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may learn hereafter from actual examples, in the concealment, not only of religious doctrines, but, likewise, of the commonest observances, such as the business and the holy days of the year, from their knowledge." The auspices, particularly, were long the stumbling-blocks of the Plebeians. Many a one amongst them kept himself apart from his brethren, with whom he had real sympathy and to whom he would have given real assistance, because the Augur bade him, with ominous frown, to beware. But the submission which religion required was not simply of a political character, nor yet incumbent upon the inferior classes alone. Every mind, as under all heathenism, was burdened by a weight which, it is true, was as far from being grievous in Rome as in Greece, yet beneath which there could really be no play of true feeling and no aspiration of true piety. No priesthood, in these later centuries of heathenism, could have watched the burden, careful that it kept its place, for it was upon their souls likewise; and the power of the superior Roman priests, the Pontiffs, great and irresponsible as it was, is to be regarded only under the former view suggested, of the Patricianism, so to speak, even of religion.” These considerations, compressed as they have necessarily been, of the relations between the various classes of people and the influences to which their public life was variously exposed, may make the preeminence of the Patricians not only more distinct, but more accountable, – to some, it might be added, more excusable. They were the real citizens, in whose possession alone the rights of liberty and law were inalienable,” and on whose character alone the destinies of their country and its institutions appeared to be dependent. It was, however, the good fortune of Rome, that another class of citizens, at first inferior, was included within her fold, to whose elevation her prosperity and freedom, before both failed her under heathenism, are, humanly speaking, to be ascribed. But behind the Plebeians, a pall was dropped upon aliens, menials, and slaves, as upon men who could not, except as one or another amongst them might be individually admitted to the light, anticipate, much less enjoy, as a class, the liberty of Rome. The citizens were also the proprietors of Rome. One had a plot of land in town, or a narrow field in the country, just large enough, perhaps, to give him food and supply him with an overplus to meet his taxes. Another, able to support clients or laborers, would have a larger estate, or else obtain a greater share of the public land, for which the rent was merely nominal. The latter was the Patrician or the very rich Plebeian ; the former was the Plebeian or the very poor Patrician. Below them both were many who had parted with their scanty possessions in times of prodigality or distress; who also were citizens, or they would never have been proprietors. Distinctions analogous to those existing between the higher and lower classes of citizens affected the relations between the different orders of proprietors. Within the Pomoerium, the sacred limit of the city, lay all the public and most of the private possessions of the Patricians; while without the same boundary the homes and sanctuaries of the Plebeians were mostly situated, as upon the Aventine. The occupation, however, of all the citizens in times of peace was husbandry; and the abundance of the whole nation was chiefly that which arises from well-tilled fields. One cannot go back, indeed, to the years of the Monarchy and the revolution in Rome, without seeming to behold the destiny of the people wavering between that of an agricultural and that of a warlike nation: but the scale was soon turned. The song of the Fratres Arvales, the Brothers of the Fields, is an appeal to Mars, the god of war, that he would bless their labors of the plough and the pruning-hook; and the procession winding through the cultivated lands in the spring-time, to insure the fruits of the earth,” was one in which the husbandman does not appear to have put off the mien of the warrior. The citizens were not only the proprietors, but the soldiers, of the Commonwealth. They who had homes and rights to defend were most relied on for incessant service against the public enemies; and the especial privilege of the Patrician or the rich Plebeian was not so much a large estate or an exalted office, as a foremost place upon the battle-field. It is singular to observe the connection between these different distinctions of the Roman freeman: the prominent part in the conflict was rewarded by the larger share of spoils and lands, and the increase of wealth led to the expansion and security of liberties.
it “Diligentiusque urbem reli- 12 The subject of Roman religion gione quam moenibus cingitis.” Cic., will, of course, be resumed. See De Nat. Deor., III. 40. Book II. ch. 9, Book III. ch. 7.
13 Which Cicero describes as the ludorum, festorum, dierum, cetero“possessionem gratiae, libertatis, rum omnium commodorum.” De suffragiorum, dignitatis, urbis, fori, Leg. Agr., II. 27.
It is from these divisions and occupations among the early Romans that some general idea of the spirit which animated their lives is to be obtained; nor need the limits of their own territory be crossed, to seek after distant influences or foreign knowledge. It is true, that, under the last kings, the narrow intercourse, which had scarcely begun under the first,” with stranger nations, was extended throughout Italy and beyond the seas, – the beginning, as it seems, of the wider relations to which Rome, last and greatest of heathen nations, was called. Long years, however, elapsed before any traces are to be found, either amongst the forces or amongst the purposes of Rome, of any interference from abroad with the progress she obeyed, as a state in which various systems were blended, and various races reconciled, almost from its origin. The spirit of a people, indeed, is the growth neither of a year nor a century. It signifies their habits of memory, action, thought, and hope, for ever changing, and, until the end draws nigh, for ever renewing themselves. It is impossible to be sure that we comprehend it fully, even when we can observe it with our own eyes, or lay our own hands, as it were, upon the great heart in which it throbs and heaves. But when we are obliged to go back in search of principles and desires that no longer exist together, though many may yet separately survive, it is almost impossible to be sure that we understand them at all.
* See Livy's remarks touching the possibility of Numa's having heard of Pythagoras, I. 18.
WOL. I. 45
The virtues, however, of the early Romans were so congenial to their circumstances and their laws, as to be distinguishable with comparative certainty. No merit, in such a state as theirs, could have been esteemed greater than energy, the power to win a battle or make a fortune, on which the freeman's rights, in great degree, depended. It needed to be tempered by obedience, if it belonged to one of an inferior class; if to one of a superior, it was tempted and commanded to show itself in authority, sometimes just, oftener fierce, and always overpowering. To these characteristics of a rude nation must be added the confidence which was alone able to turn their energy, in any of its possessors, to the increase of partial or general prosperity. It was valued and sought, or the Patricians would have never granted the Valerian laws in order to give it to the Plebeians; but it could not yet be created in the lower classes, however naturally it was felt amongst the higher. Other principles were too numerous and too plain to need definition; yet one remark may be made about them all, -— that they were praised in proportion to the show or the noise they made, rather than the truth which they con