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The seven consulships of the Fabii are without a parallel in the annals of the republic, except at the beginning, in the case of the Valerii. From the year of the city 269 to 275, one of the consuls was chosen from the Fabian family, and this, Niebuhr says, must have been connected with some revolution, by which the oligarchy intended permanently to secure the superiority they had gained. These successive consulships in one house are thus accounted for. To accomplish the destruction of Spurius Cassius, and defeat the agrarian law, it was necessary for the oligarchy to engage the powerful house of the Fabii in the design, and the price paid was, that one of the consuls should always be a Fabius. But in order to secure this object, and with it the uncontrolled power of the patricians over the plebeians, it was necessary to transfer the election of consuls from the centuries, where the plebeians had a very great majority, to the curies, where none but patricians had a vote. This was accordingly done, and consuls most obnoxious to the plebeians, and most determined supporters of the aristocracy, were chosen. The agrarian law was not executed, and unnecessary wars were stirred up to employ the plebeians, for while the legions were in the field the forum was vacant.
The centuries in a few years regained the choice of one consul, but the other was chosen by the curies, till after the decemvirate. The troops under Sp. Furius, the consul chosen by the centuries, fought bravely for the honor of the man whom they had elected; but the troops under Fabius, the other consul, chosen by the patricians, did not look upon him as a legitimate consul, and threw away the victory when it was already in their power, abandoned their camp, and retreated to Rome. The Fabii saw that the consulship was but a melancholy honor, under such circunstances, and they resolved to make friends with the commonalty. Distinguished as they were for bravery and generosity, the attempt was successful; the reconciliation was complete, and a Fabius was the consul chosen by the centuries. The Fabian house no longer acted in concert with the patricians to preserve their usurped power. Cæso Fabius, who had condemned Cassius to death, because his agrarian law was an encroachment upon the aristocracy, now, when he entered upon his office as consul, recommended to the senate that the law should be carried into execution, but the aristocracy would not listen to him. They reviled him and his house as traitors and apostates to their order. Fabius, after a glorious campaign, renewed his propositions for a reconciliation between the houses and the plebeians. Finding there was no hope of obtaining a hearing for them, his house resolved to depart with their adherents and dependents, from a place where they could no longer live in peace, and to found a separate settlement. They marched to the river Cremera, erected a fortress, and took an active part in the war against the Veientes.
The catastrophe is well known; they were destroyed to a man by the Veientes. Niebubr supposes that they were intentionally sacrificed by the Roman consul, Menenius, who was encamped with his army but a short way off at the time, and was afterwards condemned as the guilty cause of this disaster. This account is more probable though less romantic than that of Livy.
We shall merely notice a few of the most distinguished personages in the second volume, and especially one or two of those whom Niebuhr bas endeavored to vindicate from the unjust censures of other historians.
The most eminent and meritorious of these is Spurius Cassius, who was three times consul, and whom Livy calls the author of the first agrarian law. As represented by Niebuhr, he was one of the wisest statesmen and most accomplished patriots in the Roman annals. He gained three triumphs; concluded three treaties; formed an alliance between the Romans, Latins and Hernicans; and by his agrarian law endeavored to do justice to the plebeians, and attach them firmly to the state. He was tried and condemned by the populus, that is, an assembly of the patricians, whose enmity he incurred by the agrarian law. The law was finally executed, but not till after the death of its author.
The brave and patriotic founders of the Cincinnati, hardly made the best choice of the beau ideal of a patriot that antiquity could furnish.
In his poverty, courage, disinterestedness and retirement to private life, Cincinnatus may resemble the heroes of our revolution ; but he was the champion and efficient supporter of a much greater tyranny on the part of the patricians over the commonalty, than the founders of the Cincinnati ever resisted.
Niebuhr's account of hiin does not in most particulars differ essentially from that of Livy. In both he appears as the champion of the patricians in resisting the just demands of the plebeians. Niebuhr considers him as guilty of the murder of Spurius Melius, the rich knight who relieved the distresses of the poor in a time of famine, and who was slain in the forum for the pretended crime of aspiring to the sovereignty.
Marcus Manlius, the savior of the capital, he supposes was innocent of the crime of which he was accused, but was finally driven into insurrection by the persecution of his enemies. The assembly that acquitted him was that of the centuries; the assembly which condemned him was that of the curies. This, and not the sight of the capitol, was the cause of the different decisions.
Coriolanus is rendered as familiar to us by the genius of Shakspeare as by all the historians. The legend of his exploits is partly connected with real facts, and in part must be fictitious. Niebuhr supposes that he spared Rome when it was in his power to take it, but on such conditions that he was guilty of no treachery to his new associates, as he lived to an old age among the Volscians, and the story of his being slain by his rival was a fiction invented long after. The whole account is placed too early in the coinmon history by twenty years. This, however, would not be enough to save the chronology of Shakspeare, who makes the personages of the play talk of Cato and Galen, one of whom lived two hundred, and the other five hundred years later.
We have thus endeavored to call the reader's attention to this most learned and valuable historical production. We know of no work which will better reward the attention of the scholar, and of those persons who read history, not merely for entertainment as they do the last popular novel, but for accurate and useful knowledge.
Niebubr bad several of the qualities necessary to an historian of the highest order. The extent and minute accuracy of his learning, his keen sagacity, sound judgment, unwearied diligence, and happy talent of bringing all his vast knowledge to bear upon his subject as he almost always does, has enabled him to elucidate the progress of society, and solve many perplexing riddles which had baffled the researches of other historians.
He had a high, though perhaps not an exaggerated, sense of the importance of his subject. When the Roman empire is viewed as connecting the ancient and modern world, and as the source from which the modern civilized nations derived a great part of their language, literature, laws and institutions ; when the great events and distinguished personages exhibited
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in its history are considered, we may justly conclude that no nation has had a more extensive and durable influence on the condition and character of the human race.
Some eminent historians in modern times have too much the character of partisans, and advocates, and view actions, characters, and events not in the light of truth, but through the medium of party prejudice, and write history in the style of political pamphlets, or newspaper essays. ceive in Niebuhr an attempt to support any political system or party, but there is visible throughout the work a strong love of truth, a deep sense of right and wrong, a sympathy with the injured and distressed, and an indignation against injustice and oppression. No writer is more unlike the historians of whom Chesterfield complains, as shewing a "provoking contempt for humanity in general, and who would lead their readers to think that the human race consisted of about one hundred and fifty persons, called and dignified (commonly very undeservedly) by the titles of Emperors, Kings, Popes, Generals, and Ministers of State."
Niebubr does not confine his attention to great events and great men, to consuls and dictators, victories and triumphs, but he shews the internal state and condition of society. Political events, changes in the constitution, laws, acts of public men, he considers and estimates with reference to their influence on the welfare of the people. He has the most perfect purity and uprightness of intention, but his sympathy with the oppressed, and indignation at all injustice and tyranny, may sometimes lead him to undue harshness in condemning the conduct of the patricians.
In attempting to point out the errors and deficiencies of the work, we might say that there is sometimes a want of perspicuity and methodical arrangement, that it is not always easy to see the bearing of the author's facts and illustrations, and that he is sometimes more confident in his conclusions than his premises warrant. We think too, that the composition of the work is not quite equal to the value of the materials, and that the author has been more successful in the acquisition of knowledge, than in his manner of communicating it. But in a production of such rare excellence, we believe the reader, in proportion to his acquaintance with it, will admire the genius and learning of the author, and be the less inclined to dwell on any defects. It is evident that inquiries of this nature, carried on with such freedom and boldness, and leading in so many instances to results, different from the common belief, will unavoidably be liable to some doubts and objections.
We are fully sensible that our efforts must fail of giving an adequate impression of the merit of this great work, which we ihink unlikely ever to be surpassed in its own department, and we can hardly hope that any historian will arise to finish the vast fabric of Roman bistory, according to the magnificent plan of Niebuhr, and in a style to correspond with the foundation he has laid.
Art. V.- Professor Hitchcock's Report on the Geology, &-c.
of Massachusetts. 1. Report on the Geology, Mineralogy, Botany, and Zool
ogy of Massachusetts, made and published by order of the Government of that State. With a Descriptive List of the Specimens of Rocks and Minerals collected for the Government. Illustrated by numerous Wood Cuts, and an Atlas of Plates. By EDWARD HITCHCOCK, A. M., Professor of Chemistry and Natural History in Amherst College, &c. Second Edition, corrected and
enlarged. Amherst, 1835. 8vo. pp. 702. Geology has for its object the natural history of the earth. It is regarded by Professor Mohl as a department of Physical Astronomy. Its name is derived from the Greek yñ, earth, and hóyos, a discourse; and is understood to signify the doctrine or science of the earth. This science investigates and describes the structure of our globe, the nature of its various components, and the laws which have effected, and still continue to produce, changes in its mass. It not only explains those things which are interesting to a philosopher, but also aims to be practically useful. Descending with the miner into the darkest subterranean recesses, it directs, by its light, bis operations to their most successful results. The situations in which are found the valuable metallic ores, beds of coal, gypsum, rock salt, strata of limestone, marble, and a thousand other materials useful to man, are pointed out with a great degree of accuracy, and are all described as they occur in nature.