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UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

lives. To this end a system of extortion was adopted by the praetors

unparalleled in rapacity and barbarity. The only check upon the absolute

despotism of the provincial governors lay in the fact, that at the

expiration of their terms of office they might be summoned before a

senatorial court to answer for the acts of their administrations. But by

this time they had generally so enriched themselves with the spoils of

their provinces as to be easily able to purchase immunity for any crimes

they might have committed. As society became more luxurious, the abuses

attendant upon the provincial governorship grew greater and greater until

the nobles of Rome contended for the office as vultures for the prey.

Among the dispositions which were developed by the politics of Rome may be

mentioned-in. addition to the lust of office already referred to-the greed

for titles and other artificial distinctions. In order to secure these, it

became customary with the generals in charge of expeditions to falsify

reports and exaggerate their successes. To gain the applause of the people

and the rewards bestowed by the Senate, trivial encounters were reported as

great battles, and even defeat made to read as victory. As a check against

this factitious method of winning fame, the Senate was obliged to enact a

law that no general of Rome should be allowed to triumph unless he had

slain five thousand of the enemy in a general battle. When, however, such a

distinction had really been won, it was expected that the commander would

be duly honored for his achievement. To this end, it was customary for the

Senate to vote statues and monuments to her victorious generals. When these

marks of public esteem became common by their frequency, the usage

prevailed of distinguishing the conqueror by some surname significant of

his success in war. So one general was called Africanus; another,

Macedonicus; a third, Asiaticus, etc. Perhaps no people were ever more

delighted with such artificial honors than were the Romans, with whom

neither toil nor sacrifice nor the shedding of blood was permitted to

interpose as an obstacle to the applause of their countrymen.

The accumulation of wealth, honors, and distinctions in the hands of the

nobles and senators, gave them a monopoly of those influences by which such

things were attained. Thus the lust for power was whetted by the general

tendencies of society. The slow accumulations of industry, commerce, and

even of usury, were neglected by the public men of Rome, who saw in the

fertile and populous provinces the gold-paved way to sudden opulence. The

maintenance of privilege at home was also secured by the spoliation of the

provincial districts. Rome was a great center of gravity towards which were

drawn all ranks and classes. There the senators had their homes. There the

commons abounded. There the freedmen swarmed the streets and sought the

small and narrow ways of fortune. There the slaves, twisted together in

desperate knots of toil and despair, drew from the barren breasts of the

world the diseased milk of famine. These vast under-masses of humanity

looked up and saw princes and princesses fanning themselves in the

colonnades of villas.

It was a dangerous situation. The multitude adopted the motto of "Bread and

the Circus." The demand had to be met. Even a tiger when stuffed is gentle.

So the praetors, proconsuls, nobles, grandees, adopted the plan of

gratuitous distributions of food to the hungry horde. The supplies had to

be drawn from the provinces. The cornfields of Sicily, Africa, and Asia

were laid under contribution to keep the peace in Rome. Extortion

furnished the means not only to support the voluptuary in his villa, but to

appease a savage maw which would otherwise have broken through the gates

and filled itself with viands.

As to legal remedy there was little or none. Against the gross abuses of

the provincial monopolies, the knights, being themselves debarred from

participating in the plunder of the world, set themselves in jealous

hostility. Many of the worst features of the system were thus prevented

from displaying their hideousness in the full light of gratification. Such

crimes as were practiced by the provincial governor might be properly

brought before the assembly of the tribes, and in that popular body it was

not likely that robbers and murderers would receive much quarter. But the