Page 0723




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