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I. THE JEW WHO HAD APPEALED UNTO CÆSAR,
X. THE HOPE OF THE JEWS, ·
XX. THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL Son,
XXVII. THE AVENGER, .
XXX. THE CHIEF MARTYR,
HOME; in the year of the city, 814; in the year of
grace, 61; Nero on the throne; the apostles preaching Christianity; the ancient world in the period of its highest civilization, when petty divisions had become extinguished, and all the nations bowed to the one central city : - such is the time of this story.
It was a busy, a rich, and a densely-peopled world. Military roads started from the great centre, and went to the uttermost bounds of the empire. The Mediterranean was the highway of nations; surrounded by a girdle of populous cities, everywhere traversed by vast fleets, and filled with the commerce of the world.
Roman law had fashioned all the provinces into one form, and stamped them all with one image; and those states which were formerly ravaged by war or piracy, now, under the influence of universal peace, grew with a rapidity that had not been known before.
Taking a comprehensive view of this world, Spain first attracts our attention, where, for some time, a Roman province had been advancing so peacefully that history finds but little to record. Culture was there, and Rome was receiving from that quarter her Lucans, Senecas, and Trajans. Cities lined the coast, prominent among which was Gades, which yet, as of old, sends over the world its exports of fruit and wine and oil. Perhaps Spain was more prosperous than now. Certainly Africa was much more so. Along the whole northern coast there, was a line of nations, rich in culture and prosperity, possessing great cities, which sent over to Rome its chief supplies of grain. Carthage had arisen from its ruins on a new site, and many capitals bad grown up in places which not long before had been the battle-grounds of barbarous tribes. Alexandria had already reached a lofty position in science and literature, as well as in . commerce, and was yet advancing still higher. Over all the country caravans pierced the desert, carrying civilization to the savages beyond, and the whole land was going on in a career of prosperity, which continued for generations with various fortunes, till it was checked by the disasters of the falling empire, and afterwards diverted in a new direction by Mohammedan conquest.
From Alexandria came the largest ships and greatest fleets; for Roman pride was yet conveying to the metropolis those enormous Egyptian obelisks which yet remain in the modern city ; and no small part of Eastern commerce came up the Red Sea, to send through this port, the spices, the gold, the gems, the silks, and the rich tissues which were demanded by Roman luxury.
Nor must we forget Palestine. Long since Hellenized to some extent, and now partly Romanized, the people saw their country filled with the symbols of Western art and science; but, in the presence of Greek rhetoricians and Roman soldiers, they cherished that fierce fanaticism which blazed up in revolt at last, and was quenched in the untold agonies of the memorable siege of Jerusalem.
Beyond Palestine were the crowded regions of Syria and Asia Minor, where there were cities such as Ephesus, Antioch, Smyrna, and Damascus, with many others, which
surpassed the capital itself in splendor and magnificence, and have left ruins which are the wonder of the modern traveller. Through these came that great overland traffic with the farthest East, which formed a perpetual succession of caravans between the Roman and the Chinese provinces.
What lay beyond the nearest deserts crossed by the caravans was a profound mystery to the Romans. Their arms had never reduced Persia to subjection ; nor had a Roman general ever gazed on the plains of Scinde, or embarked his legions on the Persian Gulf. The Parthians were more formidable to the Romans than the Persians had been to the Greeks ; nor did the Latin historian ever forgive Alexander for leading his armies beyond the flight of the Roman eagles.
The descendants of those Greeks who had thus outdone the Romans in the farthest East, still lived with a certain vitality in their old home. Athens was more populous than ever, and the country was prosperous. But the glory had departed, and the ancient genius had vanished forever. It would be a great mistake, however, to suppose that the Greeks had sunk to a level with the other races under the iron dominion of Rome; on the contrary, they towered above them all.
The position of the Greeks at this time is partly instructive and partly amusing. They were at once the scholars, the wits, and the sharpers of the day. Their literature was studied everywhere; their arts were everywhere admired. No one who pretended to be anybody was ignorant of their language. It was the universal tongue, and had penetrated into all countries. Everything that required art, skill, ingenuity, all the finer employments of every kind, had everywhere fallen to the lot of the Greeks. They were the best painters, sculptors, architects, and musicians. The master-pieces of art now preserved at Rome, if they bear any names at all, have those of Greek artists. Wealthy Romans sent their sons to Athens to acquire a liberal education, or hired Greek