ROME---ARTS AND LEARNING
memorials were spared to the merciful barbarians. As soon as a new emperor was
installed in his place he began to be flattered by art. His busts and statues
were set up in all the public places, not only in Rome but also in the provincial
cities. Whatever marble and bronze could effect to glorify his name was done with
vainglory and profusion. But these works, as already indicated, were generally
visited with the angry hammer of some iconoclast.
It was the fashion of the. Empire to honor its public men with statues. The
provincial cities frequently voted this honor to their benefactors. The rich
owners of private villas generally had busts of themselves and their families set
in conspicuous places about their halls. It was common for literary men, actors,
charioteers, gladiators, teachers, and, indeed all public characters, to be
honored in like manner by their patrons and admirers.
It should be confessed, as it respects this vast profusion of plastic art, that
the Romans were moved rather by the spirit of ostentation than by the native
impulses of artistic genius. It should also be observed, as in the necessities of
the case, that the art of Rome rose not- could not rise - above the excellence of
its original. The artists of the Empire could but copy what had already been done
in perfection by the Greeks. If the critic should search for true originality
among the works of Roman chisels the search would be in vain. Roman art, with the
exception already noted in the case of architecture, was in the nature of an
imitation, a reproduction, a modification, perhaps, of the art of Hellas. The
quantity was vastly in excess of the quality, and the quality was by no means to
be despised. It has been said by Marcellin us that in the fourth century of our
era, Rome had two populations: one of living men and the other in marble and
bronze. The time was already at hand when the living population was no longer
able to protect the people in marble from the ferocity of barbarism. With the
coming of the Northern hordes the beautiful things of the Imperial City were
knocked from their pedestals, broken into fragments, and kicked into dust and
oblivion by the infuriated Goths.
The Roman mind was one of large activities but small imagination. It had the
power to act with unusual energy, but little power to create. Excitement came
rather with the expenditure of physical force than with the indulgence of
reverie. There was a boundless adaptation to business, but little aptitude for
speculative thought. Mental tasks as such were borne impatiently by an intellect
which yearned for the freedom of the conflict, the struggle of opposing forces.
It is in this constitutional ineptness of the Romans for imaginative flights and
subjective speculation that we must seek and find their want of originality in
literature as well as in art. It may be truthfully said that, judged by the
standard of original invention, Rome produced nothing in the domain of letters.
If, however, we content ourselves with that kind of literary work which follows
and imitates what has been done by another, we shall find in the Roman stores an
exhaustless abundance. It was here again that originality came from the Greeks.
They gave to Rome her letters and her models, and no great Roman author ever rose
or flourished who had not, as the beginning and source of his achievements, the
bottomless fountain of Greek culture.
When civilization began in Latium, the influence of the Hellenes was already
diffused through Southern Italy. It was from contact with these Graeco-Pelasgic
cities of OEnotria that the Romans received their first literary impressions. The
force of this association, however, was not sufficient to stimulate the race of
Romulus into mental activity. The Alban Fathers were first farmers and then
In his intellectual disposition the primitive Roman was a kind of cross between
Arcadian and Theban. He had the rusticity of the one combined with the blunt,
warlike habits of the other. Centuries elapsed after the founding of the city,
and a second and direct contact with Greece was required before the Roman mind
emerged sufficiently from its