ROME-MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.
CHAPTER LV-MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.
At the first the Romans were farmers. No other ancient people were so strongly
attached to the rural life. If the tradition of AEneas and his city building
colony is to be believed, then it is certain that the original country folk of
Latium formed the leading element in the new society. Throughout the whole
history of the Kingdom, Republic, and Empire the old rustic disposition asserted
itself among the Roman people. The most dissolute of the emperors retained the
ancient instinctive preference for country residence. Citizens, poets, statesmen,
all looked forward with pleasure to an escape from the broils and heat of the
city to a cooler, quieter life in some remote spot by the Alban or Sabine Hills.
There was thus a strife in the nature of the Roman between the spirits of
ambition and repose.
Rome, however, was a municipality. The city government was the heart of the whole
system. The ancient campaign was a conquest of towns. The Republic was
essentially a municipal state. The Empire was a congeries of cities. This fact
tended to give to Roman life an aspect of peculiar publicity. Notwithstanding the
strong proclivity of the people for the allurements of the country, the
citizenship of the state was borne into the vortex of Rome. It is, therefore, in
that vast metropolis that the life-at least the public life-of the people may be
studied to the best advantage. There the Roman citizen is seen at his highest, as
well as at his lowest, estate.
By day the streets of Rome were a scene of business and excitement; by night, of
disorder and dangerous revelry. The absence of any suitable illumination gave to
prowlers and marauders a great advantage over the orderly classes of society.
Night-watchmen there were in abundance; but the by-ways and alleys were full of
lurking-places in which vice and crime hatched their progeny. Frivolous people
went much into the streets at night; but the sober classes kept in-doors, both
for peace and security.
The city of Rome was greatly disturbed at night by noises. The draught-wagons and
carts, which were compelled to leave the corporate limits at daybreak, rolled
heavily to and fro; and many kinds of business, such as the bringing in and
storage of materials and the carting of the waste products of the city, were
conducted exclusively by night. In the daytime, as a rule, vehicles were not
permitted. The wealthy were borne on litters as far as the city gates, and there
taken up by conveyances. The poor took nature's method on the sidewalks.
With the early morning there was a great revival of the better life of Rome. The
rule required that school-boys should be at their