the immigration of the Italians into the peninsula. Agriculture continued to be the main support of all the communities in Italy, of the Sabellians and Etruscans no less than of the Latins. There were no purely pastoral tribes in Italy during historical times, although of course the various races everywhere combined pastoral husbandry, to a greater or less extent according to the nature of the locality, with the cultivation of the soil. The beautiful custom of commencing the laying out of a new town by tracing a furrow with the plough along the line of the future ring-wall shows how deeply rooted was the feeling that every commonwealth is dependent on agriculture. In die case of Rome in particular (and it is only in its case that we can speak of agrarian relations with any sort of certainty), the Servian reform shows very clearly not only that the agricultural class originally preponderated in the state, but also that an effort was made permanently to maintain the body of freeholders as the pith and marrow of the community. When in course of time a large portion of the landed property in Rome had passed into the hands of non-burgesses, and the rights and duties of burgesses were no longer bound up with freehold property, the reformed constitution obviated this incongruous state of things and the perils which it threatened, not merely temporarily but permanently, by dividing the members of the community once for all, without reference to their political position, into "freeholders" (assidui) and "producers of children" (proletarii), and imposing on the former the public burdens—a step which in the natural course of things could not but be speedily followed by the concession of public rights. The whole policy, moreover, of Roman war and conquest rested, like the constitution itself, on the basis of the freehold system; as the freeholder alone was of value in the state, the aim of its wars was to increase the number of its freehold members. The vanquished community was either compelled to merge entirely into the yeomanry of Rome, or, if not reduced to this extremity, it was required, not to pay a war-contribution or a fixed tribute, but to cede a portion (usually a third part) of its domain, which was thereupon, as a rule, occupied by Roman farms. Many nations have gained victories and made conquests as the Romans did; but none has equalled the Roman in thus making the ground he had won his own by the sweat of his brow, and in securing by the ploughshare what had been gained by the lance. That which is gained by war may be wrested from the grasp by war again, but it is not so with the conquests made by the plough; while the Romans lost many battles, they scarcely ever on making peace ceded Roman soil, and for this result they were indebted to the tenacity with which the farmers clung to their fields and homesteads. The strength of man and of the state lies in their dominion over the soil; the greatness of Rome was built on the most extensive and immediate mastery of her citizens over her soil, and on the compact unity of the body which thus acquired so firm a hold.

System of tillage in common. We have already indicated (P. 38, 72) that in the earliest times the arable land was cultivated in common, probably by the several clans; each of these tilled its own land, and thereafter distributed the produce among the several households belonging to it. There exists in fact an intimate connection between the system of common tillage and the clan form of society, and even subsequently in Rome joint residence and joint husbandry were in the case of co-proprietors of very frequent occurrence.[1] Even the traditions of Roman law furnish the information that wealth consisted at first in cattle and the usufruct of the soil, and that it was not till later that land came to be distributed among the burgesses as their own special property.[2] More reliable evidence that such was the case is afforded by the designation of wealth as "cattle-estate," or "slave-and-cattle-estate," (pecunia, familia pecuniaque), and of the special possessions of the children of the household and of slaves as "lesser cattle" (peculium); also by the earliest form of acquiring property, the laying hold of it with the hand (mancipatio), which was only appropriate to the case of moveable articles (P. 162); and above all by the oldest measure of land, the "lordship" (heredium, from herus lord), consisting of two jugera (about an acre and a quarter), which can only have applied to garden-ground, and not to the hide.[3] When and how the distribution of the arable land took place, can no longer be ascertained. This much only is certain, that the oldest form of the constitution was based not on freehold-tenure, but on clanship as a substitute for it, while the Servian constitution, again, presupposes the distribution of the land. It is evident from the same constitution that the great bulk of landed property consisted of middle-sized farms, which provided work and subsistence for a family and admitted of the keeping of cattle for tillage as well as of the application of the plough. The ordinary extent of such a Roman full hide has not been ascertained with precision, but can scarcely, as has already been shown (P. 102), be estimated at less than twenty jugera (121/2 acres nearly).

Culture of grain. Their husbandry was mainly occupied with the culture of the cereals. The usual grain was spelt (far); but different kinds of pulse, roots, and vegetables were also diligently cultivated.

Culture of the vine. Whether the culture of the vine came to Italy along with Culture of the Italians, or was introduced in very early times by Greek the vine, settlers, cannot be positively determined (P. 20); but the supposition that its culture had begun before the coming of the Greeks is supported by the fact that the wine-festival (Vinalia), i. e. the festival of opening the casks, which subsequently fell on the 23rd April, was celebrated in honour of Father Iovis, not in honour of the wine-god of more recent times who was borrowed from the Greeks, Father Liber. The very ancient legend which represents Mezentius, king of Cære, as levying a wine-tax from the Latins or the Rutuli, and the various versions of the widely-spread Italian story which affirms that the Celts were induced to cross the Alps in consequence of their coming to the knowledge of the noble fruits of Italy, especially of the grape and of wine, are indications of the pride of the Latins in their glorious vine, the envy of all their neighbours. A careful system of vine-husbandry was early and generally inculcated by the Latin priests. In Rome the vintage did not begin until the supreme priest of the community, the Flamen Dialis, had granted permission for it, and had himself made a beginning by breaking off a cluster of grapes with his own hands; in like manner the ritual law of Tusculum forbade the sale of new wine, until the priest had proclaimed the festival of opening the casks. The early prevalence of the culture of the vine is likewise attested not only by the general adoption of winelibations in the sacrificial ritual, but also by the ordinance of the Roman priests promulgated as a law of King Numa, that men should present in libation to the gods no wine obtained from uncut grapes; just as, to introduce the beneficial practice of drying the grain, they prohibited the offering of grain undried.

Culture of the olive. The culture of the olive was of later introduction, and certainly was first brought to Italy by the Greeks.[4] The olive is said to have been first planted in the countries of the western Mediterranean towards the close of the second century of the city; and this view accords with the fact that the olive-branch and the olive occupy in the Roman ritual a place very subordinate to the juice of the vine. The esteem in which both noble trees were held by the Romans is shown by the rearing of a vine and of an olive-tree in the middle of the Forum, not far from the Curtian lake.

The principal fruit tree planted was the nutritious fig, which was probably a native of Italy. The legend of the origin of Rome wove its threads closely around the old fig-trees, several of which stood in the Palatine and in the Roman Forum[errata 1].

Management of the farm. The farmer and his sons guided the plough, and performed generally the necessary labours of husbandry: it is not probable that slaves or free day-labourers were regularly employed in the work of the ordinary farm. The plough was drawn by the ox or by the cow; horses, asses, and mules served as beasts of burden. The rearing of cattle for the production of butchers' meat or of milk did not exist at all as a distinct branch of husbandry, or was prosecuted only to a very limited extent, at least on land remaining the property of the clan; but, in addition to the smaller cattle which were driven out together to the common pasture, swine and poultry, particularly geese, were kept upon the farm. As a general rule, there was no end of ploughing and re-ploughing: a field was reckoned imperfectly tilled, in which the furrows were not drawn so close that harrowing could be dispensed with; but the method of culture was more earnest than intelligent, and no improvement took place in the defective plough, or in the imperfect processes of reaping and of thrashing. This result is probably attributable rather to the scanty development of rational mechanics than to the obstinate clinging of the farmers to use and wont; for mere attachment to the system of tillage transmitted with the patrimonial soil was far from influencing the practical Italian; and evident improvements in agriculture, such as the cultivation of fodder-plants and the irrigation of meadows, were probably adopted from neighbouring peoples or independently developed by themselves at an early period. Roman literature itself in fact began with the discussion of the theory of agriculture. Welcome rest followed diligent and judicious labour; and here too religion asserted her right to soothe the toils of lite to the common man by pauses of refreshment and of greater freedom of movement. Four times a month, and therefore on an average every eighth day (nonæ), the farmer went to town to buy and sell and transact his other business. But rest from labour, in the strict sense, took place only on the several festival days, and especially in the holiday-month after the completion of the winter sowing (feriæ sementivæ): during these set terms the plough rested by command of the gods, and not the farmer only, but also his slave and his ox, reposed in holiday-idleness.

Such, probably, was the way in which the ordinary Roman farm was cultivated in the earliest times. The next heirs had no protection against bad management except the right of having the spendthrift who squandered his inherited estate placed under wardship like a lunatic (P. 161). Women moreover were in substance divested of their personal right of disposal, and, if they married, a member of the same gens was ordinarily assigned as husband, in order to retain the estate within the gens. The law sought to check the overburdening of landed property with debt partly by ordaining, in the case of a debt secured over the land, the immediate transference of the ownership of the object pledged from the debtor to the creditor, partly in the case of a simple loan, by the rigour of the proceedings in execution which speedily led to actual bankruptcy; the latter means however, as the sequel will show, attained its object but very imperfectly. No restriction was imposed by law on the free divisibility of property. Desirable as it might be that co-heirs should remain in the undivided possession of their heritage, even the primitive law was careful to keep the power of dissolving such a partnership open at any time to any partner; it was good that brethren should dwell together in peace, but to compel them to do so was foreign to the liberal spirit of Roman law. The Servian constitution moreover shows that even in the regal period of Rome there were not wanting small cottagers and garden-proprietors, with whom the mattock took the place of the plough. It was left to custom and the sound sense of the population to prevent excessive subdivision of the soil; and that their confidence in this respect was not misplaced, and landed estates ordinarily remained entire, is proved by the universal Roman custom of designating them by permanent individual names. The community exercised only an indirect influence in the matter by the sending forth of colonies, which regularly led to the establishment of a number of new full hides, and frequently perhaps also to the suppression of a number of minor properties, the small landholders being sent forth as colonists.

Landed proprietors. It is far more difficult to perceive how matters stood with landed property on a larger scale. That there were such larger properties to no inconsiderable extent cannot be doubted from the position of the equites in the Servian constitution, and may be easily explained partly by the distribution of the clan-lands, which of itself must have produced as of larger landholders in consequence of the necessary inequality in the numbers of the persons included in the several clans and participating in the distribution, and partly by the abundant influx of mercantile capital to Rome. But farming on a large scale in the strict sense and implying a considerable establishment of slaves, such as we afterwards meet with at Rome, cannot be supposed to have existed during this period. On the contrary to this period we must refer the ancient definition, which represents the senators as called fathers from the fields which they parcelled out among the common people as a father among his children; and originally the landowner must have distributed that portion of his land which he was unable to farm himself, or even his whole estate, into little parcels among his dependents to be cultivated by them, as is the general practice in Italy at the present day. The recipient might be the house-child or slave of the granter; if he was a free man, his position was that which subsequently went by the name of "occupancy on sufferance" (precarium). The recipient retained his occupancy during pleasure, and had no legal means of protecting himself in possession; on the contrary the granter could eject him at any time when he pleased. The relation did not necessarily involve any payment on the part of the person who had the usufruct of the soil to its proprietor; but such a payment doubtless frequently took place and, it is probable, consisted ordinarily in the tribute of a portion of the produce. The relation in that case approximated to the of subsequent times, but remained always distinguished from it partly by the absence of a term for its expiry, partly by its non-actionable character, the only protection accorded by law to any demand under the lease being based on the lessor's right of ejection. It is plain that it was essentially a relation based on mutual fidelity, which could not subsist without the help of the powerful sanction of custom consecrated by religion; and this was not wanting. The institution of clientship, altogether of a moral-religious nature, beyond doubt rested fundamentally on this assignation of the its of the soil. Nor was the introduction of such assignations dependent on the abolition of the system of common tillage; for just as afterwards the individual, so in earlier times the gens could grant to dependents the usufruct of its lands; and beyond doubt with this very state of things was connected the fact that the Roman clientship was not personal, but that from the very first the client along with his gens intrusted himself for protection and fealty to the patron and his gens. This earliest form of Roman landholding serves to explain how there sprang from the great landlords in Rome a landed, while there was no urban, nobility. As the pernicious institution of middlemen remained foreign to the Romans, the Roman landlord found himself not much less fettered to his land than was the lessee and the farmer; he saw to and took part in everything himself, and the wealthy Roman esteemed it his highest praise to be reckoned a good landlord. His house was on his land; in the city he had only a lodging for the purpose of attending to his business there, and perhaps of breathing the purer air that prevailed there during the hot season. Above all however these arrangements furnished a moral basis for the relation between the nobles and the common people, and so materially lessened its dangers. The free tenants on sufferance sprung from families of decayed farmers, dependents, and freedmen, formed the great bulk of the proletariate (P. 93), and were not much more dependent on the landlord than the petty temporary lessee inevitably is with reference to the great proprietor. The slaves tilling the fields for a master were beyond doubt far less numerous than the free tenants. In all cases where an immigrant nation has not at once reduced to slavery a population en masse, slaves seem to have existed at first only to a very limited amount, and consequently free labourers seem to have played a very different part in the state from that in which they subsequently appear. In Greece "day-labourers" (θῆτες) in various instances during the earlier period occupy the place of the slaves of a later age, and in some communities, among the Locrians for instance, there was no slavery down to historical times. Even the slave, moreover, was ordinarily of Italian descent; the Yolscian, Sabine, or Etruscan war-captive must have stood in a different relation towards his master from the Syrian and the Celt of later times. Besides, as a tenant he had in fact, though not in law, land and cattle, wife and child, as the landlord had, and after emancipation was introduced (P. 165) there was a possibility, not remote, of working out his freedom. If such then was the footing on which landholding on a large scale stood in the earliest times, it was far from being a manifest evil in the commonwealth; on the contrary it was of most material service to it. Not only did it provide subsistence, although scantier upon the whole, for as many families in proportion as the intermediate and smaller properties; but the landlords moreover, occupying a comparatively elevated and free position, supplied the community with its natural leaders and rulers, while the agricultural and unpropertied tenants on sufferance furnished the genuine material for the Roman policy of colonization, without which it never would have succeeded; for while the state may furnish land to those who have none, it cannot impart to one who knows nothing of agriculture the spirit and the energy to wield the plough.

Pastoral husbandry. Ground under pasture was not affected by the distribution of the land. The state, and not the clanship, was regarded as the owner of the common pastures. It made use of them on the one hand for its own flocks and herds which were intended for sacrifice and other purposes, and were always well kept up by means of the cattle-fines, while on the other hand it gave to the possessors of cattle the privilege of driving them out upon the common pastures for a moderate payment (scriptura). The right of pasturage on the public domains probably from the first bore some sort of relation to the actual possession of land, but no legal connection can ever have subsisted in Rome between the particular hides of land and a definite proportional use of the common pasture; because property could be acquired even by the metoikos, but the right to use the common pasture always remained a privilege of the burgess and was only granted exceptionally to the metoikos by the royal favour. At this period, however, the public land seems to have held but a subordinate place in the national economy generally, tor the original common pasturage was not perhaps very extensive, and the conquered territory was probably for the most part distributed immediately as arable land among the gentes, or at a later period among individuals.

Trades. While agriculture was the chief and most extensively prosecuted occupation in Rome, other branches of industry did not fail to accompany it, as might be expected from the early development of urban life in that emporium of the Latins. In fact eight guilds of craftsmen were numbered among the institutions of King Numa, that is, among the institutions that had existed in Rome from time immemorial. These were the flute-blowers, the goldsmiths, the coppersmiths, the carpenters, the fullers, the dyers, the potters, aud the shoemakers,—a list which would substantially exhaust the class of tradesmen working to order and for the purpose of sale in respect of those early times, when the baking of bread and the professional art of healing were not yet known and wool was spun into clothing by the women of the household themselves. It is remarkable that there appears no special guild of workers in iron. This affords a fresh confirmation of the fact that the manufacture of iron was of comparatively late introduction in Latium, and on this account in the ritual down to the latest times copper alone might be used for the sacred plough and the shear-knife of the priests. These bodies of craftsmen must have been of great importance in early times for the urban life of Rome and for its position towards the Latin land—an importance not to be measured by the depressed condition of Roman handicraft in later times, when it was injuriously affected by the multitude of artizan-slaves working for their master or on his account, and by the increased importation of articles of luxury. The oldest lays of Rome celebrated not only the mighty war-god Mamers but also the skilled armourer Mamurius, who understood the art of forging for his fellow-burgesses shields similar to the divine model shield that had fallen from heaven; and thus in the earliest Rome, as everywhere, the arts of forging and of wielding the ploughshare and the sword went hand in hand, and there was nothing of that arrogant contempt for handicrafts which we afterwards meet with there. After the Servian organization, however, imposed the duty of serving in the army exclusively on the freeholders, the industrial classes were excluded not by any law, but practically by virtue of their general want of a freehold qualification, from the privilege of bearing arms, except in the case of special subdivisions chosen from the carpenters, coppersmiths, and musicians, and attached with a military organization to the army; and this may perhaps have been the origin of the subsequent habit of depreciating the manual arts and of the position of political inferiority assigned to them. The institution of guilds doubtless had the same object as the colleges of priests that resembled them in name; the men of skill associated themselves for more permanently and securely preserving the tradition of their art. That there was some mode of excluding unskilled persons is probable; but no traces are to be met with either of monopolizing tendencies or of protecagainst inferior manufactures. Indeed there is no aspect of the life of the Roman people respecting which our information is so scanty as that of the Roman trades.

Inland commerce of the Italians. Italian commerce must, it is obvious, have been limited in the earliest epoch to the mutual dealings of the Italians themselves. Fairs (mercatus), which must be distinguished from the usual weekly markets (nundinæ), were of great antiquity in Latium. In Home they were not originally perhaps connected, as was usual at a later period, with the ludi publici, but rather were associated with the celebration of the festival at the federal temple on the Aventine; the Latins, who came for this purpose to Borne every year on the 13th August, probably embraced at the same time the opportunity of transacting their business iu Rome and of purchasing there their necessary supplies. A similar and perhaps still greater importance attached in the of Etruria to the annual general assembly at the temple of Voltumna (perhaps near Montefiascone) in the territory of Volsinii—an assembly which served at the same time as a fair, and was regularly frequented by Roman as well as native traders. But the most important of all the Italian fairs was that which was held at Soracte in the grove of Feronia, a situation than which none could be found more favourable for the exchange of commodities among the three great nations. That high isolated mountain, which appears to have been set down by nature herself in the midst of the plain of the Tiber as a goal for the pilgrim, lay on the boundary which separated the Etruscan and Sabine lands (to the latter of which it appears mostly to have belonged), and it was likewise easily accessible from Latium and Umbria. Roman merchants regularly made their appearance there, and the wrongs of which they complained gave rise to many a quarrel with the Sabines.

Beyond doubt dealings of barter and traffic were carried on at these fairs long ere the first Greek or Phœnician vessel entered the western sea. When bad harvests had occurred, adjoining regions supplied each other at these fairs grain; there, moreover, they exchanged cattle, slaves, metals, and whatever other articles were deemed needful or desirable in those primitive times. Oxen and sheep formed oldest medium of exchange, ten sheep being reckoned equivalent to one ox. The recognition of these objects aa universal legal representatives of value or in other words as money, as well as the scale of proportion between the large and smaller cattle may be traced back (as the occurrence of both among the Germans especially shows) not merely to the Græco-Italian period, but beyond that even to the epoch of a purely pastoral economy.[5] In Italy, where metal in considerable quantity was everywhere required, especially for agricultural purposes and for armour, but only a few of its provinces themselves produced the requisite metals, copper (aes) very early made its appearance alongside of cattle as a second medium of exchange; indeed the Latins, who were poor in copper, designated valuation itself as "coppering" (aestimatio). This establishment of copper as a general equivalent recognized throughout the whole peninsula, as well as the numeral signs of first necessity as invented by the Italians to be mentioned more particularly below (P. 214), and the Italian duodecimal system, may be regarded as traces of this earliest international intercourse of the Italian peoples while they still had the peninsula to themselves.

Transmarine traffic of the Italians. We have already indicated generally the nature of the influence exercised by transmarine commerce on the Italians who continued independent. The Sabellian stocks remained almost wholly unaffected by it. They were in possession of only a small and inhospitable belt of coast, and received whatever reached them from foreign nations, the alphabet for instance, only through the medium of the Tuscans or Latins. This circumstance accounts, moreover, for their want of urban development. The intercourse of Tarentum with the Apulians and Messapians appears to have been at this epoch still unimportant. It was otherwise along the west coast. In Campania the Greeks and Italians dwelt peacefully side by side, and in Latium, and still more in Etruria, an extensive and regular exchange of commodities took place. What the earliest articles of import were may be interred partly from the objects found in the primitive tombs, particularly those at Cære, partly from indications preserved in the language and institutions of the Romans, partly and chiefly from the stimulating effect produced on Italian manufactures, for of course they bought foreign manufactures for a considerable time before they began to imitate them. We cannot determine how far the development of handicrafts had advanced before the separation of the stocks, or what progress it thereafter made while Italy remained left to its own resources; it is uncertain whether the Italian fullers, dyers, tanners, and potters received an impulse from Greece or Phœnicia or had their own independent development. But it is certain that the trade of the goldsmiths, which existed in Rome from time immemorial, can only have arisen after transmarine commerce had begun and the use of ornaments of gold had set in to some extent among the inhabitants of the peninsula. We find, accordingly, in the oldest sepulchres of Cære and Vulci in Etruria and of Præneste in Latium, plates of gold with winged lions stamped upon them, and similar ornaments of Babylonian manufacture. It may be a question in reference to a particular object found whether it has been introduced from abroad or native imitation; but on the whole it admits of no doubt that all the west coast of Italy in early times imported metallic wares from the East. It will be shown still more clearly in the sequel, when we come to speak of the exercise of art, that architecture and modelling in clay and metal received a powerful stimulating influence in very early times from Greece, whence the oldest tools and the oldest models were derived. In the sepulchral chambers just mentioned, in addition to the gold ornaments there have been found vessels of bluish enamel or greenish clay, which, judging from the materials and style as well as from the hieroglyphics impressed upon them, are of Egyptian origin; perfume-vases of Oriental alabaster, several of them in the form of Isis; ostrich-eggs with painted or carved sphinxes and griffins; beads of glass and amber. These last may have come by the land-route from the north; but the other objects prove the importation of perfumes and articles of ornament of all sorts from the East. Thence came linen and pie, ivory and frankincense, as is proved by the early use linen fillets, of the purple dress and ivory sceptre for the king, and of frankincense in sacrifice, as well as by the very ancient borrowed names for them (λίνον, linum; πορφύρα, purpura; σκῆπτον, σκίπων, scipio; perhaps also ἐλέφας, ebur; θύος, thus). Of similar significance is the derivation of a number of words relating to articles used in eating and drinking, particularly the names of oil (comp. P. 196), of jugs (ἀμφορεύς, amp(h)ora, ampulla; κρατήρ, cratera), of feasting (κωμάζω, commissari), of a dainty (ὀψώνιον, obsonium), of dough (μᾶζα, massa), and various names of cakes (γλυκοῦς, lucuns; πλακοῦς, placenta; τυροῦς, turunda); while conversely the Latin names for dishes (patina, πατάνη) and for lard (arvina, ἀρβίνη) have found admission into Sicilian Greek. The later custom of placing in the tomb beside the dead Attic and Corcyrean ornamental vases proves, what these testimonies from language likewise show, the early traffic in Greek pottery-wares to Italy. That Greek leather-work made its way into Latium at least in the shape of armour is apparent from the application of the Greek word for leather (σκῦτος), to signify among the Latins a shield (scutum; like lorica, from lorum). Finally, we deduce a similar inference from the numerous nautical terms borrowed from the Greek (although it is remarkable that the chief expressions requisite in navigation—the terms for the sail, mast, and yard—are pure Latin forms);[6] and from the recurrence in Latin of the Greek designations for a letter (ἐπιστολή, epistula), a token (tessera, from τέσσαρα), a balance (στατήρ, statera), and earnest-money (ἀῤῥαβών, arrabo, arra); and conversely from the adoption of Italian law-terms in Sicilian Greek (P. 165), as well as from the exchange of the proportions and names of coins, weights, and measures, which we shall notice in the sequel. The character of barbarism which all these borrowed terms bear on the face of them, and especially the characteristic formation of the nominative from the accusative (placenta = πλακοῦντα; ampora = ἀμφορέα; statera = στατῆρα), constitute the clearest evidence of their antiquity. The worship of the god of traffic (Mercurius) also appears to have been from the first influenced by Greek ideas; and his animal festival seems even to have been fixed on the idea of May, because the Hellenic poets celebrated him as the son of the beautiful Maia.

It thus appears that Italy in very ancient times derived its articles of luxury, just as imperial Rome did, from the East, before it attempted to manufacture for itself after the models which it imported. In exchange it had nothing to except its raw produce consisting especially of copper, silver, and iron, but including also slaves and timber for ship-building, amber from the Baltic, and grain, in the event of had harvests occurring abroad.

Commerce, in Latium passive, in Etruria active. From the relations thus subsisting between the demand for commodities and the equivalents to be offered in return for them, we have already explained why Italian traffic assumed in Latium a form differing from that which it presented in Etruria. The Latins, who were deficient in all the chief articles of export, could carry on only a passive traffic, and were obliged even in the earliest times to procure the copper, which they necessarily required, from the Etruscans in exchange for cattle or slaves (we have already mentioned the very ancient practice ling the latter on the right bank of the Tiber at P. 110). On the other hand the balance of trade must necessarily have been very favourable for the Etruscans at Cære and Populonia, at Capua and Spina. Hence the rapid development of prosperity in these regions and their powerful commercial position; whereas Latium remained pre-eminently an agriural country. The same contrast recurs in all their individual relations. The oldest tombs constructed and furnished in the Greek fashion, only with an extravagance to which the Greeks were strangers, are to be found at Cære, while (with the exception of Præneste, which appears to occupied a peculiar position, and to have been very intimately connected with Falerii and southern Etruria) the i land exhibits not a single tomb of a luxurious type belonging to the earlier times; and there as among the Sabellians a simple turf seemed sufficient as a covering for any one's remains. The most ancient coins, of not much later origin than those of Magna Græcia, belong to Etruria, and to Populonia in particular: during the whole regal period Latium had to be content with copper by weight, and had not even introduced foreign coins, for the instances are very rare in which such coins (e. g., one of Posidonia) have been found there. In architecture, plastic art, and embossing, the same stimulating influences acted on Etruria as on Latium, but it was only in the case of the former that capital was brought to bear on them and led to their being prosecuted extensively and with growing technical skill. The commodities were probably, upon the whole, the same, which were bought, sold, and manufactured in Latium and in Etruria; but the southern province was far inferior to its northern neighbour in the concentrated energy with which its commerce was plied. The contrast between them in point of commercial energy is shown in the fact that the articles of luxury manufactured after Greek models in Etruria found a market in Latium, particularly at Præneste, and even in Greece itself, while Latium hardly ever exported anything of the kind.

Etrusco-Attic, and Latino-Sicilian commerce. A distinction not less remarkable between the commerce of the Latins and that of the Etruscans appears in their respective routes or lines of traffic. As to the earliest commerce of the Etruscans in the Adriatic we can hardly do more than express the conjecture that it was chiefly directed from Spina and Hatria to Corcyra. We have already mentioned (P. 149) that the western Etruscans ventured boldly into the eastern seas: and dealt not merely with Sicily, but also with Greece proper. An ancient intercourse with Attica is indicated by the Attic earthenware vases, which are so numerous in the more recent Etruscan tombs, and had been, as we have observed, already perhaps at this time introduced for other purposes than the decoration of tombs, while conversely Tyrrhenian bronze candlesticks and gold cups were articles early in request in Attica. Still more definitely is such an intercourse indicated by the coins. The silver pieces of Populonia are struck after the pattern of a very old silver piece stamped on one side with a Gorgoneion, on the other merely presenting an incuse square, which has been found at Athens and on the old amber-route in the district of Posen, and which was, in all probability, just the coin struck by order of Solon in Athens. We have also tioned already that in addition to their intercourse with ks the Etruscans had dealings, and perhaps after development of the Etrusco-Carthaginian maritime alliance their principal dealings, with the Carthaginians. It remarkable circumstance that in the oldest tombs of Cære, besides native vessels of bronze and silver, there have been chiefly found oriental articles, which may certainly have come from Greek merchants, but more probably were introduced by Phœnician traders. We must not, however, attribute too great importance to this Phœnician trade, and we must in particular not overlook the fact that the alphabet, as well as the other influences that stimulated and matured native culture, were brought to Etruria by the Greeks, and not by the Phœnicians.

Latin commerce assumed a different direction. Rarely we have opportunity of instituting comparisons between the Romans and the Etruscans as regards their reception of Hellenic elements, the cases in which such comparisons can he instituted exhibit the two nations as completely independent of each other; and even yet we may discern the influence of one Greek stock over the Etruscans, and of another over the Latins. This is most clearly apparent in the case of the alphabet. The Greek alphabet which reached Etruria is essentially different from that communicated to the Latins. While the former is so primitive, that for that very reason special origin can no longer be ascertained, the latter exhibits exactly the signs and forms which were used by the Chalcidic and Doric colonies of Italy and Sicily. The same phenomenon appears in particular words: the Roman Pollux and the Tuscan Pultuke are independent corruptions of the Greek Polydeukes; the Tuscan Utuze or Uthuze is formed from Odysseus, the Roman Ulixes is an exact reproduction of the form of the name usual in Sicily; in like manner the Tuscan Aivas corresponds to the old Greek form of that name, the Roman Aiax to a secondary form that was probably also Sicilian; the Roman Aperta or Apello and the Samnite Appellun have sprung from the Doric Apellon, the Apulu from Apollon. Thus the language and writing of Latium indicate that the direction of Latin commerce lay towards the Cumæans and Sicilians. Every other trace which has survived from so remote an age leads to the same conclusion; such as the coin of Posidonia found in Latium the purchase of grain, when a failure of the harvest occurred in Rome, from the Volscians, Cumæans, and Siceliots (and, as was natural, from the Etruscans also); but, above all, the relation subsisting between the Latin and Sicilian monetary systems. As the local Dorico-Chalcidian designation of silver coin, νόμος, and the Sicilian measure, ἡμίνα, were transferred, retaining their meaning to Latium as nummus and hemina, so conversely the Italian designations of weight, libra, triens, quadrans, sextans, uncia, which came into use id Latium for the weighing of the copper which served instead of money, had already found their way into the common speech of Sicily in the third century of the city under the corrupt and hybrid forms, λίτρα, τριᾶς, τετρᾶς, ἑξᾶς, οὐγκία. Indeed, among all the Greek systems of weights and moneys, the Sicilian alone was brought into a determinate proportional relation to the Italian copper-system; not only was the value of silver set down conventionally and perhaps legally as two hundred and fifty times that of copper, but the equivalent on this computation of a Sicilian pound of copper (1/120th of the Attic talent, 2/3 of the Roman pound) was already in very early times struck at Syracuse as a silver coin (λίτρα ἀργυρίου, i.e. "pound of copper in silver"). Accordingly it cannot be doubted that Italian bars of copper circulated also in Sicily instead of money; and this exactly harmonizes with the hypothesis that the commerce of the Latins with Sicily was a passive commerce, and in consequence Latin money was drained away thither. Other proofs of ancient intercourse between Sicily and Italy, especially the adoption in the Sicilian dialect of the Italian expressions for a commercial loan, a prison, and a dish, and the converse reception of Sicilian terms in Italy, have been already mentioned (P. 166, 206). We meet also with several, though less definite, traces of an ancient intercourse of the Latins with the Chalcidian cities in Lower Italy, Cuumb and Neapolis, and with the Phocæans in Velia and Massilia. That it was however far less active than that with the Siceliots is shown by the well-known fact that all the Greek words which made their way in earlier times to Latium exhibit Doric forms—we need only recall Æsculapius, Latona, Aperta, machina. Had their dealings with the originally Ionian cities, such as Cumæ (P. 144) and the Phocæan settlements, been on a similar scale with those which they had with the Sicilian Dorians, Ionic forms would at least have made their appearance along with the others; although certainly Dorism early penetrated into these Ionic colonies themselves, and their dialect was very fluctuating. While all the facts thus combine to attest the stirring traffic of the Latins with the Greeks of the western main generally, and especially with the Sicilians, there is scarcely found a single evidence any intercourse with other peoples; in particular it is very remarkable that—if we leave out of account a few local names—there is an utter absence of any evidence from language as to ancient intercourse between the Latins and the nations speaking the Aramaic tongue.[7]

If we further inquire how this traffic was carried on, whether by Italian merchants abroad or by foreign merchants in Italy, the former supposition has all the probabilities in its favour, at least so far as Latium is concerned. It is scarcely conceivable that those Latin terms denoting the substitute for money and the commercial loan could have found their way into general use in the language of the inhabitants of the island of Sicily through the mere resort of Sicilian merchants to Ostia and their acquisition of copper in return for ornaments.

Lastly, in regard to the persons and classes by whom this traffic was carried on in Italy, no special superior class of merchants distinct from and independent of the class of landed proprietors developed itself in Rome. The reason of this surprising phenomenon was, that the wholesale commerce of Latium was from the beginning in the hands of the large landed proprietors—an hypothesis which is not so singular it seems. It was natural that in a country intersected by several navigable rivers the great landholder, who was paid by his tenants their quotas of produce in kind, should come at an early period to possess barks; and there is evidence that such was the case: the transmarine traffic carried on on personal account must therefore have fallen into the hands of the great landholder, seeing that he alone possessed the vessels for it and, in his produce, the articles for export.[8] In fact the distinction between a landed and a moneyed aristocracy was unknown to the Romans of earlier times; the great landholders were at the same time the speculators and the capitalists. In the case of a very active commerce such a combination certainly could not have been maintained; but, as the previous representation shows, while there was a comparatively vigorous traffic in Rome inasmuch as the trade of the Latin land was there concentrated, in the main Rome was by no means a commercial city like Cære or Tarentum, but was and continued to be the centre of an agricultural community.

  1. The system which we meet with in the case of the Germanic joint tillage, combining a partition of the land in property among the clansmen with common cultivation by the clan, can hardly ever have existed in Italy. Had each clansman been regarded in Italy, as among the Germans, in the light of proprietor of a particular spot in each portion of the collective domain that was marked off for tillage, the separate husbandry of later times would probably have set out from a minute subdivision of hides. But the very opposite was the case; the individual names of the Roman hides (fundus Cornelianus) show clearly that the Roman proprietor owned from the beginning a possession not dismembered but united.
  2. Cicero (de Rep. ii. 9, 14, comp. Plutarch, Q. Rom. xv.) states: Tum (in the time of Romulus) erat res in pecore et locorum possessionibus, ex quo pecuniosi et locupletes vocabantur—(Numa) primum agros, quos bello Romulus ceperat, divisit viritim civibus. In like manner Dionysius represents Romulus as dividing the land into thirty curial districts, and Numa as establishing boundary-stones and introducing the festival of the Terminalia (i. 7, ii. 74; and thence Plutarch, Numa, 16).
  3. Since this assertion still continues to be disputed, we shall let the numbers speak for themselves. Roman farmers reckoned on an average five modii as sufficient to sow a jugerum, and the produce as five-fold. The produce of a heredium accordingly (even when, without taking into view the space occupied by the dwelling-house and farm-yard, we regard it as entirely arable land, and make no account of years of fallow) amounted to fifty, or deducting the seed forty, modii. For an adult hard-working slave Cato reckons fifty-one modii as the annual consumption. These data enable any one to answer for himself the question whether a Roman family could or could not subsist on the produce of an heredium. This result is not shaken by reckoning up the subsidiary produce yielded by the arable land itself and by the common pasturage, such as figs, vegetables, milk, flesh, &c.; for pastoral husbandry was always of subordinate importance among the Romans, and grain notoriously formed the chief subsistence of the people; nor is it much affected by the boasted thoroughness of the older cultivation. Beyond question, the farmers of this period drew from their fields a larger produce than the large landholders of the period of the Empire obtained (P. 37); we may take into account the produce of the fig-trees, and we may assume an after-crop and a considerable superiority especially in the gross yield; but in forming such estimates we must exercise moderation, because we have to deal with a question of general averages and with a method of husbandry conducted neither on rational principles nor with much capital; and in no case can go enormous a deficit be covered by the mere superiority of cultivation.

    It is indeed asserted that instances occur of colonies with allotments of two i founded even in historical times; but the only instance of the kind v. 47) is that of the colony of Labici in the year 336 [417]—an instance which will certainly not be reckoned (by such scholars as are worth the arguing with) to belong to the class of traditions that are trustworthy in their historical details, and which is beset by other very serious difficulties (see book ii. ch. 5, note). It is no doubt true that in the non-colonial assigna: land to the burgesses collectively (adsignatio viritana) sometimes only two jugera were granted (as e. g. Liv. viii. 11, 21). In these cases however it was not the intention to create new farms with the allotments, but, on the contrary, as a rule, the intention was to add to the existing farms new parcels from the conquered lands (comp. C. I. R. i. p. 83). At any rate, any supposition is better than an hypothesis which requires us to believe as it were in a miraculous multiplication of the food of the Roman household. The Roman farmers were far less modest in their requirements than their historiographers. They conceived, as has been already stated (P. 101), that they could not subsist even on allotments of seven jugera yielding a produce of one hundred and forty modii.

  4. Oleum and oliva are derived from ἔλαιον, ἔλαια, and anurca (oil-lees) from ἀμόργη.
  5. The comparative legal value of sheep and oxen, as is well known, is proved by the fact that when the cattle-fines were converted into money-fines, the sheep was rated at ten, and the ox at a hundred asses (Festus v. peculatus, p. 237, comp. p. 24, 144, Gell. xi. 1. Plutarch, Poplicola, 1 1). By a similar adjustment the Icelandic law makes twelve rams equivalent to a cow; only in that, as in other instances, the Germanic law has substituted the duodecimal for the older decimal system.

    It is well known that the term denoting cattle was transferred to denote money both among the Latins (pecunia), and among the Germans (English fee).

  6. Velum is entirely of Latin origin; so is malus, especially as that term denotes not merely the mast, but the tree in general: antenna likewise may come from ἀνά (anhelare, antestari), and tendere = supertensa. Of Greek origin, on the other hand, we have gubernare, to steer (κυβερνᾶν); ancora, anchor (ἄγκυρα); prora, ship's bows (πρῶρα); aplustre, ship's stern (ἄφλαστον); anquina, the rope fastening the yards (ἄγκοινα); nausea, sea-sickness ναυσία).

    The four principal winds—aquilo, the "eagle-wind," the north-easterly Tramontana; Volturnus (uncertain in its derivation, probably the "vulture-wind") the south-easterly; auster the "scorching" south-west wind, the Sirocco; "favourable" north-west wind blowing from the Tyrrhene Sea—have indigenous names hearing no reference to navigation; but all the other Latin names for winds are Greek such as eurus, notus), or translations from the Greek (e. g. solanus = ἀπηλιώτης, Africus = λίψ).

  7. If we leave out of view Sarranus, Afer, and other local designations (P. 154), the Latin language appears not to possess a single word immediately derived in early times from the Phœnician. The very few words from Phœnician roots that occur in it, such as arrabo or arra and perhaps also murra, nardus, and the like, are plainly borrowed proximately from the Greek, which has a considerable number of such words of Oriental extraction as indications of its primitive intercourse with the Aramæans. The same holds true of the enigmatical word thesaurus; whether it may have been originally Greek or borrowed by the Greeks from the Phœnician or Persian, it is at any rate, as a Latin word, derived from the Greek, as the retention of its aspiration proves (P. 187).
  8. Quintus Claudius, in a law issued shortly before 534 [219], prohibited the senators from having sea-going vessels holding more than 300 amphoræ (1 amph. = nearly 6 gallons): id satis habitum ad fructus ex agris vectandos; quæstus omnis patribus indecorus visus (Liv. xxi. 63). It was thus an ancient usage, and was still permitted, that the senators should possess sea-going vessels for the transport of the produce of their estates: on the other hand, transmarine mercantile speculation (quæstus, traffic, fitting-out of vessels, &c.) on their part was prohibited. It is a curious fact that the ancient Greeks as well as the Romans expressed the tonnage of their sea-going ships constantly in amphoræ; the reason evidently being, that Greece as well as Italy exported wine at a comparatively early period, and on a larger scale than any other balky article.


  1. Original: and one of the earliest events in Rome, whose date can be determined, was the removal of the very ancient fig-tree in front of the temple of Saturn in the year 260 [494] was amended to : detail