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- The Caesars - 1/31 -




The condition of the Roman Emperors has never yet been fully appreciated; nor has it been sufficiently perceived in what respects it was absolutely unique. There was but one Rome: no other city, as we are satisfied by the collation of many facts, either of ancient or modern times, has ever rivalled this astonishing metropolis in the grandeur of magnitude; and not many--if we except the cities of Greece, none at all--in the grandeur of architectural display. Speaking even of London, we ought in all reason to say--the _Nation of London,_ and not the City of London; but of Rome in her palmy days, nothing less could be said in the naked severity of logic. A million and a half of souls--that population, apart from any other distinctions, is _per se_ for London a justifying ground for such a classification; _ fortiori_, then, will it belong to a city which counted from one horn to the other of its mighty suburbs not less than four millions of inhabitants [Footnote: Concerning this question-- once so fervidly debated, yet so unprofitably for the final adjudication, and in some respects, we may add, so erroneously--on a future occasion.] at the very least, as we resolutely maintain after reviewing all that has been written on that much vexed theme, and very probably half as many more. Republican Rome had her _prerogative_ tribe; the earth has its _prerogative_ city; and that city was Rome.

As was the city, such was its prince--mysterious, solitary, unique. Each was to the other an adequate counterpart, each reciprocally that perfect mirror which reflected, as it were _in alia materia,_ those incommunicable attributes of grandeur, that under the same shape and denomination never upon this earth were destined to be revived. Rome has not been repeated; neither has Csar. _Ubi Csar, ibi Roma_--was a maxim of Roman jurisprudence. And the same maxim may be translated into a wider meaning; in which it becomes true also for our historical experience. Csar and Rome have flourished and expired together. The illimitable attributes of the Roman prince, boundless and comprehensive as the universal air,--like that also bright and apprehensible to the most vagrant eye, yet in parts (and those not far removed) unfathomable as outer darkness, (for no chamber in a dungeon could shroud in more impenetrable concealment a deed of murder than the upper chambers of the air,)--these attributes, so impressive to the imagination, and which all the subtlety of the Roman [Footnote: Or even of modern wit; witness the vain attempt of so many eminent sort, and illustrious _Antecessors_, to explain in self- consistency the differing functions of the Roman Csar, and in what sense he was _legibus solutus_. The origin of this difficulty we shall soon understand.] wit could as little fathom as the fleets of Csar could traverse the Polar basin, or unlock the gates of the Pacific, are best symbolized, and find their most appropriate exponent, in the illimitable city itself--that Rome, whose centre, the Capitol, was immovable as Teneriffe or Atlas, but whose circumference was shadowy, uncertain, restless, and advancing as the frontiers of her all-conquering empire. It is false to say, that with Csar came the destruction of Roman greatness. Peace, hollow rhetoricians! Until Csar came, Rome was a minor; by him, she attained her majority, and fulfilled her destiny. Caius Julius, you say, deflowered the virgin purity of her civil liberties. Doubtless, then, Rome had risen immaculate from the arms of Sylla and of Marius. But, if it were Caius Julius who deflowered Rome, if under him she forfeited her dowery of civic purity, if to him she first unloosed her maiden zone, then be it affirmed boldly--that she reserved her greatest favors for the noblest of her wooers, and we may plead the justification of Falconbridge for his mother's trangression with the lion-hearted king--such a sin was self-ennobled. Did Julius deflower Rome? Then, by that consummation, he caused her to fulfill the functions of her nature; he compelled her to exchange the imperfect and inchoate condition of a mere _fmina_ for the perfections of a _mulier_. And, metaphor apart, we maintain that Rome lost no liberties by the mighty Julius. That which in tendency, and by the spirit of her institutions--that which, by her very corruptions and abuses co-operating with her laws, Rome promised and involved in the germ--even that, and nothing less or different, did Rome unfold and accomplish under this Julian violence. The rape [if such it were] of Csar, her final Romulus, completed for Rome that which the rape under Romulus, her earliest Csar, had prosperously begun. And thus by one godlike man was a nation-city matured; and from the everlasting and nameless [Footnote: "_Nameless city_."--The true name of Rome it was a point of religion to conceal; and, in fact, it was never revealed.] city was a man produced-- capable of taming her indomitable nature, and of forcing her to immolate her wild virginity to the state best fitted for the destined "Mother of empires." Peace, then, rhetoricians, false threnodists of false liberty! hollow chanters over the ashes of a hollow republic! Without Csar, we affirm a thousand times that there would have been no perfect Rome; and, but for Rome, there could have been no such man as Csar.

Both then were immortal; each worthy of each. And the _Cui viget nihil simile aut secundum_ of the poet, was as true of one as of the other. For, if by comparison with Rome other cities were but villages, with even more propriety it may be asserted, that after the Roman Csars all modern kings, kesars, or emperors, are mere phantoms of royalty. The Csar of Western Rome--he only of all earthly potentates, past or to come, could be said to reign as a _monarch_, that is, as a solitary king. He was not the greatest of princes, simply because there was no other but himself. There were doubtless a few outlying rulers, of unknown names and titles upon the margins of his empire, there were tributary lieutenants and barbarous _reguli_, the obscure vassals of his sceptre, whose homage was offered on the lowest step of his throne, and scarcely known to him but as objects of disdain. But these feudatories could no more break the unity of his empire, which embraced the whole _oichomeni_;--the total habitable world as then known to geography, or recognised by the muse of History--than at this day the British empire on the sea can be brought into question or made conditional, because some chief of Owyhee or Tongataboo should proclaim a momentary independence of the British trident, or should even offer a transient outrage to her sovereign flag. Such a _tempestas in matul_ might raise a brief uproar in his little native archipelago, but too feeble to reach the shores of Europe by an echo--or to ascend by so much as an infantine _susurrus_ to the ears of the British Neptune. Parthia, it is true, might pretend to the dignity of an empire. But her sovereigns, though sitting in the seat of the great king, (_o basileus_,) were no longer the rulers of a vast and polished nation. They were regarded as barbarians--potent only by their standing army, not upon the larger basis of civic strength; and, even under this limitation, they were supposed to owe more to the circumstances of their position--their climate, their remoteness, and their inaccessibility except through arid and sultry deserts--than to intrinsic resources, such as could be permanently relied on in a serious trial of strength between the two powers. The kings of Parthia, therefore, were far enough from being regarded in the light of antagonist forces to the majesty of Rome. And, these withdrawn from the comparison, who else was there--what prince, what king, what potentate of any denomination, to break the universal calm, that through centuries continued to lave, as with the quiet undulations of summer lakes, the sacred footsteps of the Csarean throne? The Byzantine court, which, merely as the inheritor of some fragments from that august throne, was drunk with excess of pride, surrounded itself with elaborate expressions of a grandeur beyond what mortal eyes were supposed able to sustain.

These fastidious, and sometimes fantastic ceremonies, originally devised as the very extremities of anti-barbarism, were often themselves but too nearly allied in spirit to the barbaresque in taste. In reality, some parts of the Byzantine court ritual were arranged in the same spirit as that of China or the Birman empire; or fashioned by anticipation, as one might think, on the practice of that Oriental Cham, who daily proclaims by sound of trumpet to the kings in the four corners of the earth--that they, having dutifully awaited the close of _his_ dinner, may now with his royal license go to their own.

From such vestiges of _derivative_ grandeur, propagated to ages so remote from itself, and sustained by manners so different from the spirit of her own,--we may faintly measure the strength of the original impulse given to the feelings of men by the _sacred_ majesty of the Roman throne. How potent must that splendor have been, whose mere reflection shot rays upon a distant crown, under another heaven, and across the wilderness of fourteen centuries! Splendor, thus transmitted, thus sustained, and thus imperishable, argues a transcendent in the basis of radical power. Broad and deep must those foundations have been laid, which could support an "arch of empire" rising to that giddy altitude--an altitude which sufficed to bring it within the ken of posterity to the sixtieth generation.

Power is measured by resistance. Upon such a scale, if it were applied with skill, the _relations_ of greatness in Rome to the greatest of all that has gone before her, and has yet come after her, would first be adequately revealed. The youngest reader will know that the grandest forms in which the _collective_ might of the human race has manifested itself, are the four monarchies. Four times have the distributive forces of nations gathered themselves, under the strong compression of the sword, into mighty aggregates--denominated _Universal Empires_, or Monarchies. These are noticed in the Holy Scriptures; and it is upon _their_ warrant that men have supposed no fifth monarchy or universal empire possible in an earthly sense; but that, whenever such an empire arises, it will have Christ for its head; in other words, that no fifth _monarchia_ can take place until Christianity shall have swallowed up all other forms of religion, and shall have gathered the whole family of man into one fold under one all-conquering Shepherd. Hence [Footnote: This we mention, because a great error has been sometimes committed in exposing _their_ error, that consisted, not in supposing that for a fifth time men were to be gathered under one sceptre, and that sceptre wielded by Jesus Christ, but in supposing that this great era had then arrived, or that with no deeper moral revolution men could be fitted for that yoke.] the fanatics of 1650, who proclaimed Jesus for their king, and who did sincerely anticipate his near advent in great power, and under some personal manifestation, were usually styled _Fifth-Monarchists_.

However, waiving the question (interesting enough in itself)--Whether upon earthly principles a fifth universal empire could by possibility arise in the present condition of knowledge for man individually, and of organization for man in general--this question waived, and confining ourselves to the comparison of those four monarchies which actually have existed,--of the Assyrian or earliest, we may remark, that it found men in no state of cohesion. This cause, which came in aid of its first foundation, would probably continue; and would diminish the _intensity_ of the power in the same proportion as it promoted its _extension_. This monarchy would be absolute only by the personal presence of the monarch; elsewhere, from mere defect of organization, it would and must betray the total imperfections of an elementary state, and of a first experiment. More by the weakness inherent in such a constitution, than by its own strength, did the Persian spear prevail against the Assyrian. Two centuries revolved, seven or eight generations, when Alexander found himself in the same position as Cyrus for building a third monarchy, and aided by the selfsame vices of luxurious effeminacy in his enemy, confronted with the self-same virtues of enterprise and hardihood in his compatriot soldiers. The native Persians, in the earliest and very limited import of that name, were a poor and hardy race of mountaineers. So were the men of Macedon; and neither one tribe nor the other found any adequate resistance in the luxurious occupants of Babylonia. We may add, with respect to these two earliest monarchies, that the Assyrian was undefined

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