27 AUGUST 1948, Page 16

Sus,—In his excellent comment on the position and predicaments of

classical scholars today, Mr. Nicolson usefully disposes of some popular errors concerning Greek regard for the importance of the individual. But in the same article he appears, unless I have misread him, to subscribe to one of the oddest of modern superstitions, namely a belief that conquest by the Roman armies was a necessary first stage in the civilisation of a people. He affirms that Roman ideals of law and order imposed " habits of peacefulness," and " nobody " he says " considers the loss occasioned to those outside the Roman limes can question the valuable . . . . effects of Roman conquest."

Now what is all this about? To what habits of peacefulness, practised by whom, when and where, does Mr. Nicolson refer? Can it be possibly maintained that those countries which formed the Roman provinces have shown any consistent trend in this direction? A habit of peacefulness was not noticeable in mediaeval Italy, nor during the period of Renaissance in Europe, nor in the France of Richelieu, of Louis XIV or of Napoleon ; and rarely in Paris which must have experienced more civil conflict and bloodshed than any other capital in the world. It cannot be properly asserted that the history of Spain is one of calm. It would seem unfair to cite Britain as the supreme example of a former Roman colony making good by peaceful legal stages, for in these islands the institutions of ancient Rome were eradicated earlier and more thoroughly than in other countries of Western Europe, or of the Mediterranean and Near Asia. Turkey must be considered as the country with the longest Roman record, and yet even Turkish history has some pages of violence and contempt of law. As for the unfortunates without the limes—would Scandinavia have a less unredeemed record of bloodshed and brutishness if Agricola or Germanicus had been able to subdue those fierce lands?—Your obedient