The Commonwealth and Its Economy

External and Internal Bankruptcy of the Roman State

We have traversed a period of ninety years—forty years of profound peace, fifty of an almost constant revolution. It is the most inglorious epoch known in Roman history. It is true that the Alps were crossed both in an easterly and westerly direction,(1) and the Roman arms reached in the Spanish peninsula as far as the Atlantic Ocean(2) and in the Macedono-Grecian peninsula as far as the Danube;(3) but the laurels thus gained were as cheap as they were barren. The circle of the "extraneous peoples under the will, sway, dominion, or friendship of the Roman burgesses,"(4) was not materially extended; men were content to realize the gains of a better age and to bring the communities, annexed to Rome in laxer forms of dependence, more and more into full subjection. Behind the brilliant screen of provincial reunions was concealed a very sensible decline of Roman power. While the whole ancient civilization was daily more and more distinctly embraced in the Roman state, and embodied there in forms of more general validity, the nations excluded from it began simultaneously beyond the Alps and beyond the Euphrates to pass from defence to aggression. On the battle- fields of Aquae Sextiae and Vercellae, of Chaeronea and Orchomenus, were heard the first peals of that thunderstorm, which the Germanic tribes and the Asiatic hordes were destined to bring upon the Italo- Grecian world, and the last dull rolling of which has reached almost to our own times. But in internal development also this epoch bears the same character. The old organization collapses irretrievably. The Roman commonwealth was planned as an urban community, which through its free burgess-body gave to itself rulers and laws; which was governed by these well-advised rulers within these legal limits with kingly freedom; and around which the Italian confederacy, as an aggregate of free urban communities essentially homogeneous and cognate with the Roman, and the body of extra-Italian allies, as an aggregate of Greek free cities and barbaric peoples and principalities—both more superintended, than domineered over, by the community of Rome—formed a double circle. It was the final result of the revolution—and both parties, the nominally conservative as well as the democratic party, had co- operated towards it and concurred in it—that of this venerable structure, which at the beginning of the present epoch, though full of chinks and tottering, still stood erect, not one stone was at its close left upon another. The holder of sovereign power was now either a single man, or a close oligarchy—now of rank, now of riches. The burgesses had lost all legitimate share in the government. The magistrates were instruments without independence in the hands of the holder of power for the time being. The urban community of Rome had broken down by its unnatural enlargement. The Italian confederacy had been merged in the urban community. The body of extra-Italian allies was in full course of being converted into a body of subjects. The whole organic classification of the Roman commonwealth had gone to wreck, and nothing was left but a crude mass of more or less disparate elements.

The Prospect

The state of matters threatened to end in utter anarchy and in the inward and outward dissolution of the state. The political movement tended thoroughly towards the goal of despotism; the only point still in dispute was whether the close circle of the families of rank, or the senate of capitalists, or a monarch was to be the despot. The political movement followed thoroughly the paths that led to despotism; the fundamental principle of a free commonwealth— that the contending powers should reciprocally confine themselves to indirect coercion—had become effete in the eyes of all parties alike, and on both sides the fight for power began to be carried on first by the bludgeon, and soon by the sword. The revolution, at an end in so far as the old constitution was recognized by both sides as finally set aside and the aim and method of the new political development were clearly settled, had yet up to this time discovered nothing but provisional solutions for this problem of the reorganization of the state; neither the Gracchan nor the Sullan constitution of the community bore the stamp of finality. But the bitterest feature of this bitter time was that even hope and effort failed the clear-seeing patriot. The sun of freedom with all its endless store of blessings was constantly drawing nearer to its setting, and the twilight was settling over the very world that was still so brilliant. It was no accidental catastrophe which patriotism and genius might have warded off; it was ancient social evils—at the bottom of all, the ruin of the middle class by the slave proletariate—that brought destruction on the Roman commonwealth. The most sagacious statesman was in the plight of the physician to whom it is equally painful to prolong or to abridge the agony of his patient. Beyond doubt it was the better for the interests of Rome, the more quickly and thoroughly a despot set aside all remnants of the ancient free constitution, and invented new forms and expressions for the moderate measure of human prosperity for which in absolutism there is room: the intrinsic advantage, which belonged to monarchy under the given circumstances as compared with any oligarchy, lay mainly in the very circumstance that such a despotism, energetic in pulling down and energetic in building up, could never be exercised by a collegiate board. But such calm considerations do not mould history; it is not reason it is passion alone, that builds for the future. The Romans had just to wait and to see how long their commonwealth would continue unable to live and unable to die, and whether it would ultimately find its master and, so far as might be possible, its regenerator, in a man of mighty gifts, or would collapse in misery and weakness.

Finances of the State

It remains that we should notice the economic and social relations of the period before us, so far as we have not already done so.

Italian Revenues

The finances of the state were from the commencement of this epoch substantially dependent on the revenues from the provinces. In Italy the land-tax, which had always occurred there merely as an extraordinary impost by the side of the ordinary domanial and other revenues, had not been levied since the battle of Pydna, so that absolute freedom from land-tax began to be regarded as a constitutional privilege of the Roman landowner. The royalties of the state, such as the salt monopoly(5) and the right of coinage, were not now at least, if ever at all, treated as sources of income. The new tax on inheritance(6) was allowed to fall into abeyance or was perhaps directly abolished. Accordingly the Roman exchequer drew from Italy including Cisalpine Gaul nothing but the produce of the domains, particularly of the Campanian territory and of the gold mines in the land of the Celts, and the revenue from manumissions and from goods imported by sea into the Roman civic territory not for the personal consumption of the importer. Both of these may be regarded essentially as taxes on luxury, and they certainly must have been considerably augmented by the extension of the field of Roman citizenship and at the same time of Roman customs-dues to all Italy, probably including Cisalpine Gaul.

Provincial Revenues

In the provinces the Roman state claimed directly as its private property, on the one hand, in the states annulled by martial law the whole domain, on the other hand in those states, where the Roman government came in room of the former rulers, the landed property possessed by the latter. By virtue of this right the territories of Leontini, Carthage, and Corinth, the domanial property of the kings of Macedonia, Pergamus, and Cyrene, the mines in Spain and Macedonia were regarded as Roman domains; and, in like manner with the territory of Capua, were leased by the Roman censors to private contractors in return for the delivery of a proportion of the produce or a fixed sum of money. We have already explained that Gaius Gracchus went still farther, claimed the whole land of the provinces as domain, and in the case of the province of Asia practically carried out this principle; inasmuch as he legally justified the -decumae-, -scriptura-, and -vectigalia- levied there on the ground of the Roman state's right of property in the land, pasture, and coasts of the province, whether these had previously belonged to the king or private persons.(7)

There do not appear to have been at this period any royalties from which the state derived profit, as respected the provinces; the prohibition of the culture of the vine and olive in Transalpine Gaul did not benefit the state-chest as such. On the other hand direct and indirect taxes were levied to a great extent. The client states recognized as fully sovereign—such as the kingdoms of Numidia and Cappadocia, the allied states (-civitates foederatae-) of Rhodes, Messana, Tauromenium, Massilia, Gades—were legally exempt from taxation, and merely bound by their treaties to support the Roman republic in times of war by regularly furnishing a fixed number of ships or men at their own expense, and, as a matter of course in case of need, by rendering extraordinary aid of any kind.


The rest of the provincial territory on the other hand, even including the free cities, was throughout liable to taxation; the only exceptions were the cities invested with the Roman franchise, such as Narbo, and the communities on which immunity from taxation was specially conferred (-civitates immunes-), such as Centuripa in Sicily. The direct taxes consisted partly—as in Sicily and Sardinia—of a title to the tenth(8) of the sheaves and other field produce as of grapes and olives, or, if the land lay in pasture, to a corresponding -scriptura-; partly—as in Macedonia, Achaia, Cyrene, the greater part of Africa, the two Spains, and by Sulla's arrangements also in Asia—of a fixed sum of money to be paid annually by each community to Rome (-stipendium-, -tributum-). This amounted, e. g. for all Macedonia, to 600,000 -denarii- (24,000 pounds), for the small island of Gyaros near Andros to 150 -denarii- (6 pounds, 10 shillings), and was apparently on the whole low and less than the tax paid before the Roman rule. Those ground-tenths and pasture-moneys the state farmed out to private contractors on condition of their paying fixed quantities of grain or fixed sums of money; with respect to the latter money-payments the state drew upon the respective communities, and left it to these to assess the amount, according to the general principles laid down by the Roman government, on the persons liable, and to collect it from them.(9)


The indirect taxes consisted—apart from the subordinate moneys levied from roads, bridges, and canals—mainly of customs-duties. The customs-duties of antiquity were, if not exclusively, at any rate principally port-dues, less frequently frontier-dues, on imports and exports destined for sale, and were levied by each community in its ports and its territory at discretion. The Romans recognized this principle generally, in so far as their original customs-domain did not extend farther than the range of the Roman franchise and the limit of the customs was by no means coincident with the limits of the empire, so that a general imperial tariff was unknown: it was only by means of state-treaty that a total exemption from customs-dues in the client communities was secured for the Roman state, and in various cases at least favourable term for the Roman burgess. But in those districts, which had not been admitted to alliance with Rome but were in the condition of subjects proper and had not acquired immunity, the customs fell as a matter of course to the proper sovereign, that is, to the Roman community; and in consequence of this several larger regions within the empire were constituted as separate Roman customs-districts, in which the several communities allied or privileged with immunity were marked off as exempt from Roman customs. Thus Sicily even from the Carthaginian period formed a closed customs-district, on the frontier of which a tax of 5 per cent on the value was levied from all imports or exports; thus on the frontiers of Asia there was levied in consequence of the Sempronian law(10) a similar tax of 21 per cent; in like manner the province of Narbo, exclusively the domain of the Roman colony, was organized as a Roman customs- district This arrangement, besides its fiscal objects, may have been partly due to the commendable purpose of checking the confusion inevitably arising out of a variety of communal tolls by a uniform regulation of frontier-dues. The levying of the customs, like that of the tenths, was without exception leased to middlemen.

Costs of Collection

The ordinary burdens of Roman taxpayers were limited to these imposts; but we may not overlook the fact, that the expenses of collection were very considerable, and the contributors paid an amount disproportionately great as compared with what the Roman government received. For, while the system of collecting taxes by middlemen, and especially by general lessees, is in itself the most expensive of all, in Rome effective competition was rendered extremely difficult in consequence of the slight extent to which the lettings were subdivided and the immense association of capital.


To these ordinary burdens, however, fell to be added in the first place the requisitions which were made. The costs of military administration were in law defrayed by the Roman community. It provided the commandants of every province with the means of transport and all other requisites; it paid and provisioned the Roman soldiers in the province. The provincial communities had to furnish merely shelter, wood, hay, and similar articles free of cost to the magistrates and soldiers; in fact the free towns were even ordinarily exempted from the winter quartering of the troops— permanent camps were not yet known. If the governor therefore needed grain, ships, slaves to man them, linen, leather, money, or aught else, he was no doubt absolutely at liberty in time of war—nor was it far otherwise in time of peace—to demand such supplies according to his discretion and exigencies from the subject- communities or the sovereign protected states; but these supplies were, like the Roman land-tax, treated legally as purchases or advances, and the value was immediately or afterwards made good by the Roman exchequer. Nevertheless these requisitions became, if not in the theory of state-law, at any rate practically, one of the most oppressive burdens of the provincials; and the more so, that the amount of compensation was ordinarily settled by the government or even by the governor after a one-sided fashion. We meet indeed with several legislative restrictions on this dangerous right of requisition of the Roman superior magistrates: for instance, the rule already mentioned, that in Spain there should not be taken from the country people by requisitions for grain more than the twentieth sheaf, and that the price even of this should be equitably ascertained;(11) the fixing of a maximum quantity of grain to be demanded by the governor for the wants of himself and his retinue; the previous adjustment of a definite and high rate of compensation for the grain which was frequently demanded, at least from Sicily, for the wants of the capital. But, while by fixing such rules the pressure of those requisitions on the economy of the communities and of individuals in the province was doubtless mitigated here and there, it was by no means removed. In extraordinary crises this pressure unavoidably increased and often went beyond all bounds, for then in fact the requisitions not unfrequently assumed the form of a punishment imposed or that of voluntary contributions enforced, and compensation was thus wholly withheld. Thus Sulla in 670-671 compelled the provincials of Asia Minor, who certainly had very gravely offended against Rome, to furnish to every common soldier quartered among them forty-fold pay (per day 16 -denarii- = 11 shillings), to every centurion seventy-five-fold pay, in addition to clothing and meals along with the right to invite guests at pleasure; thus the same Sulla soon afterwards imposed a general contribution on the client and subject communities,(12) in which case nothing, of course, was said of repayment.

Local Burdens

Further the local public burdens are not to be left out of view. They must have been, comparatively, very considerable;(13) for the costs of administration, the keeping of the public buildings in repair, and generally all civil expenses were borne by the local budget, and the Roman government simply undertook to defray the military expenses from their coffers. But even of this military budget considerable items were devolved on the communities—such as the expense of making and maintaining the non-Italian military roads, the costs of the fleets in the non-Italian seas, nay even in great part the outlays for the army, inasmuch as the forces of the client-states as well as those of the subjects were regularly liable to serve at the expense of their communities within their province, and began to be employed with increasing frequency even beyond it—Thracians in Africa, Africans in Italy, arid so on—at the discretion of the Romans.(14) If the provinces only and not Italy paid direct taxes to the government, this was equitable in a financial, if not in a political, aspect so long as Italy alone bore the burdens and expense of the military system; but from the time that this system was abandoned, the provincials were, in a financial point of view, decidedly overburdened.


Lastly we must not forget the great chapter of injustice by which in manifold ways the Roman magistrates and farmers of the revenue augmented the burden of taxation on the provinces. Although every present which the governor took might be treated legally as an exaction, and even his right of purchase might be restricted by law, yet the exercise of his public functions offered to him, if he was disposed to do wrong, pretexts more than enough for doing so. The quartering of the troops; the free lodging of the magistrates and of the host of adjutants of senatorial or equestrian rank, of clerks, lictors, heralds, physicians, and priests; the right which the messengers of the state had to be forwarded free of cost; the approval of, and providing transport for, the contributions payable in kind; above all the forced sales and the requisitions—gave all magistrates opportunity to bring home princely fortunes from the provinces. And the plundering became daily more general, the more that the control of the government appeared to be worthless and that of the capitalist-courts to be in reality dangerous to the upright magistrate alone. The institution of a standing commission regarding the exactions of magistrates in the provinces, occasioned by the frequency of complaints as to such cases, in 605,(15) and the laws as to extortion following each other so rapidly and constantly augmenting its penalties, show the daily increasing height of the evil, as the Nilometer shows the rise of the flood.

Under all these circumstances even a taxation moderate in theory might become extremely oppressive in its actual operation; and that it was so is beyond doubt, although the financial oppression, which the Italian merchants and bankers exercised over the provinces, was probably felt as a far heavier burden than the taxation with all the abuses that attached to it.

Aggregate Financial Result

If we sum up, the income which Rome drew from the provinces was not properly a taxation of the subjects in the sense which we now attach to that expression, but rather in the main a revenue that may be compared with the Attic tributes, by means of which the leading state defrayed the expense of the military system which it maintained. This explains the surprisingly small amount of the gross as well as of the net proceeds. There exists a statement, according to which the income of Rome, exclusive, it may be presumed, of the Italian revenues and of the grain delivered in kind to Italy by the -decumani- up to 691 amounted to not more than 200 millions of sesterces (2,000,000 pounds); that is, but two-thirds of the sum which the king of Egypt drew from his country annually. The proportion can only seem strange at the first glance. The Ptolemies turned to account the valley of the Nile as great, plantation-owners, and drew immense sums from their monopoly of the commercial intercourse with the east; the Roman treasury was not much more than the joint military chest of the communities united under Rome's protection. The net produce was probably still less in proportion. The only provinces yielding a considerable surplus were perhaps Sicily, where the Carthaginian system of taxation prevailed, and more especially Asia from the time that Gaius Gracchus, in order to provide for his largesses of corn, had carried out the confiscation of the soil and a general domanial taxation there. According to manifold testimonies the finances of the Roman state were essentially dependent on the revenues of Asia. The assertion sounds quite credible that the other provinces on an average cost nearly as much as they brought in; in fact those which required a considerable garrison, such as the two Spains, Transalpine Gaul, and Macedonia, probably often cost more than they yielded. On the whole certainly the Roman treasury in ordinary times possessed a surplus, which enabled them amply to defray the expense of the buildings of the state and city, and to accumulate a reserve-fund; but even the figures appearing for these objects, when compared with the wide domain of the Roman rule, attest the small amount of the net proceeds of the Roman taxes. In a certain sense therefore the old principle equally honourable and judicious— that the political hegemony should not be treated as a privilege yielding profit—still governed the financial administration of the provinces as it had governed that of Rome in Italy. What the Roman community levied from its transmarine subjects was, as a rule, re- expended for the military security of the transmarine possessions; and if these Roman imposts fell more heavily on those who paid them than the earlier taxation, in so far as they were in great part expended abroad, the substitution, on the other hand, of a single ruler and a centralized military administration for the many petty rulers and armies involved a very considerable financial saving. It is true, however, that this principle of a previous better age came from the very first to be infringed and mutilated by the numerous exceptions which were allowed to prevail. The ground- tenth levied by Hiero and Carthage in Sicily went far beyond the amount of an annual war-contributioa With justice moreover Scipio Aemilianus says in Cicero, that it was unbecoming for the Roman burgess-body to be at the same time the ruler and the tax-gatherer of the nations. The appropriation of the customs-dues was not compatible with the principle of disinterested hegemony, and the high rates of the customs as well as the vexatious mode of levying them were not fitted to allay the sense of the injustice thereby inflicted. Even as early probably as this period the name of publican became synonymous among the eastern peoples with that of rogue and robber: no burden contributed so much as this to make the Roman name offensive and odious especially in the east. But when Gaius Gracchus and those who called themselves the "popular party" in Rome came to the helm, political sovereignty was declared in plain terms to be a right which entitled every one who shared in it to a number of bushels of corn, the hegemony was converted into a direct ownership of the soil, and the most complete system of making the most of that ownership was not only introduced but with shameless candour legally justified and proclaimed. It was certainly not a mere accident, that the hardest lot in this respect fell precisely to the two least warlike provinces, Sicily and Asia.

The Finances and Public Buildings

An approximate measure of the condition of Roman finance at this period is furnished, in the absence of definite statements, first of all by the public buildings. In the first decades of this epoch these were prosecuted on the greatest scale, and the construction of roads in particular had at no time been so energetically pursued. In Italy the great southern highway of presumably earlier origin, which as a prolongation of the Appian road ran from Rome by way of Capua, Beneventum, and Venusia to the ports of Tarentum and Brundisium, had attached to it a branch-road from Capua to the Sicilian straits, a work of Publius Popillius, consul in 622. On the east coast, where hitherto only the section from Fanum to Ariminum had been constructed as part of the Flaminian highway (ii. 229), the coast road was prolonged southward as far as Brundisium, northward by way of Atria on the Po as far as Aquileia, and the portion at least from Ariminum to Atria was formed by the Popillius just mentioned in the same year. The two great Etruscan highways— the coast or Aurelian road from Rome to Pisa and Luna, which was in course of formation in 631, and the Cassian road leading by way of Sutrium and Clusium to Arretium and Florentia, which seems not to have been constructed before 583—may as Roman public highways belong only to this age. About Rome itself new projects were not required; but the Mulvian bridge (Ponte Molle), by which the Flaminian road crossed the Tiber not far from Rome, was in 645 reconstructed of stone. Lastly in Northern Italy, which hitherto had possessed no other artificial road than the Flaminio-Aemilian terminating at Placentia, the great Postumian road was constructed in 606, which led from Genua by way of Dertona, where probably a colony was founded at the same time, and onward by way of Placentia, where it joined the Flaminio-Aemilian road, and of Cremona and Verona to Aquileia, and thus connected the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas; to which was added the communication established in 645 by Marcus Aemilius Scaurus between Luna and Genua, which connected the Postumian road directly with Rome. Gaius Gracchus exerted himself in another way for the improvement of the Italian roads. He secured the due repair of the great rural roads by assigning, on occasion of his distribution of lands, pieces of ground alongside of the roads, to which was attached the obligation of keeping them in repair as an heritable burden. To him, moreover, or at any rate to the allotment-commission, the custom of erecting milestones appears to be traceable, as well as that of marking the limits of fields by regular boundary-stones. Lastly he provided for good -viae vicinales-, with the view of thereby promoting agriculture. But of still greater moment was the construction of the imperial highways in the provinces, which beyond doubt began in this epoch. The Domitian highway after long preparations(16) furnished a secure land-route from Italy to Spain, and was closely connected with the founding of Aquae Sextiae and Narbo;(17) the Gabinian(18) and the Egnatian (19) led from the principal places on the east coast of the Adriatic sea—the former from Salona, the latter from Apollonia and Dyrrhachium—into the interior; the network of roads laid out by Manius Aquillius immediately after the erection of the Asiatic province in 625 led from the capital Ephesus in different directions towards the frontier. Of the origin of these works no mention is to be found in the fragmentary tradition of this epoch, but they were nevertheless undoubtedly connected with the consolidation of the Roman rule in Gaul, Dalmatia, Macedonia, and Asia Minor, and came to be of the greatest importance for the centralization of the state and the civilizing of the subjugated barbarian districts.

In Italy at least great works of drainage were prosecuted as well as the formation of roads. In 594 the drying of the Pomptine marshes—a vital matter for Central Italy—was set about with great energy and at least temporary success; in 645 the draining of the low-lying lands between Parma and Placentia was effected in connection with the construction of the north Italian highway. Moreover, the government did much for the Roman aqueducts, as indispensable for the health and comfort of the capital as they were costly. Not only were the two that had been in existence since the years 442 and 492—the Appian and the Anio aqueducts— thoroughly repaired in 610, but two new ones were formed; the Marcian in 610, which remained afterwards unsurpassed for the excellence and abundance of the water, and the Tepula as it was called, nineteen years later. The power of the Roman exchequer to execute great operations by means of payments in pure cash without making use of the system of credit, is very clearly shown by the way in which the Marcian aqueduct was created: the sum required for it of 180,000,000 sesterces (in gold nearly 2,000,000 pounds) was raised and applied within three years. This leads us to infer a very considerable reserve in the treasury: in fact at the very beginning of this period it amounted to almost 860,000 pounds,(20) and was doubtless constantly on the increase.

All these facts taken together certainly lead to the inference that the position of the Roman finances at this epoch was on the whole favourable. Only we may not in a financial point of view overlook the fact that, while the government during the two earlier thirds of this period executed splendid and magnificent buildings, it neglected to make other outlays at least as necessary. We have already indicated how unsatisfactory were its military provisions; the frontier countries and even the valley of the Po(21) were pillaged by barbarians, and bands of robbers made havoc in the interior even of Asia Minor, Sicily, and Italy. The fleet even was totally neglected; there was hardly any longer a Roman vessel of war; and the war-vessels, which the subject cities were required to build and maintain, were not sufficient, so that Rome was not only absolutely unable to carry on a naval war, but was not even in a position to check the trade of piracy. In Rome itself a number of the most necessary improvements were left untouched, and the river- buildings in particular were singularly neglected. The capital still possessed no other bridge over the Tiber than the primitive wooden gangway, which led over the Tiber island to the Janiculum; the Tiber was still allowed to lay the streets every year under water, and to demolish houses and in fact not unfrequently whole districts, without anything being done to strengthen the banks; mighty as was the growth of transmarine commerce, the roadstead of Ostia—already by nature bad—was allowed to become more and more sanded up. A government, which under the most favourable circumstances and in an epoch of forty years of peace abroad and at home neglected such duties, might easily allow taxes to fall into abeyance and yet obtain an annual surplus of income over expenditure and a considerable reserve; but such a financial administration by no means deserves commendation for its mere semblance of brilliant results, but rather merits the same censure— in respect of laxity, want of unity in management, mistaken flattery of the people—as falls to be brought in every other sphere of political life against the senatorial government of this epoch.

The Finances in the Revolution

The financial condition of Rome of course assumed a far worse aspect, when the storms of revolution set in. The new and, even in a mere financial point of view, extremely oppressive burden imposed upon the state by the obligation under which Gaius Gracchus placed it to furnish corn at nominal rates to the burgesses of the capital, was certainly counterbalanced at first by the newly-opened sources of income in the province of Asia. Nevertheless the public buildings seem from that time to have almost come to a standstill. While the public works which can be shown to have been constructed from the battle of Pydna down to the time of Gaius Gracchus were numerous, from the period after 632 there is scarcely mention of any other than the projects of bridges, roads, and drainage which Marcus Aemilius Scaurus organized as censor in 645. It must remain a moot point whether this was the effect of the largesses of grain or, as is perhaps more probable, the consequence of the system of increased savings, such as befitted a government which became daily more and more a rigid oligarchy, and such as is indicated by the statement that the Roman reserve reached its highest point in 663. The terrible storm of insurrection and revolution, in combination with the five years' deficit of the revenues of Asia Minor, was the first serious trial to which the Roman finances were subjected after the Hannibalic war: they failed to sustain it. Nothing perhaps so clearly marks the difference of the times as the circumstance that in the Hannibalic war it was not till the tenth year of the struggle, when the burgesses were almost sinking under taxation, that the reserve was touched;(22) whereas the Social war was from the first supported by the balance in hand, and when this was expended after two campaigns to the last penny, they preferred to sell by auction the public sites in the capital(23) and to seize the treasures of the temples(24) rather than levy a tax on the burgesses. The storm however, severe as it was, passed over; Sulla, at the expense doubtless of enormous economic sacrifices imposed on the subjects and Italian revolutionists in particular, restored order to the finances and, by abolishing the largesses of corn and retaining although in a reduced form the Asiatic revenues, secured for the commonwealth a satisfactory economic condition, at least in the sense of the ordinary expenditure remaining far below the ordinary income.

Private Economics

In the private economics of this period hardly any new feature emerges; the advantages and disadvantages formerly set forth as incident to the social circumstances of Italy(25) were not altered, but merely farther and more distinctly developed. In agriculture we have already seen that the growing power of Roman capital was gradually absorbing the intermediate and small landed estates in Italy as well as in the provinces, as the sun sucks up the drops of rain. The government not only looked on without preventing, but even promoted this injurious division of the soil by particular measures, especially by prohibiting the production of wine and oil beyond the Alps with a view to favour the great Italian landlords and merchants.(26) It is true that both the opposition and the section of the conservatives that entered into ideas of reform worked energetically to counteract the evil; the two Gracchi, by carrying out the distribution of almost the whole domain land, gave to the state 80,000 new Italian farmers; Sulla, by settling 120,000 colonists in Italy, filled up at least in part the gaps which the revolution and he himself had made in the ranks of the Italian yeomen. But, when a vessel is emptying itself by constant efflux, the evil is to be remedied not by pouring in even considerable quantities, but only by the establishment of a constant influx— a remedy which was on various occasions attempted, but not with success. In the provinces, not even the smallest effort was made to save the farmer class there from being bought out by the Roman speculators; the provincials, forsooth, were merely men, and not a party. The consequence was, that even the rents of the soil beyond Italy flowed more and more to Rome. Moreover the plantation- system, which about the middle of this epoch had already gained the ascendant even in particular districts of Italy, such as Etruria, had, through the co-operation of an energetic and methodical management and abundant pecuniary resources, attained to a state of high prosperity after its kind. The production of Italian wine in particular, which was artificially promoted partly by the opening of forced markets in a portion of the provinces, partly by the prohibition of foreign wines in Italy as expressed for instance in the sumptuary law of 593, attained very considerable results: the Aminean and Falernian wine began to be named by the side of the Thasian and Chian, and the "Opimian wine" of 633, the Roman vintage "Eleven," was long remembered after the last jar was exhausted.


Of trades and manufactur es there is nothing to be said, except that the Italian nation in this respect persevered in an inaction bordering on barbarism. They destroyed the Corinthian factories, the depositories of so many valuable industrial traditions—not however that they might establish similar factories for themselves, but that they might buy up at extravagant prices such Corinthian vases of earthenware or copper and similar "antique works" as were preserved in Greek houses. The trades that were still somewhat prosperous, such as those connected with building, were productive of hardly any benefit for the commonwealth, because here too the system of employing slaves in every more considerable undertaking intervened: in the construction of the Marcian aqueduct, for instance, the government concluded contracts for building and materials simultaneously with 3000 master-tradesmen, each of whom then performed the work contracted for with his band of slaves.

Money-Dealing and Commerce

The most brilliant, or rather the only brilliant, side of Roman private economics was money-dealing and commerce. First of all stood the leasing of the domains and of the taxes, through which a large, perhaps the larger, part of the income of the Roman state flowed into the pockets of the Roman capitalists. The money- dealings, moreover, throughout the range of the Roman state were monopolized by the Romans; every penny circulated in Gaul, it is said in a writing issued soon after the end of this period, passes through the books of the Roman merchants, and so it was doubtless everywhere. The co-operation of rude economic conditions and of the unscrupulous employment of Rome's political ascendency for the benefit of the private interests of every wealthy Roman rendered a usurious system of interest universal, as is shown for example by the treatment of the war-tax imposed by Sulla on the province of Asia in 670, which the Roman capitalists advanced; it swelled with paid and unpaid interest within fourteen years to sixfold its original amount. The communities had to sell their public buildings, their works of art and jewels, parents had to sell their grown-up children, in order to meet the claims of the Roman creditor: it was no rare occurrence for the debtor to be not merely subjected to moral torture, but directly placed upon the rack. To these sources of gain fell to be added the wholesale traffic. The exports and imports of Italy were very considerable. The former consisted chiefly of wine and oil, with which Italy and Greece almost exclusively—for the production of wine in the Massiliot and Turdetanian territories can at that time have been but small— supplied the whole region of the Mediterranean; Italian wine was sent in considerable quantities to the Balearic islands and Celtiberia, to Africa, which was merely a corn and pasture country, to Narbo and into the interior of Gaul. Still more considerable was the import to Italy, where at that time all luxury was concentrated, and whither most articles of luxury for food, drink, or clothing, ornaments, books, household furniture, works of art were imported by sea. The traffic in slaves, above all, received through the ever-increasing demand of the Roman merchants an impetus to which no parallel had been known in the region of the Mediterranean, and which stood in the closest connection with the flourishing of piracy. All lands and all nations were laid under contribution for slaves, but the places where they were chiefly captured were Syria and the interior of Asia Minor.(27)


In Italy the transmarine imports were chiefly concentrated in the two great emporia on the Tyrrhene sea, Ostia and Puteoli. The grain destined for the capital was brought to Ostia, which was far from having a good roadstead, but, as being the nearest port to Rome, was the most appropriate mart for less valuable wares; whereas the traffic in luxuries with the east was directed mainly to Puteoli, which recommended itself by its good harbour for ships with valuable cargoes, and presented to merchants a market in its immediate neighbourhood little inferior to that of the capital— the district of Baiae, which came to be more and more filled with villas. For a long time this latter traffic was conducted through Corinth and after its destruction through Delos, and in this sense accordingly Puteoli is called by Lucilius the Italian "Little Delos"; but after the catastrophe which befel Delos in the Mithradatic war,(28) and from which it never recovered, the Puteolans entered into direct commercial connections with Syria and Alexandria, and their city became more and more decidedly the first seat of transmarine commerce in Italy. But it was not merely the gain which was made by the Italian exports and imports, that fell mainly to the Italians; at Narbo they competed in the Celtic trade with the Massiliots, and in general it admits of no doubt that the Roman merchants to be met with everywhere, floating or settled, took to themselves the best share of all speculations.

Capitalist Oligarchy

Putting together these phenomena, we recognize as the most prominent feature in the private economy of this epoch the financial oligarchy of Roman capitalists standing alongside of, and on a par with, the political oligarchy. In their hands were united the rents of the soil of almost all Italy and of the best portions of the provincial territory, the proceeds at usury of the capital monopolized by them, the commercial gain from the whole empire, and lastly, a very considerable part of the Roman state-revenue in the form of profits accruing from the lease of that revenue. The daily-increasing accumulation of capital is evident in the rise of the average rate of wealth: 3,000,000 sesterces (30,000 pounds) was now a moderate senatorial, 2,000,000 (20,000 pounds) was a decent equestrian fortune; the property of the wealthiest man of the Gracchan age, Publius Crassus consul in 623 was estimated at 100,000,000 sesterces (1,000,000 pounds). It is no wonder, that this capitalist order exercised a preponderant influence on external policy; that it destroyed out of commercial rivalry Carthage and Corinth(29) as the Etruscans had formerly destroyed Alalia and the Syracusans Caere; that it in spite of the senate upheld the colony of Narbo.(30) It is likewise no wonder, that this capitalist oligarchy engaged in earnest and often victorious competition with the oligarchy of the nobles in internal politics. But it is also no wonder, that ruined men of wealth put themselves at the head of bands of revolted slaves,(31) and rudely reminded the public that the transition is easy from the haunts of fashionable debauchery to the robber's cave. It is no wonder, that that financial tower of Babel, with its foundation not purely economic but borrowed from the political ascendency of Rome, tottered at every serious political crisis nearly in the same way as our very similar fabric of a paper currency. The great financial crisis, which in consequence of the Italo-Asiatic commotions of 664 f. set in upon the Roman capitalist-class, the bankruptcy of the state and of private persons, the general depreciation of landed property and of partnership-shares, can no longer be traced out in detail; but their general nature and their importance are placed beyond doubt by their results—the murder of the praetor by a band of creditors,(32) the attempt to eject from the senate all the senators not free of debt,(33) the renewal of the maximum of interest by Sulla,(34) the cancelling of 75 per cent of all debts by the revolutionary party.(35) The consequence of this system was naturally general impoverishment and depopulation in the provinces, whereas the parasitic population of migratory or temporarily settled Italians was everywhere on the increase. In Asia Minor 80,000 men of Italian origin are said to have perished in one day.(36) How numerous they were in Delos, is evident from the tombstones still extant on the island and from the statement that 20,000 foreigners, mostly Italian merchants, were put to death there by command of Mithradates.(37) In Africa the Italians were so many, that even the Numidian town of Cirta could be defended mainly by them against Jugurtha.(38) Gaul too, it is said, was filled with Roman merchants; in the case of Spain alone—perhaps not accidentally—no statements of this sort are found. In Italy itself, on the other hand, the condition of the free population at this epoch had on the whole beyond doubt retrograded. To this result certainly the civil wars essentially contributed, which, according to statements of a general kind and but littletrustworthy, are alleged to have swept away from 100,000 to 150,000 of the Roman burgesses and 300,000 of the Italian population generally; but still worse was the effect of the economic ruin of the middle class, and of the boundless extent of the mercantile emigration which induced a great portion of the Italian youth to spend their most vigorous years abroad.

A compensation of very dubious value was afforded by the free parasitic Helleno-Oriental population, which sojourned in the capital as diplomatic agents for kings or communities, as physicians, schoolmasters, priests, servants, parasites, and in the myriad employments of sharpers and swindlers, or, as traders and mariners, frequented especially Ostia, Puteoli, and Brundisium. Still more hazardous was the disproportionate increase of the multitude of slaves in the peninsula. The Italian burgesses by the census of 684 numbered 910,000 men capable of bearing arms, to which number, in order to obtain the amount of the free population in the peninsula, those accidentally passed over in the census, the Latins in the district between the Alps and the Po, and the foreigners domiciled in Italy, have to be added, while the Roman burgesses domiciled abroad are to be deducted. It will therefore be scarcely possible to estimate the free population of the peninsula at more than from 6 to 7 millions. If its whole population at this time was equal to that of the present day, we should have to assume accordingly a mass of slaves amounting to 13 or 14 millions. It needs however no such fallacious calculations to render the dangerous tension of this state of things apparent; this is loudly enough attested by the partial servile insurrections, and by the appeal which from the beginning of the revolutions was at the close of every outbreak addressed to the slaves to take up arms against their masters and to fight out their liberty. If we conceive of England with its lords, its squires, and above all its City, but with its freeholders and lessees converted into proletarians, and its labourers and sailors converted into slaves, we shall gain an approximate image of the population of the Italian peninsula in those days.

The economic relations of this epoch are clearly mirrored to us even now in the Roman monetary system. Its treatment shows throughout the sagacious merchant. For long gold and silver stood side by side as general means of payment on such a footing that, while for the purpose of general cash-balances a fixed ratio of value was legally laid down between the two metals,(39) the giving one metal for the other was not, as a rule, optional, but payment was to be in gold or silver according to the tenor of the bond. In this way the great evils were avoided, that are otherwise inevitably associated with the setting up of two precious metals; the severe gold crises—as about 600, for instance, when in consequence of the discovery of the Tauriscan gold-seams(40) gold as compared with silver fell at once in Italy about 33 1/3 per cent—exercised at least no direct influence on the silver money and retail transactions. The nature of the case implied that, the more transmarine traffic extended, gold the more decidedly rose from the second place to the first; and that it did so, is confirmed by the statements as to the balances in the treasury and as to its transactions; but the government was not thereby induced to introduce gold into the coinage. The coining of gold attempted in the exigency of the Hannibalic war(41) had been long allowed to fall into abeyance; the few gold pieces which Sulla struck as regent were scarcely more than pieces coined for the occasion of his triumphal presents. Silver still as before circulated exclusively as actual money; gold, whether it, as was usual, circulated in bars or bore the stamp of a foreign or possibly even of an inland mint, was taken solely by weight. Nevertheless gold and silver were on a par as means of exchange, and the fraudulent alloying of gold was treated in law, like the issuing of spurious silver money, as a monetary offence. They thus obtained the immense advantage of precluding, in the case of the most important medium of payment, even the possibility of monetary fraud and monetary adulteration. Otherwise the coinage was as copious as it was of exemplary purity. After the silver piece had been reduced in the Hannibalic war from 1/72 (42) to 1/84 of a pound,(43) it retained for more than three centuries quite the same weight and the same quality; no alloying took place. The copper money became about the beginning of this period quite restricted to small change, and ceased to be employed as formerly in large transactions; for this reason the -as- was no longer coined after perhaps the beginning of the seventh century, and the copper coinage was confined to the smaller values of a -semis- (1/4 pence) and under, which could not well be represented in silver. The sorts of coins were arranged according to a simple principle, and in the then smallest coin of the ordinary issue—the -quadrans- (1/8 pence)—carried down to the limit of appreciable value. It was a monetary system, which, for the judicious principles on which it was based and for the iron rigour with which they were applied, stands alone in antiquity and has been but rarely paralleled even in modern times.

Yet it had also its weak point. According to a custom, common in all antiquity, but which reached its highest development at Carthage,(44) the Roman government issued along with the good silver -denarii- also -denarii- of copper plated with silver, which had to be accepted like the former and were just a token-money analogous to our paper currency, with compulsory circulation and recourse on the public chest, inasmuch as it also was not entitled to reject the plated pieces. This was no more an official adulteration of the coinage than our manufacture of paper-money, for they practised the thing quite openly; Marcus Drusus proposed in 663, with the view of gaining the means for his largesses of grain, the sending forth of one plated -denarius- for every seven silver ones issuing fresh from the mint; nevertheless this measure not only offered a dangerous handle to private forgery, but designedly left the public uncertain whether it was receiving silver or token money, and to what total amount the latter was in circulation. In the embarrassed period of the civil war and of the great financial crisis they seem to have so unduly availed themselves of plating, that a monetary crisis accompanied the financial one, and the quantity of spurious and really worthless pieces rendered dealings extremely insecure. Accordingly during the Cinnan government an enactment was passed by the praetors and tribunes, primarily by Marcus Marius Gratidianus,(45) for redeeming all the token-money by silver, and for that purpose an assay-office was established. How far the calling-in was accomplished, tradition has not told us; the coining of token-money itself continued to subsist.

As to the provinces, in accordance with the setting aside of gold money on principle, the coining of gold was nowhere permitted, not even in the client-states; so that a gold coinage at this period occurs only where Rome had nothing at all to say, especially among the Celts to the north of the Cevennes and among the states in revolt against Rome; the Italians, for instance, as well as Mithradates Eupator struck gold coins. The government seems to have made efforts to bring the coinage of silver also more and more into its hands, particularly in the west. In Africa and Sardinia the Carthaginian gold and silver money may have remained in circulation even after the fall of the Carthaginian state; but no coinage of precious metals took place there after either the Carthaginian or the Roman standard, and certainly very soon after the Romans took possession, the -denarius- introduced from Italy acquired the predominance in the transactions of the two countries. In Spain and Sicily, which came earlier to the Romans and experienced altogether a milder treatment, silver was no doubt coined under the Roman rule, and indeed in the former country the silver coinage was first called into existence by the Romans and based on the Roman standard;(46) but there exist good grounds for the supposition, that even in these two countries, at least from the beginning of the seventh century, the provincial and urban mints were obliged to restrict their issues to copper small money. Only in Narbonese Gaul the right of coining silver could not be withdrawn from the old-allied and considerable free city of Massilia; and the same was presumably true of the Greek cities in Illyria, Apollonia and Dyrrhachium. But the privilege of these communities to coin money was restricted indirectly by the fact, that the three-quarter -denarius-, which by ordinance of the Roman government was coined both at Massilia and in Illyria, and which had been under the name of -victoriatus- received into the Roman monetary system,(47) was about the middle of the seventh century set aside in the latter; the effect of which necessarily was, that the Massiliot and Illyrian currency was driven out of Upper Italy and only remained in circulation, over and above its native field, perhaps in the regions of the Alps and the Danube. Such progress had thus been made already in this epoch, that the standard of the -denarius- exclusively prevailed in the whole western division of the Roman state; for Italy, Sicily—of which it is as respects the beginning of the next period expressly attested, that no other silver money circulated there but the -denarius—-Sardinia, Africa, used exclusively Roman silver money, and the provincial silver still current in Spain as well as the silver money of the Massiliots and Illyrians were at least struck after the standard of the -denarius-.

It was otherwise in the east. Here, where the number of the states coining money from olden times and the quantity of native coin in circulation were very considerable, the -denarius- did not make its way into wider acceptance, although it was perhaps declared a legal tender. On the contrary either the previous monetary standard continued in use, as in Macedonia for instance, which still as a province—although partially adding the names of the Roman magistrates to that of the country—struck its Attic -tetradrachmae- and certainly employed in substance no other money; or a peculiar money-standard corresponding to the circumstances was introduced under Roman authority, as on the institution of the province of Asia, when a new -stater-, the -cistophorus- as it was called, was prescribed by the Roman government and was thenceforth struck by the district- capitals there under Roman superintendence. This essential diversity between the Occidental and Oriental systems of currency came to be of the greatest historical importance: the Romanizing of the subject lands found one of its mightiest levers in the adoption of Roman money, and it was not through mere accident that what we have designated at this epoch as the field of the -denarius- became afterwards the Latin, while the field of the -drachma- became afterwards the Greek, half of the empire. Still at the present day the former field substantially represents the sum of Romanic culture, whereas the latter has severed itself from European civilization.

It is easy to form a general conception of the aspect which under such economic conditions the social relations must have assumed; but to follow out in detail the increase of luxury, of prices, of fastidiousness and frivolity is neither pleasant nor instructive. Extravagance and sensuous enjoyment formed the main object with all, among the parvenus as well as among the Licinii and Metelli; not the polished luxury which is the acme of civilization, but that sort of luxury which had developed itself amidst the decaying Hellenic civilization of Asia Minor and Alexandria, which degraded everything beautiful and significant to the purpose of decoration and studied enjoyment with a laborious pedantry, a precise punctiliousness, rendering it equally nauseous to the man of fresh feeling as to the man of fresh intellect. As to the popular festivals, the importation of transmarine wild beasts prohibited in the time of Cato(48) was, apparently about the middle of this century, formally permitted anew by a decree of the burgesses proposed by Gnaeus Aufidius; the effect of which was, that animal- hunts came into enthusiastic favour and formed a chief feature of the burgess-festivals. Several lions first appeared in the Roman arena about 651, the first elephants about 655; Sulla when praetor exhibited a hundred lions in 661. The same holds true of gladiatorial games. If the forefathers had publicly exhibited representations of great battles, their grandchildren began to do the same with their gladiatorial games, and by means of such leading or state performances of the age to make themselves a laughing-stock to their descendants. What sums were spent on these and on funeral solemnities generally, may be inferred from the testament of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (consul in 567, 579; 602); he gave orders to his children, forasmuch as the true last honours consisted not in empty pomp but in the remembrance of personal and ancestral services, to expend on his funeral not more than 1,000,000 -asses- (4000 pounds). Luxury was on the increase also as respected buildings and gardens; the splendid town house of the orator Crassus (663), famous especially for the old trees of its garden, was valued with the trees at 6,000,000 sesterces (60,000 pounds), without them at the half; while the value of an ordinary dwelling-house in Rome may be estimated perhaps at 60,000 sesterces (600 pounds).(49) How quickly the prices of ornamental estates increased, is shown by the instance of the Misenian villa, for which Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, paid 75,000 sesterces (750 pounds), and Lucius Lucullus, consul in 680, thirty-three times that price. The villas and the luxurious rural and sea- bathing life rendered Baiae and generally the district around the Bay of Naples the El Dorado of noble idleness. Games of hazard, in which the stake was no longer as in the Italian dice-playing a trifle, became common, and as early as 639 a censorial edict was issued against them. Gauze fabrics, which displayed rather than concealed the figure, and silken clothing began to displace the old woollen dresses among women and even among men. Against the insane extravagance in the employment of foreign perfumery the sumptuary laws interfered in vain.

But the real focus in which the brilliance of this genteel life was concentrated was the table. Extravagant prices—as much as 100,000 sesterces (1000 pounds)—were paid for an exquisite cook. Houses were constructed with special reference to this object, and the villas in particular along the coast were provided with salt-water tanks of their own, in order that they might furnish marine fishes and oysters at any time fresh to the table. A dinner was already described as poor, at which the fowls were served up to the guests entire and not merely the choice portions, and at which the guests were expected to eat of the several dishes and not simply to taste them. They procured at a great expense foreign delicacies and Greek wine, which had to be sent round at least once at every respectable repast. At banquets above all the Romans displayed their hosts of slaves ministering to luxury, their bands of musicians, their dancing-girls, their elegant furniture, their carpets glittering with gold or pictorially embroidered, their purple hangings, their antique bronzes, their rich silver plate. Against such displays the sumptuary laws were primarily directed, which were issued more frequently (593, 639, 665, 673) and in greater detail than ever; a number of delicacies and wines were therein totally prohibited, for others a maximum in weight and price was fixed; the quantity of silver plate was likewise restricted by law, and lastly general maximum rates were prescribed for the expenses of ordinary and festal meals; these, for example, were fixed in 593 at 10 and 100 sesterces (2 shillings and 1 pound) in 673 at 30 and 300 sesterces (6 shillings and 3 pounds) respectively. Unfortunately truth requires us to add that, of all the Romans of rank, not more than three—and these not including the legislators themselves—are said to have complied with these imposing laws; and in the case of these three it was the law of the Stoa, and not that of the state, that curtailed the bill of fare.

It is worth while to dwell for a moment on the luxury that went on increasing in defiance of these laws, as respects silver plate. In the sixth century silver plate for the table was, with the exception of the traditionary silver salt-dish, a rarity; the Carthaginian ambassadors jested over the circumstance, that at every house to which they were invited they had encountered the same silver plate.(50) Scipio Aemilianus possessed not more than 32 pounds (120 pounds) in wrought silver; his nephew Quintus Fabius (consul in 633) first brought his plate up to 1000 pounds (4000 pounds), Marcus Drusus (tribune of the people in 663) reached 10,000 pounds (40,000 pounds); in Sulla's time there were already counted in the capital about 150 silver state-dishes weighing 100 pounds each, several of which brought their possessors into the lists of proscription. To judge of the sums expended on these, we must recollect that the workmanship also was paid for at enormous rates; for instance Gaius Gracchus paid for choice articles of silver fifteen times, and Lucius Crassus, consul in 659, eighteen times the value of the metal, and the latter gave for a pair of cups by a noted silversmith 100,000 sesterces (1000 pounds). So it was in proportion everywhere.

How it fared with marriage and the rearing of children, is shown by the Gracchan agrarian laws, which first placed a premium on these.(51) Divorce, formerly in Rome almost unheard of, was now an everyday occurrence; while in the oldest Roman marriage the husband had purchased his wife, it might have been proposed to the Romans of quality in the present times that, with the view of bringing the name into accordance with the reality, they should introduce marriage for hire. Even a man like Metellus Macedonicus, who for his honourable domestic life and his numerous host of children was the admiration of his contemporaries, when censor in 623 enforced the obligation of the burgesses to live in a state of matrimony by describing it as an oppressive public burden, which patriots ought nevertheless to undertake from a sense of duty.(52)

There were, certainly, exceptions. The circles of the rural towns, and particularly those of the larger landholders, had preserved more faithfully the old honourable habits of the Latin nation. In the capital, however, the Catonian opposition had become a mere form of words; the modern tendency bore sovereign sway, and though individuals of firm and refined organization, such as Scipio Aemilianus, knew the art of combining Roman manners with Attic culture, Hellenism was among the great multitude synonymous with intellectual and moral corruption. We must never lose sight of the reaction exercised by these social evils on political life, if we would understand the Roman revolution. It was no matter of indifference, that of the two men of rank, who in 662 acted as supreme masters of morals to the community, the one publicly reproached the other with having shed tears over the death of a -muraena- the pride of his fishpond, and the latter retaliated on the former that he had buried three wives and had shed tears over none of them. It was no matter of indifference, that in 593 an orator could make sport in the open Forum with the following description of a senatorial civil juryman, whom the time fixed for the cause finds amidst the circle of his boon-companions. "They play at hazard, delicately perfumed, surrounded by their mistresses. As the afternoon advances, they summon the servant and bid him make enquiries on the Comitium, as to what has occurred in the Forum, who has spoken in favour of or against the new project of law, what tribes have voted for and what against it. At length they go themselves to the judgment-seat, just early enough not to bring the process down on their own neck. On the way there is no opportunity in any retired alley which they do not avail themselves of, for they have gorged themselves with wine. Reluctantly they come to the tribunal and give audience to the parties. Those who are concerned bring forward their cause. The juryman orders the witnesses to come forward; he himself steps aside. When he returns, he declares that he has heard everything, and asks for the documents. He looks into the writings; he can hardly keep his eyes open for wine. When he thereupon withdraws to consider his sentence, he says to his boon-companions, 'What concern have I with these tiresome people? why should we not rather go to drink a cup of mulse mixed with Greek wine, and accompany it with a fat fieldfare and a good fish, a veritable pike from the Tiber island?' Those who heard the orator laughed; but was it not a very serious matter, that such things were subjects for laughter?"

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