ROME-THE FIRST CAESARS.
expected to furnish the grain with which the world was to be fed. The rare
and costly things were contributed by the East. The riches of the provinces
of Asia were drawn to the emporium of Alexandria, and were thence borne by
merchantmen to the harbor of Rome. Such became the splendor of the Eternal
City that strangers from all parts of the world, having once stood on the
Capitol Hill and in the Forum, bore to distant lands the fame of the city
of the Caesar.
Meanwhile the process of obliterating the old lines of distinction between
aristocrat and equestrian, knight and plebeian, Optimate and Proletarian,
was carried steadily forward. It was the policy of the Empire, without an
actual destruction of inequalities in rank, to constitute a single body
politic-the People of Rome. If the industrial energies of the masses could
have been quickened into proper activity a still more healthful condition
might have been produced. Unfortunate it was, however, that the Roman
commons had, by long indulgence, acquired the habits of unthrift, the vices
of indolence. To continue the gratuitous distribution of provisions seemed
a necessity of the situation. Against this practice Julius Caesar had set
himself and his administration. By vigorous measures he had succeeded in
reducing the number of state beneficiaries to a hundred and seventy
thousand; but the indulgent Augustus, willing to administer a temporary
panacea, permitted the number of paupers to whom grain was regularly
distributed to increase to three hundred and twenty thousand-a vast and
hungry horde, easily agitated, and quickly kindled into violence.
The monarchy thus established in Italy and stretching out its arms to the
remotest corners of civilization was essentially military in its structure.
It rested upon the army. The imperial office was that of Imperator. The
Emperor commanded and the world stood fast. When the civil wars were ended,
the military force consisted of fifty legions, and the peace footing only
reduced the number to eighteen. Even this number was presently augmented to
twenty-five, the legions being distributed to those parts of the Empire
where the presence of an army was most desired. Eight legions were
stationed to guard the frontier of the Rhine; three were assigned to Spain;
seven, to Pannonia and Moesia; two, to Egypt; one, to Northern Africa; two,
to the extreme East.
The protection of Rome and Italy was entrusted to the Praetorian Guards.
The soldiers of the regular army were constituted a class, and under the
direction of able officers they became by discipline and subordination the
best representatives of the Roman character.