Page 0699

699

ROME-THE PEOPLE.

For generations not a few the claims of the Latin cities to be independent of the

successors of Romulus were maintained with varying success until at last, in B.

C. 493, a treaty was concluded between the parties by which an alliance on terms

of equality was effected and the conditions of peace determined for a long period

of time. From this date the consolidated race was known as Roman, but the term

Latin has ever been retained as the name of the sonorous and powerful language

which was destined to reverberate from the Forum and become the depository of law

for all civilized nations.

Such is a brief general sketch of the various races which contributed to populate

the Italian peninsula. Under the leadership of Rome the primitive nations were

first conquered and then unified. A national type was established. The people

became Romans. In the distant states-Calabria, Bruttium, Liguria, Venetia-the

provincial character remained; but the distinction between these provincial

populations and the Romans of Latium was nothing more than that which has always

obtained between the capital district and the outskirts of a great state. It

remains to notice briefly the physical, intellectual, and moral qualities

exhibited by this race in the days of its grandeur.

The Roman character was one of great strength. Its outlines are strongly marked;

the features are unmistakable. The Assyrians have been called the Romans of the

East. With equal propriety the Romans may be called the Assyrians of the West. In

both races there was the same robustness. In both, vigor predominated, over

delicacy. Whether in himself or in his work the Roman had an excess of naked

brawn. The profile of his activity is striking in every feature. After two

thousand years the word Roman, as applied to human character and endeavor, is

still spelled with a capital: the reference is to the race rather than to the

idea. It implies the possession of those coarse, strong qualities of personality

which make up in force what they lack in refinement.

The Roman was intensely practical. He was a man of business. His heroes were men

of business. He looked to results. There was always an end in view-an aim to Ilis

endeavor. Ideal pursuits were left to others. He was a man without a reverie. His

life was one of gain or loss. Each day told in some way upon the question at

issue. It either carried him further from his object or brought him near to the

goal. Not that the end sought was always worthy. Not that the struggle was always

noble, or the work always done in honor. It was sufficient that the affair should

be undertaken with vigor and prosecuted with success. The outcome must justify

the beginning. It was business. Take the case of AEneas. How little ideal! How

devoid of sentiment! What an abominable lover! Dido's love had no more effect on

him than on a man of terra cotta. His business called him away. He must go over

to Latium and kill Turnus and build a town! Such was the hero created by the epic

muse of the Augustan Age, and the Romans thought him admirable!

The man of the Tiber was little susceptible to impressions. He was a cause rather

than an effect. The verb of his daily life was never in the passive. Nature

impressed him but little. How seldom are the skies and the stars referred to in

the poems of Horace! What has he to say of the birds and the flowers? One can

well imagine that when the Apulian bard sings of the flood that carried the

fishes into the top of the elm, he would have had them for his breakfast.

The Latin literature reflects but faintly the harmonies of nature, the wonders of

cloud and sky, the grandeur of the universe. That second sight, which seeing

behind the imperfect outlines of natural forms the ideal of the thing more

beautiful becomes the creative genius of poetry, was wanting in the Roman bards.

They sang of life and manners, of politics and the state, of commerce and of war.

But those sentiments which are born of dream and reverie found but a feeble echo

on the harp-strings of the bards of Rome.

Prominent among the mental characteristics of the Roman should be mentioned his