PROFESSOR NEWMAN'S REGAL ROME..
THE conclusions of Niebuhr as to the poetical or fabulous charac- ter of much of the early history of Rome, as we observed in a notice of his Lectures four years ago,} were by no means original, and had they been new, would not have given him his extended repu- tation. That was gained by a creative, not a destructive faculty. He was the first modern historian of Rome, perhaps the first of Roman historians, who besides separating the true from the mythic in the history, pierced to the previous state of Italy through the mist which obscured the early Roman annals, and endeavoured to estimate its influence on the Roman constitution and character. Among his great qualities however, Niebuhr possessed two pecu- liarities that prevented him from thoroughly completing the sub- hat he had begun, even were it possible for any single man to hve done it. There was a tendency in his mind to confound probable inference with positive proof, at least as regarded his own investigations ; and he was self-opinionated in a remarkable degree, so that he looked upon his own conclusions for the time being as a sort of gospel which did not admit of challenge, even if opposite to something he had formerly affirmed or would affirm hereafter. As a reviver or rather creator of early Italian and Roman history, Niebuhr must always maintain his place : for particular points of that history, and still more for the general form, colour, and as it were atmosphere of the period, he is open to improvement, if not liable to be superseded. To contribute to the correction of several of Niebuhr's views, to present a truer if not so sharply-outlined a picture of those early times, and to serve as an introduction to the study of Roman history till the expulsion of the Kings, is the ob- ject of Mr. Newman's present volume. The work itself consists of eleven essays or disquisitions, classed under the three heads of Alban Rome, Sabine Rome, and Etrusco- Latin Romp. The subjects discussed under the first head are the condition of earliest Italy and Latium, and the races which inhabited it ; the Latin Language, with references to those tongues on which it was founded or by which it was amplified; and the general history of Rome before Yuma. Sabine Rome embraces the character, habits, opinions, and mode of life of the Sabines, their institutions in Rome, and the Sabino-Roman dynasty. The third part, on Etruscan-Latin Rome, contains a rapid survey of the Etruscan origin, institutions, and language, the reigns of Tar- quin the Elder, Servius Tullus, and Tarquin the Proud. Consti- tational topics predominate over events in the latter essays ; the eleventh essay consists of concluding reflections. Samuel Johnson, writing of poetical genius, remarks that one part of it consists in separating the essence of things from the eon- tomitants, and thus making the representation frequently more powerful than the reality. This faculty is displayed in other things than poetry, but too often without poetical truth. Except Shakspere, the great narrative and dramatic poets took their themes from national subjects, in which the manners and opinions • Regal Rome: an Introduction to Roman History. By Francis W. Newman, Professor of Latin in University College, London. Published by Taylor, Walton, I and Moberly.
t Spectator for 1848, January 1. were generically the same as those with which they were fami- liar, though time and refinement had softened the latter. Hence, the character and the atmosphere of their works have a truth of colouring which the instinctive genius of Shakspere enabled him to engraft upon foreign subjects,—as the Moorish supersti- tion and semi-barbarism of Othello, that continually break out through his conventional habit ; and the like will be found in Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear, and indeed all his foreign plays. This kind of truth is not often reached by the historian even in narra- tive. He may pause to call the reader's attention to some strange conduct which marks the superstition, or some Atrocious crime that denotes the barbarism of the times and people ; but there is generally none of the spirit and manners of the age—the history wants atmosphere and lifelike colouring—it is too abstract. Where exposition is substituted for narrative, the abstract is too fre- quently all in all. Everything is pronounced upon too dogmati- cally, too clearly; the results are not so much the truth as what the historian considers such. That which in fact was obscure, tia- certain; complicated, becomes in the writer's theory as clear and distinct as a geometrical figure. Even when ample documents re- main, " the representation more powerful than the reality" bears about the same relation to the original nature as the essence does to the flower. In periods beyond the historical age, or respecting which no original records remain, this abstraction not only wants the colour and spirit of the realitYr, but too often, it is to be appre- hended, of truth. We are in the regions of inference, if not of conjecture ; but, to listen to Niebuhr, and still more frequently to his indiscriminating imitators, things that must from their nature have been as uncertain as the British- constitution, are presented with all the distinctness of a written charter; and this too when all or nearly all direct evidence has perished.
From this certainty of assertion when the evidence is uncertain Mr. Newman is freer than most writers ; though he probably attributes to philological evidence greater cogency than it de- serves. The plan of illustrating the opinions and constitutional principles of the past by a reference to the present is not origi- nal, but Mr. Newman is very apt and sensible in the illustra- tions themselves. Whether the excellence we have alluded to can really be attained—whether it is possible to throw over the exposition sav of the Etruscan constitution and institutions some- thing like their manners and the dimness with which we regard it—may be doubted. But Mr. Newman shows what every dis- quisitionist does not—that he knows there is a great difference between the manners of those times and the present, though the human nature is essentially the same. Hence his illustrations have greater life, and his general picture less of dry abstraction.
Of the civilization of the ancient Etruscans we learn a good deal from their tombs and the remains of their workmanship therein buried. Of their institutions and customs ranch is gleaned from scattered notices of ancient writers, and from the Etruscan forms and practices engrafted into the Roman constitution and surviving as long as Paganism itself. Of the state of Italy in that remote period—of the probable decay of what were then ancient states, which permitted Rome to be founded—and still more, of those pecu- liarities which enabled her, in spite of probable conquest by the Sabines, Latins, and Etruscans, to make her own character pre- dominant over all the rest—we know nothing. It is probable that the crossing of blood, that forms the modern Englishman, had its influence upon the ancient Romans. At least the fact of this cross- ing is one of the best-established circumstances of the early ages and it is well enforced and illustrated by Mr. Newman. "There is perfect unanimity among the ancients as to the principle on which the rapid tine of Romulus's colony depended. Walls having been erected sufficient for defence, free reception was given to all who chose to come and claim it. The forms under which this was done remind us of Greek customs, if indeed we may trust the tale. A lofty and steep hill lay to the North-west of the new Rome. Its back had a depression in the centre; the two two heights on each side were afterwards called the Citadel and the Capitol- From the Capitol the whole hill was called Capitoline : the rock of the Cita- del was abrupt, and was named the Tarpeian. In the depression between, or the descent from it, a spot was consecrated, and called by the Greek name asylum : whoever fled to this was received, as a claimant of hospitable pro- tection, to whom the walls must not remain closed. Whether such formali- ties have been correctly reported to us, is of very little importance : that the policy herein implied was systematically followed in the whole period of Kingly Rome, seems beyond reasonable doubt, and to be a clue to the whole course of events. To the same policy Thucydides ascribes the early aggran- dizement of Attica. Defeated chieftains from all parts of Greece flocked thither, with their retinues, as to a safe refuge ; and brought their numbers, experience, and skill in the arts of war or peace. Livy indeed calla the prin- ciple familiar to the founders of cities peace. ; and undoubtedly it conduces to material prosperity. To harbour criminals is quite a separate matter ; and in our days is an odious idea, when criminals are the dregs of society. Not so political offenders. Holland and England have long gloried in protecting those whom the despots of neighbouring communities have judged to deserve punishment ; and the arts and wealth of both countries have been increased by the industry and ingenuity of refugees. Hydrut in Greece, though a bar- ren rock unnoticed by antiquity, shot up into sudden greatness by giving a home and a free port to those who suffered by Turkish tyranny ; and if any causes were at work to disorder the Latin or Etrurian cities, it is easy to be- lieve that refugees may have rapidly aggrandized early Rome. In that stage of rudeness, indeed, it may be taken for granted that no distinction would be made between criminals and innocent men ; the mixed multitude is not likely to have been much purer than the later Romans represented it ; yet there is an undeniable superiority in such a mass of outlaws in rude over civilized times. Where all men carry arms and each has to defend himself, personal conflicts are of daily occurrence : the perpetrators of bloodshed are often among the best men of the community ; and if made outlaws, may prove very valuable citizens to the foreign town which welcomes them. Alban Rome was clearly a robber-city; yet we do not know it to have been stained with blood thirsty treachery like the Mamertinek of Messene."
The Etruscan emigration at a much later period is equally well described, and more directly brought to bear on probable events.
is The account given by Livy and Dionysius of the origin of the elder Tarquin is simple, natural, every way credible ; and if we reject it we can put nothing into its place. He derived his birth from Corinthian parents, who had settled at Tarquinii in Etruria : a later age confidently, but it seems erroneously, named his father Demaratus. The belief of his Corinthian ori- gin testifies at any rate to the persuasion, that the influences introduced into Rome by Tarquin were half Greek in character. He married an Etrus- can lady of rank, named Tanaquil; but finding his Corinthian blood to hin- der his rise, he migrated to Rome, where he heard that no impediments on this score would annoy him. "In a later stage of national growth, to be a foreigner is a fatal obstacle to advancement. So is it in England, and in all the old countries of Europe: but not so in Russia, nor in America; nor was it so in the Middle Ages. Early Athens and early Rome were careless about the race of a brave man ; though each city in itslater period became fastidious. With perfect discern- ment of this, Livy and Dionysius attribute to Tarquin the sentiment, that a new city' like Rome will look only to personal merit. Tarquinii, as other Etrurian towns, was so far advanced in art, as to have attained pride in its own superiority and contempt of outside barbarians.' No stronger cause was needed for a man like Tarquin to remove to Rome. He migrated with a great troop of friends and retamers; who were hospitably received in Rome, and established there under the name of the Gens Tarquinia, or Clan
derived from Tarquinii. * • •
"An Etruscan of Corinthian birth was likely to possess an extent of geographical and political information, which must have been surprising to a rigid Sabine ; and as his warlike skill is also highly commended, there is nothing absurd in the statement that Ancus made him by will governor of his children. 4s nothing turns upon it, this appears like a genuine tradi- tion."
The picture, partly drawn from inference, of the rude Sabines on their own hills is another example of Mr. Newman's manner of illustrating the obscure from the better known.
" They were proud of living in unwalled villages, as men who had suffi- cient defence in warlike weapons, The highlands of the Apennines appear as their natural home : only in the fruitful Campania did one branch of the nation become enervated by sloth and luxury. Goettling has well charac- terized their earliest social system by the term patriarchal. In it each fa- mily, or rather, in a wider sense, each clan, was in some sense a separate state, and the nation was a confederacy of clans, which had little unity ex- cept for the purposes of war. Every clan had religious ceremonies peculiar to itself, and could make laws to regulate the conduct of its own members : hence in process of time many clans gained marked peculiarities of dress or habits, which they made a pride of retaining, even when they were all swal- lowed up in the great community of Latin Rome. Each individual of the clan bore its name, out of which afterwards rose consequences more import- ant than could have been foreseen.
" The state of society in which the oldest Sabines lived, it has been inge- niously Observed, seems to have originated the Homeric conception of a clops; a fierce and-arbitrary bein,g, who dwells on the tops of hills and tends his flocks, responsible to no one, but giving laws to his children and to his wife.' Slavery had no general existence, but every noble family had de- pendents permanently attached to it, who were called its clients. It was a system of high but kindly aristocracy. The client, like the Russian serf, was attached to his patron or lord as to a father and a friend. The whole clan was in theory, or rather in feeling, a single large family, accustomed to yield the guidance of all external affairs to its leader as absolutely as Arabs to their sheikh. When we have the most positive assurances that every father in Sabine Rome possessed power of life and death over his grown-up son; and that the father might sell him into slavery, and resume his rights over him twice if twice set free ; we must be prepared to believe in the high au- thority of the chieftain over the serf. Yet as all the dignity of the patron depended on the number and wellbeing of his clients ; as their swords and their properties were his to use on every great exigency ; it is not to be looked on as poetical fiction that he zealously cared for their physical wel- fare, and by kindly intercourse sustained their loyal sympathies. This effect was ascribed by later writers to the influence of religious oaths which bound the parties together; but, independently of religion, a Sabine chief had little more temptation to oppress his client than to be cruel to his son. Both of them crouched before his anger, both of them rejoiced in his greatness and pomp. To each was assigned his appropriate external comforts; custom and public opinion regulated the payments made by the cultivator ; and the hardy peasant was satisfied with so little, that he must have been a cruel
indeed ndeed who grudged that little. " Many modern writers seem unable to conceive such a relation of lord and serf, except where it is founded on conquest by foreigners ; yet there are instances to the contrary so clear that to impute a conquest is gratuitous. A future generation, on learning how peasants in the Scotch Highlands have been driven off the soil by the representatives of the chieftains for whom their fathers' broad-swords won it, will be in danger of mistaking these free, hardy, and much-injured men, for a conquered and inferior race. And in fact i there is not only a very great similarity in the relations between a 'chief of the Gaelic clans and his vassals to those between a Sabine patron and his client; but in so far as language is any teat of blood, it would appear that the Sabines and the Gaels are of nearer kindred than Irish and Welsh. The Patriarchal authority is not easily abused to griping and heartless covetous- ness in the rude days when chief and clansman live in daily sight of one another, as in an Arab tribe ; when men are valuable for bravery and de- votedness, and not only for the rent which they pay ; and when the arts of life are so little advanced that the great use of wealth is to maintain a more gorgeous retinue. But when with the progress of art and political development, the chief covets the land foi the sake of rent and not of men, and a custom has hardened into law which enables him to appear as owner of the soil, the relation of patron to client is liable to become one of antagonism, and fre- quently of bitter hostility, as in Republican Rome."