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- Lectures and Essays - 3/67 -

nobles had become a caste of conquerors and proconsuls, they retained certain mercantile habits; unlike the French aristocracy, and aristocracies generally, they were careful keepers of their accounts, and they showed a mercantile talent for business, as well as a more than mercantile hardness, in their financial exploitation of the conquered world. Brutus and his contemporaries were usurers like the patricians of the early times. No one, we venture to think, who has been accustomed to study national character, will believe that the Roman character was formed by war alone: it was manifestly formed by war combined with business.

To what an extent the later character of Rome affected national tradition, or rather fiction, as to her original character, we see from the fable which tells us that she had no navy before the first Punic war, and that when compelled to build a fleet by the exigencies of that war, she had to copy a Carthaginian war galley which had been cast ashore, and to train her rowers by exercising them on dry land. She had a fleet before the war with Pyrrhus, probably from the time at which she took possession of Antium, if not before; and her first treaty with Carthage even if it is to be assigned to the date to which Mommsen, and not to that which Polybius assigns it, shows that before 348 B.C. she had an interest in a wide sea-board, which must have carried with it some amount of maritime power.

Now this wealthy, and, as we suppose, industrial and commercial city was the chief place, and in course of time became the mistress and protectress, of a plain large for that part of Italy, and then in such a condition as to be tempting to the spoiler. Over this plain on two sides hung ranges of mountains inhabited by hill tribes, Sabines, AEquians, Volscians, Hernicans, with the fierce and restless Samnite in the rear. No doubt these hill tribes raided on the plain as hill tribes always do; probably they were continually being pressed down upon it by the migratory movements of other tribes behind them. Some of them seem to have been in the habit of regularly swarming, like bees, under the form of the _Ver Sacrum_. On the north, again, were the Etruscan hill towns, with their lords, pirates by sea, and probably marauders by land; for the period of a more degenerate luxury and frivolity may be regarded as subsequent to their subjugation by the Romans; at any rate, when they first appear upon the scene they are a conquering race. The wars with the AEqui and Volsci have been ludicrously multiplied and exaggerated by Livy; but even without the testimony of any historian, we might assume that there would be wars with them and with the other mountaineers, and also with the marauding Etruscan chiefs. At the same time, we may be sure that, in personal strength and prowess, the men of the plain and of the city would be inferior both to the mountaineers and to those Etruscan chiefs whose trade was war. How did the men of the plain and of the city manage to make up for this inferiority, to turn the scale of force in their favour, and ultimately to subdue both the mountaineers and Etruscans? In the conflict with the mountaineers, something might be done by that superiority of weapons which superior wealth would afford. But more would be done by military organization and discipline. To military organization and discipline the Romans accordingly learnt to submit themselves, as did the English Parliamentarians after the experience of Edgehill, as did the democracy of the Northern States of America after the experience of the first campaign. At the same time the Romans learned the lesson so momentous, and at the same time so difficult for citizen soldiers, of drawing the line between civil and military life. The turbulent democracy of the former, led into the field, doffed the citizen, donned the soldier; and obeyed the orders of a commander whom as citizens they detested, and whom when they were led back to the forum at the end of the summer campaign they were ready again to oppose and to impeach. No doubt all this part of the history has been immensely embellished by the patriotic imagination, the heroic features have been exaggerated, the harsher features softened though not suppressed. Still it is impossible to question the general fact. The result attests the process. The Roman legions were formed in the first instance of citizen soldiers, who yet had been made to submit to a rigid discipline, and to feel that in that submission lay their strength. When, to keep up the siege of Veii, military pay was introduced, a step was taken in the transition from a citizen soldiery to a regular army, such as the legions ultimately became, with its standing discipline of the camp; and that the measure should have been possible is another proof that Rome was a great city, with a well-supplied treasury, not a collection of mud huts. No doubt the habit of military discipline reacted on the political character of the people, and gave it the strength and self-control which were so fatally wanting in the case of Florence.

The line was drawn, under the pressure of a stern necessity, between civil and military life, and between the rights and duties of each. The power of the magistrate, jealously limited in the city, was enlarged to absolutism for the preservation of discipline in the field. But the distinction between the king or magistrate and the general, and between the special capacities required for the duties of each, is everywhere of late growth. We may say the same of departmental distinctions altogether. The executive, the legislative, the judicial power, civil authority and military command, all lie enfolded in the same primitive germ. The king, or the magistrate who takes his place, is expected to lead the people in war as well as to govern them in peace. In European monarchies this idea still lingers, fortified no doubt by the personal unwillingness of the kings to let the military power go out of their hands. Nor in early times is the difference between the qualifications of a ruler and those of a commander so great as it afterwards became; the business of the State is simple, and force of character is the main requisite in both cases. Annual consulships must have been fatal to strategical experience, while, on the other hand, they would save the Republic from being tied to an unsuccessful general. But the storms of war which broke on Rome from all quarters soon brought about the recognition of special aptitude for military command in the appointment of dictators. As to the distinction between military and naval ability, it is of very recent birth: Blake, Prince Rupert, and Monk were made admirals because they had been successful as generals, just as Hannibal was appointed by Antiochus to the command of a fleet.

At Preston Pans, as before at Killiecrankie, the line of the Hanoverian regulars was broken by the headlong charge of the wild clans, for which the regulars were unprepared. Taught by the experience of Preston Pans, the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden formed in three lines, so as to repair a broken front. The Romans in like manner formed in three lines-- _hastati_, _principes_, and _triarii_--evidently with the same object. Our knowledge of the history of Roman tactics does not enable us to say exactly at what period this formation began to supersede the phalanx, which appears to have preceded it, and which is the natural order of half-disciplined or imperfectly armed masses, as we see in the case of the army formed by Philip out of the Macedonian peasantry, and again in the case of the French Revolutionary columns. We cannot say, therefore, whether this formation in three lines is in any way traceable to experience dearly bought in wars with Italian highlanders, or to a lesson taught by the terrible onset of the Gaul. Again, the punctilious care in the entrenchment of the camp, even for a night's halt, which moved the admiration of Pyrrhus and was a material part of Roman tactics, was likely to be inculcated by the perils to which a burgher army would be exposed in carrying on war under or among hills where it would be always liable to the sudden attack of a swift, sure-footed, and wily foe. The habit of carrying a heavy load of palisades on the march would be a part of the same necessity.

Even from the purely military point of view, then, the She-wolf and the Twins seem to us not appropriate emblems of Roman greatness. A better frontispiece for historians of Rome, if we mistake not, would be some symbol of the patroness of the lowlands and their protectress against the wild tribes of the highlands. There should also be something to symbolize the protectress of Italy against the Gauls, whose irruptions Rome, though defeated at Allia, succeeded ultimately in arresting and hurling back, to the general benefit of Italian civilization which, we may be sure, felt very grateful to her for that service, and remembered it when her existence was threatened by Hannibal, with Gauls in his army. Capua, though not so well situated for the leadership of Italy, might have played the part of Rome; but the plain which she commanded, though very rich, was too small, and too closely overhung by the fatal hills of the Samnite, under whose dominion she fell. Rome had space to organize a strong lowland resistance to the marauding highland powers. It seems probable that her hills were not only the citadel but the general refuge of the lowlanders of those parts, when forced to fly before the onslaught of the highlanders, who were impelled by successive wars of migration to the plains. The Campagna affords no stronghold or rallying point but those hills, which may have received a population of fugitives like the islands of Venice. The city may have drawn part of its population and some of its political elements from this source. In this sense the story of the Asylum may possibly represent a fact, though it has itself nothing to do with history.

Then, as to imperial organization and government. Superiority in these would naturally flow from superiority in civilization, and in previous political training, the first of which Rome derived from her comparative wealth and from the mental characteristics of a city population; the second she derived from the long struggle through which the rights of the plebeians were equalized with those of the patricians, and which again must have had its ultimate origin in geographical circumstance bringing together different elements of population. Cromwell was a politician and a religious leader before he was a soldier; Napoleon was a soldier before he was a politician: to this difference between the moulds in which their characters were cast may be traced, in great measure, the difference of their conduct when in power, Cromwell devoting himself to political and ecclesiastical reform, while Napoleon used his supremacy chiefly as the means of gratifying his lust for war. There is something analogous in the case of imperial nations. Had the Roman, when he conquered the world been like the Ottoman, like the Ottoman he would probably have remained. His thirst for blood slaked, he would simply have proceeded to gratify his other animal lusts; he would have destroyed or consumed everything, produced nothing, delivered over the world to a plundering anarchy of rapacious satraps, and when his sensuality had overpowered his ferocity, he would have fallen in his turn before some horde whose ferocity was fresh, and the round of war and havoc would have commenced again. The Roman destroyed and consumed a good deal; but he also produced not a little: he produced, among other things, first in Italy, then in the world at large, the Peace of Rome indispensable to civilization, and destined to be the germ and precursor of the Peace of Humanity.

In two respects, however, the geographical circumstances of Rome appear specially to have prepared her for the exercise of universal empire. In the first place, her position was such as to bring her into contact from the outset with a great variety of races. The cradle of her dominion was a sort of ethnological microcosm. Latins, Etruscans, Greeks, Campanians, with all the mountain races and the Gauls, make up a school of the most diversified experience, which could not fail to open the minds of the future masters of the world. How different was this education from that of a people which is either isolated, like the Egyptians, or comes into contact perhaps in the way of continual border hostility with a single race! What the exact relations of Rome with Etruria were in the earliest times we do not know, but evidently they were close; while between the Roman and the Etruscan character the difference appears to have been as wide as possible. The Roman was pre-eminently practical and business- like, sober-minded, moral, unmystical, unsacerdotal, much concerned with present duties and interests, very little concerned about a future state of existence, peculiarly averse from human sacrifices and from all wild and dark superstitions. The Etruscan, as he has portrayed himself to us in his tombs, seems to have been, in his later development at least, a mixture of Sybaritism with a gloomy and almost Mexican religion, which

Lectures and Essays - 3/67

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