One of the features of Roman greatness, which preeminently arrests attention, is military genius and strength. The Romans surpassed all the nations of antiquity in the brilliancy and solidity of their conquests. They conquered the world, and held it in subjection. For many centuries they stamped their iron heel on the necks of prostrate and suppliant kings, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caspian Sea. Nothing could impede, except for a time, their irresistible progress from conquering to conquer. They were warriors from the earliest period of their history, and all their energies were concentrated upon conquest. Their aggressive policy never changed so long as there was a field for its development. They commenced as a band of robbers; they ended by becoming masters of all the countries and kingdoms which tempted their cupidity or aroused their ambition. Their empire was universal,--the only universal empire which ever existed on this earth,--and it was won with the sword. It was not a rapid conquest, but it was systematic and irresistible, evincing great genius, perseverance, and fortitude.
[Sidenote: The Romans fight from a fixed purpose.]
The successive and fortunate conquests of the Romans were the admiration, the envy, and the fear of all nations--so marvelous and successful that they have the majesty of a providential event. They cannot be called a mystery, since we see the persistent adaptation of means to an end. But no other nation ever evinced this uniform military policy, except for a limited period, or under the stimulus of a temporary enthusiasm, such as characterized the Saracens and the Germanic barbarians. The Romans fought when there was no apparent need of fighting, when their empire already embraced most of the countries known to the ancients. The Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Persians, and the Greeks made magnificent conquests, but their empire was partial and limited, and soon passed away. The Greeks evinced great military genius, and the enterprises of Alexander have been regarded as a wonder. But the Greeks did not fight, as the Romans did, from a fixed purpose to bring all nations under their sway, and they yielded, in turn, to the Romans. The Romans were never subdued, but all nations were subdued by them-- even superior races. They erected a universal monarchy, which fell to pieces by its own weight, when the vices of self-interest had accomplished their work. They became the prey of barbarians in a very different sense from that which reduced the ancient empires. They did not yield to any powerful, warlike neighbor, as the Persians yielded to the Greeks, but to successive waves of unknown warriors who came in quest of settlement, and then only when all Roman vigor had fled, and the whole policy of the empire was changed--when it was the aim of emperors to conserve old conquests, not make new ones.
[Sidenote: War was a passion with the Romans.]
With the Romans, for a thousand years, war was a passion; and, while it lasted, it consumed all other passions. It animated statesmen, rulers, generals, and citizens alike, ever burning, never at rest,--a passion unscrupulous, resistless, all-pervading, all-absorbing, all-conquering. Success in war gave consideration, dignity, honor beyond all other successes. It always has called out popular admiration, and its glory has ever been highly prized, and it always will be so, but it has not monopolized all offices and dignities as among the Romans. The Greeks thought of art, of literature, and of philosophy as well as of war, and gave their crowns of glory for civic and artistic excellence as well as for military success. The Greeks fought to preserve or extend their civilization; the Romans, in order to rule. They had very little respect for any thing beyond military genius. The successful warrior alone was the founder of a great family. The Roman aristocracy, so proud, so rich, so powerful, was based on the glory of battle-fields. Every citizen was trained to arms, and senators and statesmen commanded armies. The whole fabric of the State was built up on war, and for many centuries it was the leading occupation of the people. How insignificant was a poet, or a painter, or a philosopher by the side of a warrior! Rome was a city of generals, and they preoccupied the public mind.
[Sidenote: Value placed by the Romans on military art.]
To a Roman, military art was the highest of all. It was constantly being improved, until it reached absolute perfection, with the old weapons and implements of war. To its perfection the whole genius of the people was consecrated; it was to them what the fine arts were to the Greeks, what priestly domination was to the Middle Ages, and what material inventions to abridge human labor are to us. The Romans despised literature, art, philosophy, commerce, agriculture, and even luxury, when they were making their grand conquests; they only respected their fortunate generals. Hence there was no great encouragement to genius or ambition in any other field; but in this field, the horizon perpetually expanded. Every new conquest prepared the way for successive conquests; ambition here was untrammeled, energy was unbounded, visions of glory were most dazzling, warlike schemes were most fertile, until the whole world lay bleeding and prostrate.
[Sidenote: Lawfulness of war.]
Military genius, however, does not present man in the highest state of wisdom or beauty. It is very attractive, but "there is a greater than the warrior's excellence," at least to a contemplative or religious eye. When men save nations, in fearful crises, by their military genius, as Napoleon did France when surrounded with hostile armies, or Gustavus Adolphus did Germany when it was struggling for religious rights, then they render the greatest possible services, and receive no unmerited honors. The heart of the world cherishes the fame of Miltiades, of Charlemagne, of Henry IV., of Washington; for they were identified with great causes. War is one of the occasional necessities of our world. No nation can live, or is worthy to live, without military virtues. They rescue nations on the verge of ruin, and establish great rights, without which life is nothing. War, however much to be lamented as an evil, is the last appeal and resource of nations, and settles what cannot be settled without it; and it will probably continue so long as there are blindness, ambition, and avarice among men. Nor, under certain circumstances, of which nations can only be the proper judges, is it inconsistent with the law of love. Hence, as it is a great necessity, it will ever be valued as a great science. Civilization accepts it and claims it. It calls into exercise great qualities, and these intoxicate the people, who bow down to them as godlike.
[Sidenote: Those who are most successful in war.]
Still, military genius, however lauded and honored, is too often allied with ambition and selfishness to secure the highest favor of philosophers or Christians. It does not reveal the soul in its loftiest aspirations. Men of a coarser type are often most successful,--men insensible to pity and to reproach, whose greatest merit is in will, nerve, energy, and power of making rapid combinations. We revere the intellect of the Greeks more than that of the Romans, though they were inferior to the latter in military success. We have more respect for those qualities which add to the domain of truth than those which secure power. A wise man elevates the Bacons, the Newtons, and the Shakespeares above all the Marlboroughs and Wellingtons. Plato is surrounded with a brighter halo than Themistocles, and Cicero than Marius.
[Sidenote: The general evils of war.]
War as a trade is unscrupulous, hard, rapacious, destructive. It foments all the evil passions; it is allied with all the vices; it is antagonistic to human welfare. It glories merely in strength; it worships only success. It raises wicked men to power; it prostrates and hides the good. It extinguishes what is most lovely, and spurns what is most exalted. It makes a pandemonium of earth, and drags to its triumphal car the venerated relics of ages. It is an awful crime, making slaves of the helpless, and spreading consternation, misery, and death wherever it goes--marking its progress with a trail of blood, and filling the earth with imprecations and curses. It is the greatest scourge which God uses to chastise enervated nations, and cannot be contemplated with; any satisfaction except as the wrath, which is made to praise the Sovereign Ruler who employs what means He chooses to punish or exalt.
[Sidenote: Spirit of the Romans in their wars.]
Now the Romans, in a general sense, pursued war as a trade, to gratify a thirst for power, to raise themselves on the ruins of ancient monarchies, to enrich themselves with the spoils of the world, and to govern it for selfish purposes. There were many Roman wars which were exceptions, when an exalted patriotism was the animating principle; but aggressive war was the policy and shame of Rome. Her citizens did not generally fight to preserve liberties or rights or national existence, but for self-aggrandizement. Incessant campaigns for a thousand years brought out military science, courage, energy, and a grasping and selfish patriotism. They gave power, skill to rule, executive talents; and these qualities, eminently adapted to worldly greatness, made the Romans universal masters, even if they do not make them interesting. They developed great strength, resource, will, and even made them wise in administration, possibly great civilizers, since centralized power is better than anarchies; yet these traits do not make us love them, or revere them. Providence doubtless ordered the universal monarchy, which only universal war could establish, for the good of the world at that time, for the advancement of civilization itself. Universal dominion must be succeeded by universal peace, and in such a peace the higher qualities and virtues and talents can only be manifested, so that the Roman rule was not a calamity, but a very desirable despotism. Yet despotism it was,--cold, remorseless, self-seeking. War made the Romans practical, calculating, overbearing, proud, scornful, imperious.
[Sidenote: Success of the Romans in war.]
But war made them a great people, and made them eminent in certain great qualities. Their success in war is tantamount to saying that in one great field of genius, which civilization honors, they not merely distinguished themselves, and gained a proud fame which will never die out of the memory of man, but that they have had no equals in any age. War enabled them to build up a vast empire, which empire gave a great impulse to ancient civilization.
[Sidenote: Providence seen in the ascendency of great nations.]
There is something very singular and mysterious in the results of wars which are caused and carried on by unprincipled and unscrupulous men. They are made to end in substantial benefits to the human race. The wrath of man, in other words, is made to praise God, showing that He is the Sovereign ruler on this earth, and uses what instruments He pleases to carry out his great and benevolent designs. However atrocious the causes of wars, and execrable the spirit in which they are carried out, they are ever made to subserve the benefit of future ages, and the great cause of civilization in its vast connections. Men may be guilty, and may be punished for their wickedness, and execrated through all time by enlightened nations; still they are but tools of the higher power. I do not say that God is the author of wars any more than He is of sin; but wars are yet sent as a punishment to those whom they directly and immediately affect, while they unbind the cords of slavery, and relax the hold of tyrants. They are like storms in the natural world: they create a healthier moral life, after the disasters are past. Those ambitious men, who seek to add province to province and kingdom to kingdom, and for whom no maledictions are too severe, since they shed innocent blood, rarely succeed unless they quarrel with doomed nations incapable of renovation. Thus Babylon fell before Cyrus when her day had come, and she could do no more for civilization. Thus Persia, in her turn, yielded to the Grecian heroes when she became enervated with the luxuries of the conquered kingdoms. Thus Greece again succumbed to Rome when she had degenerated into a land where every vice was rampant. The passions which inflamed Cyrus, and Alexander, and Pompey were alike imperious, and their policy was alike unscrupulous. They simply were bent on conquest, and on establishing powerful empires, which conquests doubtless resulted in the improvement of the condition of mankind. There is also something hard and forbidding in the policy of successful statesmen. We are shocked at their injustice, cruelty, and rapaciousness; but they are often used by Providence to raise nations to preeminence, when their ascendency is, on the whole, a benefit to the world. There is nothing amiable or benign in the characters of such men as Oxenstiern, Richelieu, or Bismarck, but who can doubt the wisdom of their administration? It is seldom that any nation is allowed to have a great ascendency over other nations unless the general influence of the dominant State is favorable to civilization; and when this influence is perverted the ascendency passes away. This is remarkably seen in the history of the Persian, the Greek, and the Roman Empires, and still more forcibly in the empire of the popes in the Middle Ages, and of the vast influence of France and England during the last hundred years. This is both a mystery and a fact. It is mysterious that bad men should be allowed to succeed so often, but it is one of the sternest facts of life, only to be explained on the principle that they are instruments in the hands of the Great Moral Governor whose designs we are not able to fathom, yet the wisdom of which is subsequently, though imperfectly, made known. It was wicked in the sons of Jacob to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites; their craft and lies were successful: they deceived their father and accomplished their purposes; yet his bondage was the means of their preservation from the evils of famine. The rise and fall of empires are to be explained on the same principles as the rise and fall of families. A coarse, unscrupulous but enterprising man gets rich, but his wealth is made to subserve interests far greater than that of his children. Hospitals, colleges, and libraries are endowed as monasteries were in the Middle Ages. If vice, selfishness, and pride were not overruled, what would become of our world? The whole history of civilization is the good which is made to spring out of evil. Men are nothing in comparison with Omnipotence. What are human plans? Yet enterprise and virtue and talent are rewarded. In the affairs of life we see that goodness does not lose its recompense, and that vice is punished; but beyond, what more impressively do we behold than this, that the instruments of punishment are often the wicked themselves.
[Sidenote: The results of the crusades.]
[Sidenote: Their immediate consequences are disastrous; their ultimate, beneficial.]
Among the worst wars in history--uncalled for, unscrupulous, fanatical-- were the Crusades. And when were wars more unfortunate, more unsuccessful? Five millions of Crusaders perished miserably in those mad expeditions stimulated by hatred of Mohammedanism. No trophies consoled Europe for its enormous losses, extended over two hundred years. But those wars developed the resources of Europe; they broke the power of feudal barons; they promoted commerce and the arts of life; they led to greater liberality of mind; they opened the horizon of knowledge; they introduced learned men into rising universities; they centralized the power of kings; they weakened the temporal jurisdiction of the popes; they improved architecture, sculpture, and painting; they built free cities; they gave a new stimulus to all the energies of the European nations. Their benefits to civilization were not the legitimate result of destructive passions. The natural penalty of folly and crime was paid in hardship, sorrow, disease, captivity, disappointment, poverty, and death. But out of the ashes a new creation arose, not what any of the leaders of those movements ever contemplated--infinitely removed from the thoughts of Bernard, Urban, Philip, and Richard, great men as they were, far-sighted statesmen, who expected other results. The hand which guided that warfare between Europe and Asia was the hand that led the Israelites out of Egypt across the Red Sea. Moreover, quem deus vult perdere prius dementat. What uprising more foolish, insane, disastrous, than the great Southern rebellion! Its result was never dreamed of for a moment by those Southern leaders. They hoped to see the establishment of a great empire based on slavery; they saw the utter destruction of slavery itself. The course by which they anticipated dominion and riches ended in their temporal ruin. They were made the destroyers of their own pet system, when it could not have been destroyed in any other way. It was only by a great war that the fetters of the slave could be removed, and God sent war so soon as it pleased Him to bring the wicked bondage to an end. If any thing shows the hand of God it is the wars of the nations. They are sent like the famine and the pestilence. All human wisdom and power sink into insignificance when they are put forth to stop these scourges of the Almighty. It is against all reason that they ever come; yet they do come, and then crimes are avenged; evil punishes evil, and succeeding generations are made to see that the progress of the race is through sorrow and suffering. No great empire is built up but with the will of God. No empire falls without deserving the chastisement and the ruin. But God has promised to save and to redeem, and the world moves on in accordance with natural laws, and each successive century witnesses somehow or other a great advance in the general condition of mankind. It is not the great rulers who plan this improvement. It comes from Heaven. It comes in spite of human degeneracy, which, if left to itself, would doubtless soon produce a state of society like that which is attributed to the nations "before the flood came and destroyed them all."
[Sidenote: Wars over-ruled for the good of nations.]
With this view of war--always aggressive with one party, always a calamity to both; the greatest calamity known to the nations, exhausting, bloody, cruel, sweeping every thing before it; a moral conflagration, bringing every kind of suffering and sorrow in its train, yet made to result as a retribution to worn-out and degenerate races, and a means of vast development of resources among those peoples which have life and energy,--we see the providence of God in the Roman Conquests. The gradual growth of Rome as a warlike state is a most impressive example of the agency of a great Moral Governor in breaking up states that deserved to perish, and in building up a power such as the world needed in order to facilitate both a magnificent civilization and the peaceful spread of a new religion. The Greeks created art and literature; the Romans, laws and government, by which society everywhere was made more secure and tranquil, until the good which arose from the evil was itself perverted.
[Sidenote: Growth of Rome under the kings.]
Under the kingly rule Rome becomes the most important and powerful of the cities of Latium, and a foundation is laid of social, religious, and political institutions which are destined to achieve a magnificent triumph. The kings of Rome are all great men--wise and statesmanlike, patrons of civilization among a rude and primitive people. No state for more than two hundred years was ever ruled by more enlightened princes, ambitious indeed, sometimes unscrupulous, but fortunate and successful. The benefits derived from the conquests and ascendency of the city of Romulus were seen in the union of several petty states, and the fusion of their customs and manners. Before the foundation of the city, Italy was of no account with the older empires. In less than two hundred and fifty years a great Italian power grows up on the banks of the Tiber, imbued to some extent with the civilization of Greece, which it receives through Etruria and the Tarquins.
[Sidenote: Effect of the expulsion of the Tarquins.]
But the growth of Rome under the kings was too rapid for its moral health. A series of disasters produced by the expulsion of the Tarquins, during which the Roman state dwindles into a small territory on the left bank of the Tiber, develops strength and martial virtue. It takes Rome one hundred and fifty years to recover what it had lost. Moreover its great prosperity has provoked envy, and all the small neighboring nations are leagued against it. These must be subdued, or Italy will remain divided and subdivided, with no central power.
The heroic period of Roman history begins really with the expulsion of the kings; also the growth of aristocratical power. It is not under kings nor democratic influences and institutions that Rome reaches preeminence, but under an aristocracy. All that is most glorious in Roman annals took place under the rule of the Patricians.
[Sidenote: Rome struggles for existence for 150 years.]
[Sidenote: Beautiful legends of the heroic period.]
[Sidenote: They indicate the existence of great virtues.]
[Sidenote: Petty wars with neighboring states develop patriotism.]
During the one hundred and fifty years--when the future mistress of the world struggled for its existence with the cities and inhabitants of Latium, Samnium, and Etruria, whose united territories scarcely extended fifty miles from Rome, were developed the virtues of a martial aristocracy. Our minds kindle with the contemplation of their courage, fortitude, patience, hope, perseverance, energy, self-devotion, patriotism, and religious faith. They deserved success. The long and bitter struggle of one hundred and fifty years had more of the nature of self-preservation than military ambition. The history of those petty wars is interesting, because it is romantic. Beautiful legends of early patriotism and heroism have been reproduced in all the histories from Livy to our times, like those of the knights of King Arthur and the paladins of Charlemagne in the popular literature of Europe. Poets have made them the themes of their inspiration. Painters have chosen them as favorite subjects of art. We love to ponder on the bitter exile of Coriolanus, his treasonable revenge, and the noble patriotism of his weeping and indignant mother, who saved her country but lost her son; on Cincinnatus, taken from the plow and sent as general and dictator against the Acquians; on the Fabian gens, defending Rome a whole year from the attacks of the Veientines until they were all cut off, like the Spartan band at Thermopylae; on Siccius Dentatus, the veteran captain of one hundred and twenty battles, who was only slain by rolling a stone from a high rock upon his head; on Cossos, slaying the king of Veii with his own hand; on the siege of Veii, itself, a city as large as Rome, lasting ten years, and only finally taken by draining the Alban lake; on the pride and avarice of the banished Camillus, and his subsequent rescue of Rome from the Gauls; on the sacred geese of the capitol, and Manlius who slew its assailants; on the siege of the capitol for seven months by these Celtic invaders, and the burning and sack of the city, and its deliverance by the great Camillus. These legends are not legitimate history, but they show the self-devotion and bravery, the simplicity and virtue of those primitive ages, when luxury was unknown and crime was severely punished. It was in those days of danger and hardship that the foundation of the future military strength of the empire was laid. We do not read of military science, of war as an art or trade, or even of great military ambition, for the sphere of military operations was narrow and obscure, but of preparation for victories, under men of genius, in the time to come. That part of Roman history bears the same relation to the age of Marius and Sulla, that the conquests of the Puritans over the Indians, and the difficulties with which they contended, do to the gigantic warfare of the North and South in the late rebellion. The Puritans laid the foundation of the military virtues of the Americans, in their colonial state, as the Patricians of Rome did for one hundred and fifty years after the expulsion of the kings. Those petty wars with Volscians and Acquians brought out the Roman character, and are the germ of subsequent greatness. They took place in the infancy of the republic, under the rule of Patricians, who were not then great nobles, but brave and poor citizens, animated with patriotic zeal and characterized, like the Puritans, for stern and lofty virtues and religious faith,--superstitious and unenlightened, yet elevated and grand,--qualities on which the strength of man is based. It is not puerile to dwell with delight on the legends of that heroic age, for the philosopher sees in those little struggles the germs of imperial power. They were small and insignificant, like the battles of the American Revolution, when measured with the marshaling of vast armies on the plains of Pharsalia or Waterloo, but they were great in their inherent heroism, and in their future results. Who shall say which is greater to the eye of the Infinite--the battle of Leipsic, or the fight on Bunker Hill? It is the cause, the principles involved, the spirit of a contest, which give dignity and importance to the battle-field. Hence all nations and ages have felt great interest in the early struggles of Rome. They are full of poetry and philosophical importance. The Roman historians themselves dwelt upon them with peculiar enthusiasm; and the record of them lives in the school-books of all generations, and has not been deemed unworthy of the critical genius of Niebuhr, of Arnold, or of Mommsen.
[Sidenote: The complete independence of Rome.]
[Sidenote: The Gaulish Invasion.]
The result of this protracted warfare with petty cities and states for one hundred and fifty years was the complete independence of the City of the Seven Hills, the regaining of the conquests lost by the expulsion of Tarquin, the conquest of Latium, the dissolution of the Latin League, the possession of the Pontine district, and the extension of Roman power to the valleys of the Apennines. The war with the Gauls was not a systematic contest. It was a raid of these Celts across the Apennines, and the temporary humiliation of the Roman capital. The Gauls burned and sacked the city, but soon retreated, and Rome was never again invaded by a foreign foe until the hordes of Alaric appeared. The disaster was soon recovered, and the Romans made more united by the lesson.
With the retreat of the Gauls, B.C. 350, and the recovery of Latium, B.C. 341 and four hundred and sixteen years from the foundation of the city, the aggressive period of Roman warfare begins. By this time the Plebeians made their power felt, and had obtained one of the two consulships; but for a long time after, the Patricians, though shorn of undivided sovereignty, still monopolized most of the great offices of state--indeed were the controlling power, socially and politically. At no period was Rome a democratic state; never had Plebeians the ascendency. But now the plebeian influence begins to modify the old constitution. All classes, after incessant warfare for a century and a half, and exposed to innumerable feuds, united in enterprises of conquest. Rome begins to appear on the stage of political history.
[Sidenote: War with the Samnites.]
[Sidenote: Decisive battle of Sentinum.]
The aggressive nature of Roman warfare commenced with Samnium. The Samnites were a warlike and pastoral people who inhabited the rugged mountain district between the valleys of the Vulturnus and the Calor, but they were nevertheless barbarians, and the contest between them and the Romans was for the sovereignty of Italy. I need not mention the alleged causes, or the details of a sanguinary war. The alleged causes were not the true ones, and the details are complicated and obscure. We deal with results. The war began B.C. 326, and lasted, with short intervals of peace, thirty-six years. The Roman heroes were M. Valerius Corvus, L. Papirius Cursor, Q. Fabius Maximus, and P. Decius the younger. All of these were great generals, and were consuls or dictators. As in all great contests, lasting a whole generation, there was alternate victory and defeat, disgraced by treachery and bad faith. The Romans fought, assisted by Latins, Campanians, and Apulians. The Samnites defended themselves in their mountain fastnesses with inflexible obstinacy, and obtained no assistance from allies until nearly worn out, when Umbrians, Etrurians, and Senonian Gauls came to the rescue. About sixty thousand men fought on each side. The battle of Sentinum determined the fate of Samnium and Italy, gained by Fabius and Decius, and the Samnites laid down their arms and yielded to their rivals. Their brave general, Pontius, was beheaded in the prison under the capitol,--an act of inhumanity which sullied the laurels of Fabius. The Roman power is now established over central and lower Italy, and with the exception of a few Greek cities on the coast, Latium, Campania, Apulia, and Samnium are added to the territories of the republic.
[Sidenote: Works of Appius Claudius.]
In the mean time the political inequality between Patricians and Plebeians had been removed, and a plebeian nobility had grown up, created by success in war and domestic factions. The great man in civil history, during this war, was Appius Claudius the Censor, a proud and inflexible Patrician. His, great works were the Appian road and aqueduct. The road led to Capua through the Pontine marshes one hundred and twenty miles, and was paved with blocks of basalt; the aqueduct passed under ground, and was the first of those vast works which supplied the city with water.
About ten years elapsed between the conquest of the Samnites and the landing of Pyrrhus in Italy, B.C. 280, during which the Romans were brought in contact with Magna Grecia and Syracuse.
[Sidenote: Tarentum invokes the aid of Phyrrus.]
The chief of the Greek-Italian cities was Tarentum, a very ancient Lacedaemonian colony. It was admirably situated for commerce on the gulf which bears its name, was very rich, and abounded in fearless sailors. But like most commercial cities, it intrusted its defense to mercenaries. It viewed with alarm the growing power of Rome, and unable to meet her face to face, called in the aid of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, the greatest general of the age, which was followed by a general rising of the Italian states, to shake off the Roman yoke.
[Sidenote: Expedition of Pyrrhus into Italy.]
[Sidenote: He is defeated at the battle of Beneventum.]
Pyrrhus was a soldier of fortune, and practiced war as an art, and delighted in it like Alexander or Charles XII. He readily responded to the overture of the Tarentine Ambassador, and sent over a general with three thousand men to secure a footing, and soon followed with twenty thousand foot, five thousand horse, and a number of elephants. Among his troops were five thousand Macedonian soldiers, a phalanx such as the Romans had never encountered. The Macedonians fought in masses; the Romans in lines. The first encounter was disastrous to the Romans, whose cavalry was frightened by the elephants. But Pyrrhus, contented with victory, did not pursue his advantages, and advanced with easy marches towards Rome with seventy thousand men. The battle of Heraclea, however, had greatly weakened his forces; his allies proved treacherous; and he was glad to offer terms of peace, which were promptly rejected by the Senate. After spending nearly three years in Italy he retired to Syracuse, but again tried his fortune against the Romans, and was signally routed at the battle of Beneventum by Curius Dentatus. He hastily left Italy to her fate, and the fall of Tarentum speedily followed, which made the Romans masters of the whole peninsula. The Macedonian phalanx, which had conquered Asia, yielded to the Roman legion, and a new lesson was learned in the art of war.
[Sidenote: Results of the Fall of Tarentum.]
[Sidenote: The Romans complete masters of Italy.]
The Romans, by the fall of Tarentum, were now the undisputed masters of Italy, and had made the first great step towards the conquest of the world. The city of Romulus was now four hundred and eighty years old, and the national domain extended from the Ciminian wood in Etruria to the middle of the Campania. It was called the Ager Romanus, in which was a population of two hundred and ninety-three thousand men capable of bearing arms; and the citizens of the various conquered cities, who had served certain magistracies in them, were enrolled among Roman citizens, with all the rights to which the citizens of the capital were entitled,-- absolute authority over wife, children, and slaves, security from capital punishment except by a vote of the people, or under military authority in the camp, access to all the honors and employments of the state, the right of suffrage, and the possession of Quirinal property. They felt themselves to be allies of Rome, and henceforward lent efficient aid in war. To all practical intents, they were Romans as completely as the inhabitants of Marseilles are French. Tarentum, Neapolis, Tibur, Praeneste, and other large cities, enjoyed peculiar privileges; but armed garrisons were maintained in them, under the form of colonies. The administration of them was organized after the model of Rome. Military roads were constructed between all places of importance.
[Sidenote: The virtues of eminent Patricians.]
The same sterling virtues which characterized the absolute rule of the Patricians still continued, and patriotism partook of the nature of religious sentiment. Three Decii surrendered their lives for the Roman army, and Manlius immolated his son to the genius of discipline; Runnus is degraded from the Senate for possessing ten pounds of silver plate, although twice consul and once dictator; Regulus, twice consul, possessed no more than one little field in the barren district of Papinice. Curius like Fabricius prepared his simple meal with his own hand, and refused the gold of the Samnites, as Fabricius refused that of Pyrrhus. The new masters of Italy deserved their empire. There was union because there was now political equality. The "new men, like Fabricius and Curius Dentatus, were not less numerous in the Senate than the old Curial families. The aristocracy of blood was blended with the aristocracy of merit. The consulship gave unity of command, the Senate wisdom and the proper strength, preserving a happy equilibrium of forces,--the combination of royalty, aristocracy, and democracy, which, with military virtues and austere manners, made an irresistible force." [Footnote: Durny, Hist. des Romains] This period, the fifth century of the existence of the Roman state, was its heroic age.
[Sidenote: Rome prepares for aggressive and unjust war.]
But now military aggrandizement became the master-passion of the people, and the uniform policy of the government. Military virtues still remained, but the morals of state began to decline. Aggressive wars, for conquest and power, henceforth, mark the progress of the Romans; and not merely aggressive wars, but unjust and foreign wars. The step of the Roman is now proud and defiant. Visions of unlimited conquest rise up before his eye. He is cold, practical, imperious. The eagles of the legions are the real objects of pride and reverence. Mars is the presiding deity. Success is the only road to honor.
[Sidenote: Rivalry between Carthage and Rome.]
While Rome was completing the reduction of Italy, Carthage, a Tyrian colony on the opposite coast of Africa, was extending her conquests in the Islands of the Mediterranean. The Greek colonies of Sicily had fallen under her sway. She was a rival whose power was formidable, enriched by the commerce of the world, and proud in the number of her allies. The city contained seven hundred thousand inhabitants, and the walls measured twenty miles in circumference.
[Sidenote: Shall Rome or Carthage have the preeminence.]
[Sidenote: Carthage falls after a long and memorable struggle.]
[Sidenote: Territories acquired by the fall of Carthage.]
Between such ambitious and unscrupulous rivals, peace could not long be maintained. To the eye of the philosopher the ascendency of Carthage or of Rome over the countries which border on the Mediterranean was clearly seen. Which were better? Shall the world be governed by a martial, law- making, law-loving, heroic commonwealth, not yet seduced and corrupted by luxury and wealth, or by a commercial, luxurious, selfish nation of merchants, whose only desire is self-indulgence and folly. Providence sides with Rome--although Rome cannot be commended, and is ruled by ambitious and unscrupulous chieftains whose delight is power. If there is to be one great empire more, before Christianity is proclaimed, which shall absorb all other empires, now degenerate and corrupt, let that be given to a people who know how to civilize after they have conquered. Let the sword rather than gold rule the world--enlightened statesmen rather than self-indulgent merchants. So Carthage falls, after three memorable struggles, extending over more than a century, during which she produced the greatest general of antiquity, next to Caesar and Alexander. But not even Hannibal could restore the fortunes of his country, after having inflicted a bitter humiliation on his enemies. That city of merchants, like Tyre and Sidon, must drink of the cup of divine chastisement. Another type of civilization than that furnished by a "mistress of the sea," was needed for Europe, and another rule for Asia and Africa. The Carthaginians taught the Romans, in their contest, how to build ships of war and fight naval battles. As many as three hundred thousand men were engaged in that memorable sea-fight of Ecnomus which opened to Regulus the way to Africa. Three times did the Romans lose their fleets by tempests, and yet they persevered in building new ones. The fortitude of the Romans, in view of the brilliant successes of Hannibal, can never be sufficiently admired. The defeat at Cannae was a catastrophe, but the troops of Fabius, to whom was left the defense of the city, were not discouraged, and with Scipio--religious, self-reliant, and lofty--the tide of victory turned. By the first Punic war, which lasted twenty-two years, Rome gained Sicily; by the second, which opened twenty-three years after the first, and lasted seventeen years, she gained Sardinia, a foothold in Spain and Gaul, and a preponderance throughout the western regions of Europe and Africa; by the third, which occurred fifty years after the second, and continued but four years, she gained all the provinces of Africa ruled by Carthage, and a great part of Spain. Nothing was allowed to remain of the African capital. The departing troops left behind complete desolation. The captives were sold as slaves, or put to death, and enough of spoil rewarded the victors to adorn a triumph only surpassed by that of Paulus on his return from the conquest of Greece.
[Sidenote: Condition of the Macedonian empire.]
[Sidenote: Principles and passions which led to the conquest of Greece.]
In the mean time, in the interval between the second and third Punic wars, occurred the Macedonian wars, which prepared the way for conquests in the East. The great Macedonian empire was split up into several monarchies among the generals of Alexander and their successors. The Ptolemies reigned in Egypt; the successors of Seleucus in Babylonia; those of Antigonus in Syria and Asia Minor; those of Lysimachus in Thrace; and of Cassander in Macedonia. It was the mission of Rome to subdue these monarchies, or rather her good fortune, for she was destined to conquer the world. The principles which animated these wars cannot be defended on high moral grounds, any more than the conquest of India by England, or of Algeria by France. They were based entirely upon ambition--upon the passion for political aggrandizement. I confess I have no sympathy with them. Roman liberties were not jeopardized, nor were these monarchies dangerous rivals like Carthage. The subjugation of Italy was in accordance with what we now call the Monroe doctrine--to obtain the ascendency on her own soil; and even the conquest or of Sicily was no worse than the conquest of Ireland, or what would be the future absorption of Cuba and Jamaica within the limits of the United States. The Emperor Napoleon would probably justify both the humiliation of Carthage and the conquest of Greece and Asia and Egypt, and others would echo his voice in defense of aggressive domination, on some plea of pretended schemes of colonization, and the progress of civilization. But I do not believe in overturning the immutable laws of moral obligation for any questionable policy of expediency. I look upon the great civil wars of the Romans, which followed these conquests, in which so much blood was shed, and in which Marius and Sulla and Caesar and Pompey exhausted the resources of the state, and made an imperial regime necessary, only as the visitation of God in rebuke of such wicked ambition.
[Sidenote: Greece reaps the penalty of the unscrupulous wars of Alexander.]
[Sidenote: Degeneracy of the Greeks.]
[Sidenote: Spoils of Greece fall into the hands of the Romans.]
[Sidenote: The triumph of Paulus.]
[Sidenote: Grecian provinces added to the empire.]
The conquest over the Macedonians, however, by the Romans, was not an unmixed calamity, and was a righteous judgment on the Greeks. Nothing could be more unscrupulous than the career of Alexander and his generals. Again, the principle which had animated the Oriental kings before him was indefensible. We could go back still further, and show from the whole history of Asiatic conquests that their object was to aggrandize ambitious conquerors. The Persians, at first, were a brave and religious people, hardy and severe, and their conquest of older monarchies resulted in a certain good. But they became corrupt by prosperity and power, and fell a prey to the Greeks. The Greeks, at that period, were the noblest race of the ancient world--immortal for genius and art. But power dazzled them, and little remained of that glorious spirit which was seen at Thermopylae and Marathon. The Greek ascendency in Asia and Egypt was followed by the same luxury and extravagance and effeminacy that resulted from the rule of Persia. The Greeks had done great things, and contributed to the march of civilization, but they had done their work, and their turn of humiliation must come. Their vast empire fell into the hands of the Romans, and the change was beneficial to humanity. They who had abused their trust were punished, and those were exalted above them who were as yet uncorrupted by those vices which are most fatal to nations. The great fruit of these wars were the treasures of Greece, especially precious marbles, and other works of art. The victory at Pydna, B.C. 168, which gave the final superiority to the Roman legion over the Macedonian phalanx, was followed by the triumph of Paulus himself--the grandest display ever seen at Rome. First passed the spoils of Greece--statues and pictures--in two hundred and fifty wagons; then the arms and accoutrements of the Macedonian soldiers; then three thousand men, each carrying a vase of silver coin; then victims for sacrifice, with youths and maidens with garlands; then men bearing vases of gold and precious stones; then the royal chariot of the conquered king laden with armor and trophies; then his wife and children, and the fallen monarch on foot; then the triumphal car of the victorious general, preceded by men bearing four hundred crowns of gold-- the gift of the Grecian cities--and followed by his two sons on horseback, and the whole army in order. The sack of Corinth by Mummius was the finale of Grecian humiliation, soon followed by the total subjection of Macedonia, Greece, and Illyria, forming three provinces. Nine provinces now composed the territories of Rome, while the kings of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt were vassals rather than allies, B.C. 133.
[Sidenote: Change of manners and morals at Rome.]
[Sidenote: Reforms of Cato the Censor.]
[Sidenote: Great degeneracy produced by the Grecian wars.]
The manners and habits of the imperial capital had undergone a gradual change since the close of the second Punic War. During these fifty years, the sack of so many Grecian cities, the fall of Carthage, and the prestige of so many victories, had filled Rome with pride and luxury. In vain did M. Portius Cato, the most remarkable man who adorned this degenerate age, lift up his voice against increasing corruption. In vain were his stringent measures as censor. In vain did he strike senators from the list, and make an onslaught on the abuses of his day. In vain were his eloquence, his simple manners, his rustic garb, and his patriotic warnings. That hard, narrow, self-sufficient, arbitrary, worldly-wise old statesman, whose many virtues redeemed his defects, and whose splendid abilities were the glory of his countrymen, could not restore the simplicities of former times. An age of "progress" had set in, of Grecian arts and culture, of material wealth, of sumptuous banquets, of splendid palaces, of rich temples, of theatrical shows, of circus games, of female gallantries, of effeminated manners--all the usual accompaniments of civilization, when it is most proud of its triumphs; and there was no resisting its march--to the eye of many a great improvement; to the eye of honest old Cato, the descensus averi. Wealth had become a great power; senatorial families grew immensely rich; the divisions of society widened; slavery was enormously increased, while the rural population lost independence and influence.
Then took place the memorable struggles of Rome, not merely with foreign enemies, but against herself. Factions and parties convulsed the city; civil war wasted the national resources.
[Sidenote: Wars with the Cimbri and Teutones.]
[Sidenote: Success of Marius, who rolls back the tide of northern emigration.]
It was in that period of civic strife, when factions and parties struggled for ascendency--when the Gracchi were both reformers and demagogues, patriots and disorganizes, heroes and martyrs--when fortunate generals aimed at supreme power, and sought to overturn the liberties of their country, that Rome was seriously threatened by the barbarians. Both Celts and Teutones, from Gaul and Germany, formed a general union for the invasion of Italy. They had successively defeated five consular armies, in which one hundred and twenty thousand men were slain. They rolled on like a devastating storm--some three hundred thousand warriors from unconquered countries beyond the Alps. They were met by Marius the hero of the African war, who had added Numidia, to the empire--now old, fierce, and cruel, a plebeian who had arisen by force of military genius--and the Gaulish hordes were annihilated on the Rhone and the Po. The Romans at first viewed those half-naked warriors--so full of strength and courage, so confident of victory, so reckless of life, so impetuous and savage--with terror and awe. But their time had not yet come. Numbers were of no avail against science, when science was itself directed by genius and sustained by enthusiasm. The result of the decisive battles of Aquae Sextiae and Vercellae was to roll back the tide of northern immigration for three hundred years, and to prepare the way for the conquests of Caesar in Gaul.
[Sidenote: The Social War.]
[Sidenote: Rise of Sulla.]
Then followed that great insurrection of the old states of Italy against their imperious mistress--their last struggle for independence, called the Social War, in which three hundred thousand of the young men of Italy fell, and in which Sulla so much distinguished himself as to be regarded as the rival of Marius, who had ruled Rome since the slaughter of the Cimbrians and Teutones. Sulla, who had served under Marius in Africa, dissolute like Antony, but cultivated like Caesar--a man full of ambition and genius, and belonging to one of the oldest and proudest patrician families, the Cornelian gens--was no mean rival of the old tyrant and demagogue, and he was sent against Mithridates, the most powerful of all the Oriental kings.
This Asiatic potentate had encouraged the insurgents in Italy, and was also at war with the Romans. Marius viewed with envy and hatred the preference shown to Sulla in the conduct of the Mithridatic War, and succeeded, by his intrigues and influence with the people, in causing Sulla to be superseded, and himself to be appointed in his place.
[Sidenote: Civil wars between Marius and Sulla.]
Hence that dreadful civil contest between these two generals, in which Rome was alternately at the mercy of both, and in which the most horrible butcheries took place that had ever befallen the city--a reign of terror, a burst of savage passion, especially on the part of Marius, who had lately abandoned himself to wine and riotous living. He died B.C. 86, victor in the contest, in his seventh consulate, worn out by labor and dissolute habits, nearly seventy years of age.
[Sidenote: Death of Marius.]
His opportune death relieved Rome of a tyrannical rule, and opened the way for the splendid achievements of Sulla in the East. A great warrior had arisen in a quarter least expected. In the mountainous region along the north side of the Euxine, the kingdom of Pontus had grown from a principality to a kingdom, and Mithridates, ruling over Cappadocia, Papalagonia, and Phrygia, aspired for the sovereignty of the East. He was an accomplished and enlightened prince, and could speak twenty-five- languages, hardy, adventurous, and bold, like an ancient Persian. By conquests and alliances he had made himself the most powerful sovereign in Asia.
Availing himself of the disturbance growing out of the Social War, he fomented a rebellion of the provinces of Asia Minor, seized Bithynia, and encouraged Athens to shake off the Roman yoke. Most of the Greek communities joined the Athenian insurrection, and Asia rallied around the man who hoped to cope successfully with Rome herself.
[Sidenote: Conquests of Sulla in Greece.]
At this juncture, Sulla was sent into Greece with fifty thousand men. Athens fell before his conquering legions, B.C. 88, and the lieutenants of Mithridates retreated before the Romans with one hundred thousand foot and ten thousand horse, and one hundred armed chariots. On the plains of Chaeronea, where Grecian liberties had been overthrown by Philip of Macedon, two hundred and fifty years before, a desperate conflict took place, and the Pontic army was signally defeated. Shortly after, Sulla gained another great victory over the generals of the King of Pontus, and compelled him to accept peace, the terms of which he himself dictated, after exacting heavy contributions from the cities of Greece and Asia Minor.
[Sidenote: Death of Sulla.]
The civil war between Sulla and the chiefs of the popular faction that had been created by Marius, which ended in his complete ascendency in Italy, stopped for a while the Roman conquests in the East. Sulla, having undone the popular measures of the last half century, and reigned supreme over all factions as dictator, died B.C. 78, after a most successful career, and left his mantle to the most enterprising of his lieutenants, Cnaeus Pompey, who was destined to complete the Mithridatic war.
[Sidenote: Character of Sulla.]
If Sulla had not been so inordinately fond of pleasure and luxurious self-indulgence, he might have seized the sceptre of universal dominion, and have made himself undisputed master of the empire. He was a man of extraordinary genius, fond of literature, and a great diplomatist. But he was not preeminently ambitious like Caesar, and was diverted by the fascinations of elegant leisure; nor was he naturally cruel, though his passions, when aroused, were fierce and vindictive. He lived in an age of exceeding corruption, when it was evident to contemplative minds that Roman liberties could not be much longer preserved. He had, for a time, restored the ascendency of the senatorial families, but faction was at work among the unprincipled chiefs of the republic.
[Sidenote: Lucullus marches against Mithridates.]
On the death of the great dictator, Mithridates broke the peace he had concluded, and marched into Bithynia, which had been left by will to the Roman people by Nicomedes, with the hope of its reconquest. He had an army of one hundred and twenty thousand foot and fifteen thousand horse. Lucullus, with thirty thousand foot and one thousand horse, advanced against him, and the vast forces of Mithridates were defeated, and the king was driven into Armenia, and sought the aid of Tigranes, his son- in-law, king of that powerful country. He, too, was subdued by the Roman legions, and all the nations from the Halys to the Euphrates acknowledged the dominion of Rome.
[Sidenote: Rising greatness of Pompey.]
Still, Mithridates was not subdued, and Pompey, who had annihilated the Mediterranean pirates, was the only person fit to finish the Mithridatic war. His successes had been more brilliant than even those of Sulla, or Lucullus, or Metellus. He was made Dictator of the East, with greater powers than had ever before been intrusted to a Roman general. He had success equal to his fame; drove Mithridates across the Caucasus; reduced Pontus, and took possession of Syria, which had been subject to Tigranes. The defeated King of Pontus, who had sought to unite all the barbarous tribes of Eastern Europe against Rome, destroyed himself. Pompey, after seven years' continued successes, returned to Italy to claim his triumph, having subdued the East, and added the old monarchy of the Seleucidae to the dominion of Rome, B.C. 61.
[Sidenote: The early career of Julius Caesar.]
[Sidenote: His victories in Spain.]
[Sidenote: Caesar sent into Gaul.]
But while Pompey was pursuing his victories over the effeminate people of Asia, a still more brilliant career in the West marked the rising fortunes of Julius Caesar. I need not dwell on the steps by which he arose to become the formidable rival of the conqueror of the East. He bears the most august name of antiquity. A patrician by birth, a demagogue in his principles, popular in his manners, unscrupulous in his means, he successively passed through the various great offices of state, which he discharged with prodigious talent. As leader of the old popular party of Marius, he sought the humiliation of the Senate, while his ambition led him to favor every enterprise which promised to advance his own interests. Leaving the province of Spain, after his praetorship, before Pompey's return to Italy, his great career of conquest commenced. He first availed himself of some disturbances in Lusitania to declare war against its gallant people, overran their country, and then turned his arms against the Gallicians. In two years he had obtained spoils more than sufficient to pay his enormous debts, the result of his prodigality, by which, however, he won the hearts of the thoughtless citizens, and paved the way for honor. Conqueror of Spain, and idol of the people, he returned to Rome, B.C. 60, when Pompey was quarreling with the Senate, formed an alliance with him and Crassus, and by their aid was elected consul. His measures in that high office all tended to secure his popularity with the people, and supported by Pompey and Crassus, he triumphed over the Senate. He then secured the government of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum, with two legions, for the extraordinary term of five years. The Senate added the province of Transalpine Gaul, then threatened by the Allobrogians, Suevi, Helvetians, and other barbaric tribes, with the intention of confining him to a dangerous and uncertain field of warfare.
[Sidenote: His great military genius.]
[Sidenote: His difficulties in the conquest of Gaul.]
[Sidenote: Results of the Gaulish wars.]
[Sidenote: Gaul becomes Latinized.]
That field, however, established his military fame, and paved the way for his subsequent usurpations. The conquests of Caesar in Western Europe are unique in the history of war, and furnish no parallel. Other conquests may have been equally brilliant and more imposing, but none were ever more difficult and arduous, requiring greater perseverance, energy, promptness, and fertility of resources. The splendid successes of Lucullus and Pompey in Asia resembled those of Alexander. We see military discipline and bravery triumphing over the force of multitudes, and a few thousand men routing vast armies of enervated or undisciplined mercenaries. Such were the conquests of the English in India. They make a great impression, but the fortunes of an empire are decided by a single battle. It was not so with the conflicts of Caesar in Gaul. He had to fight with successive waves of barbarians, inured to danger, adventurous and hardy, holding life in little estimation, willing to die in battle, intrepid in soul, and bent on ultimate victory. He had to fight in hostile territories, unacquainted with the face of the country, at a great distance from the base of his supplies, exposed to perpetual perils, and surrounded with unknown difficulties. And these were appreciated by his warlike countrymen, who gave him the credit he deserved. The ten years he spent in Gaul were the years of his truest glory, and the most momentous in their consequences on the future civilization of the world, since it was not worn-out monarchies he added to the empire, but a new territory, inhabited by brave and simple races, who were to learn the arts and laws and literature of Rome, and supply the government with powerful aid in the decline of its strength. It was the conquered barbarians who, henceforth, were to furnish Rome with soldiers, and even scholars and statesmen and generals. Among them the old civilization was to take root, among them new states were to arise on which the Romans could impress their own remarkable characteristics. It was the western provinces of the empire that alone were vital with energy and strength, and which were destined to perpetuate the spirit of Roman institutions. The eastern provinces never lost the impress of the Greek mind and manners. They remained Greek even when subdued by the imperial legions. Syria, Asia Minor, Egypt, were filled with Grecian cities, and Asiatic customs were modified by Grecian civilization. The West was purely Roman, and the Latin language, laws, and arts were continued, in a modified form, through the whole period of the Middle Ages. Even Christianity had a different influence in the West from what it had in the East. In other words, the West was completely Latinized, while the East remained Grecian. Though the East was governed by Roman proconsuls, they could not change the Graeco-Asiatic character of its institutions and manners; but the barbarians were willing to learn new lessons from their Roman masters.
[Sidenote: Greatness of Caesar.]
It would require a volume to describe the various campaigns of Caesar in Gaul, in which a million of people were destroyed. But I only aim to show results. Most people are familiar with the marvelous generalship and enterprises of the Roman conqueror--the conquest and reconquest of the brave barbarians, most of whom were Celts; the uprising of Germanic tribes as well, and their fearful slaughter near Coblentz; the bloody battles, the fearful massacres, the unscrupulous cruelties which he directed; the formidable insurrection organized by Vercingetorix; the spirit he infused into his army; the incessant hardships of the soldiers, crossing rivers, mountains, and valleys, marching with their heavy burdens--fighting amid every disadvantage, until all the countries north of the Alps and west of the Rhine acknowledged his sway-- all these things are narrated by Caesar himself with matchless force and simplicity of language.
[Sidenote: Rivalry between Caesar and Pompey.]
Caesar now probably aspired to the sovereignty of the empire, as Napoleon did after the conquest of Italy. But he had a great rival in Pompey, who had remained chiefly at Rome, during his Gaulish campaigns, virtually dictator, certainly the strongest citizen. And Pompey had also his ambitious schemes. One was the conqueror of the East; the other of the West. One leaned to the aristocratic party, the other to the popular. Pompey was proud, pompous, and self-sufficient. Caesar was politic, patient, and intriguing. Both had an inordinate ambition, and both were unscrupulous. Pompey had more prestige, Caesar more genius. Pompey was a greater tactician, Caesar a greater strategist. The Senate rallied around the former, the people around the latter. Cicero distrusted both, and flattered each by turns, but inclined to the side of Pompey, as belonging to the aristocratic party.
[Sidenote: Battle of Pharsalia.]
[Sidenote: Death of Pompey.]
Between such ambitious rivals coalition for any length of time could not continue. Dissensions arose between them, and then war. The contest was decided at Pharsalia. On the 6th of June, B.C. 48, "Greek met Greek," yet with forces by no means great on either side. Pompey had only forty thousand, and Caesar less, but they were veterans, and the victory was complete. Pompey fled to Egypt, without evincing his former greatness, paralyzed, broken, and without hope. There he miserably died, by the assassin's dagger, at the age of sixty, and the way was now prepared for the absolute rule of Caesar.
[Sidenote: Dictatorship of Caesar.]
But the party of Pompey rallied, connected with which were some of the noblest names of Rome. The battle of Thapsus proved as disastrous to Cato as Pharsalia did to Pompey. Caesar was uniformly victorious, not merely over the party which had sustained Pompey, but in Asia, Africa, and Spain, which were in revolt. His presence was everywhere required, and wherever he appeared his presence was enough. He was now dictator for ten years. He had overturned the constitution of his country. He was virtually the supreme ruler of the world. In the brief period which passed from his last triumphs to his death, he was occupied in legislative labors, in settling military colonies, in restoring the wasted population of Italy, in improving the city, in reforming the calendar, and other internal improvements, evincing an enlarged and liberal mind.
[Sidenote: Death of Caesar. His character.]
But the nobles hated him, and had cause, in spite of his abilities, his affability, magnanimity, and forbearance. He had usurped unlimited authority, and was too strong to be removed except by assassination. I need not dwell on the conspiracy under the leadership of Brutus, and his tragic end in the senate-house, where he fell, pierced by twenty-two wounds, at the base of Pompey's statue, the greatest man in Roman history--great as an orator, a writer, a general, and a statesman; a man without vanity, devoted to business, unseduced by pleasure, unscrupulous of means to effect an end; profligate, but not more so than his times; ambitious of power, but to rule, when power was once secured, for the benefit of his country, like many other despots immortal on a bloody catalogue. After his passage of the Rubicon his career can only be compared with that of Napoleon.
[Sidenote: Character of his later wars.]
But Roman territories were not much enlarged by Caesar after the conquest of Celtic Europe. His later wars were either against rivals or to settle distracted provinces. Nor were they increased in the civil wars which succeeded his death, between the various aspirants for the imperial power and those who made one more stand for the old constitution. At the fatal battle of Philippi, when the hopes of Roman patriots vanished forever, double the number of soldiers were engaged on both sides than at Pharsalia, but fortune had left the senatorial party, of which Brutus was the avenger and the victim.
[Sidenote: Civil wars after the death of Caesar.]
[Sidenote: Ascendency of Octavian.]
Civil war was carried on most vigorously after the death of Julius. But it was now plainly a matter between rival generals and statesmen for supreme command. The chief contest was between Octavian and Antony, the former young, artful, self-controlled, and with transcendent abilities as a statesman; the latter bold, impetuous, luxurious, and the ablest of all Caesar's lieutenants as a general. Had he not yielded to the fascinations of Cleopatra, he would probably have been the master of the world. But the sea-fight of Actium, one of the great decisive battles of history, gave the empire of the world to Octavian B.C. 31, and two years after the victor celebrated three magnificent triumphs, after the example of his uncle, for Dalmatia, Actium, and Egypt. The kingdom of the Ptolemies passed under the rule of Caesar. The Temple of Janus was shut, for the first time for more than two hundred years; and the imperial power was peaceably established over the civilized world.
[Sidenote: Necessity for the empire.]
The friends of liberty may justly mourn over the fall of republican Rome, and the centralization of all power in the hands of Augustus. But it was a calamity which could not be averted, and was a revolution which was in accordance with the necessities of the times. Fifty years' civil war taught the Romans the hopelessness of the struggle to maintain their old institutions so long as the people were corrupt, and fortunate generals would sacrifice the public welfare to their ambition. Order was better than anarchy, even though a despot reigned supreme. When men are worse than governments, they must submit to the despotism of tyrants. It is idle to dream of liberty with a substratum of folly and vice. The strongest man will rule, but whether he rule wisely or unwisely, there is no remedy. Providence gave the world to the Romans, after continual and protracted wars for seven hundred years; and when the people who had conquered the world by their energy, prudence, and perseverance, were no longer capable of governing themselves, then the state fell into the possession of a single man.
[Sidenote: Change in the imperial policy.]
Under the emperors, the whole policy of the government was changed. They no longer thought of further aggrandizement, but of retaining the conquests which were already made. And if they occasionally embarked in new wars, those wars were of necessity rather than of ambition, were defensive rather than aggressive. New provinces were from time to time added, but in consequence of wars which were waged in defense of the empire. The conquest of Britain and Judea was completed, and various conflicts took place with the Germanic nations, who, in the reign of Antoninus, formed a general union for the invasion of the Roman world. These barbarians were the future aggressors on the peace of the empire, until it fell into their hands. The empire of Augustus may be said to have reached the utmost limits it ever permanently retained, extending from the Rhine and the Danube to the Euphrates and Mount Atlas, embracing a population variously estimated from one hundred to one hundred and thirty millions.
[Sidenote: Perfection of military art.]
When Augustus became the sovereign ruler of this vast empire, military art had reached the highest perfection it ever attained among any of the nations of antiquity. It required centuries to perfect this science, if science it may be called, and the Romans doubtless borrowed from the people whom they subdued. They learned to resist the impetuous assaults of semi-barbarous warriors, the elephants of the East, and the phalanx of the Greeks. Military discipline was carried to the severest extent by Marius, Pompey, and Caesar.
[Sidenote: The spirit of the Roman soldier.]
The Roman soldier was trained to march twenty miles a day, under a burden of eighty pounds; yea, to swim rivers, to climb mountains, to penetrate forests, and to encounter every kind of danger. He was taught that his destiny was to die in battle. He expected death. He was ready to die. Death was his duty, and his glory. He enlisted in the armies with little hope of revisiting his home. He crossed seas and deserts and forests with the idea of spending his life in the service of his country. His pay was only a denarius daily, equal to about sixteen cents of our money. Marriage was discouraged or forbidden. He belonged to the state, and the state was exacting and hard. He was reduced to abject obedience, yet he held in his hand the destinies of the empire. And however insignificant was the legionary as a man, he gained importance from the great body with which he was identified. He was the servant and the master of the state. He had an intense esprit de corps. He was bound up in the glory of his legion. Both religion and honor bound him to his standards. The golden eagle which glittered in his front was the object of his fondest devotion. Nor was it possible to escape the penalty of cowardice or treachery, or disobedience. He could be chastised with blows by his centurion; his general could doom him to death. Never was the severity of military discipline relaxed. Military exercises were incessant, in winter as in summer. In the midst of peace the Roman troops were familiarized with the practice of war.
[Sidenote: Military genius of the Romans.]
[Sidenote: The perfection of military art.]
It was the spirit which animated the Roman legions, and the discipline to which they were inured, which gave them their irresistible strength. When we remember that they had not our fire-arms, we are surprised at their efficiency, especially in taking strongly fortified cities. Jerusalem was defended by a triple wall, and the most elaborate fortifications, and twenty-four thousand soldiers, beside the aid received from the citizens; and yet it fell in little more than four months before an army of eighty thousand under Titus. How great the science to reduce a place of such strength, in so short a time, without the aid of other artillery than the ancient catapult and battering-ram! Whether the military science of the Romans was superior or inferior to our own, no one can question that it was carried to utmost perfection before the invention of gunpowder. We are only superior in the application of this great invention, especially in artillery. There can be no doubt that a Roman army was superior to a feudal army in the brightest days of chivalry. The world has produced no generals superior to Caesar, Pompey, Sulla, and Marius. No armies ever won greater victories over superior numbers than the Roman, and no armies of their size, ever retained in submission so great an empire, and for so long a time. At no period in the history of the empire were the armies so large as those sustained by France in time of peace. Two hundred thousand legionaries, and as many more auxiliaries, controlled diverse nations and powerful monarchies. The single province of Syria once boasted of a military force equal in the number of soldiers to that wielded by Tiberius. Twenty-five legions made the conquest of the world, and retained that conquest for five hundred years. The self-sustained energy of Caesar in Gaul puts to the blush the efforts of all modern generals, except Frederic II., Marlborough, Napoleon, Wellington, Grant, Sherman, and a few other great geniuses which a warlike age developed; nor is there a better text-book on the art of war than that furnished by Caesar himself in his Commentaries. And the great victories of the Romans over barbarians, over Gauls, over Carthaginians, over Greeks, over Syrians, over Persians, were not the result of a short-lived enthusiasm, like those of Attila and Tamerlane, but extended over a thousand years. The Romans were essentially military in all their tastes and habits. Luxurious senators and nobles showed the greatest courage and skill in the most difficult campaigns. Antony, Caesar, Pompey, and Lucullus were, at home, enervated and luxurious, but, at the head of the legions, were capable of any privation and fatigue. The Roman legion was a most perfect organization, a great mechanical force, and could sustain furious attacks after vigor, patriotism, and public spirit had fled. For three hundred years a vast empire was sustained by mechanism alone.
[Sidenote: The Roman Legion.]
[Sidenote: Its composition.]
[Sidenote: The infantry the strength of the legion.]
[Sidenote: Its armor.]
[Sidenote: Its weapons.]
[Sidenote: The cavalry.]
[Sidenote: Term of military service.]
The legion is coeval with the foundation of Rome, but the number of the troops of which it was composed varied at different periods. It rarely exceeded six thousand men. Gibbon estimates the number at six thousand eight hundred and twenty-six men. For many centuries it was composed exclusively of Roman citizens. Up to the year B.C. 107, no one was permitted to serve among the regular troops except those who were regarded as possessing a strong personal interest in the stability of the republic. Marius admitted all orders of citizens; and after the close of the Social War, B.C. 87, the whole free population of Italy was allowed to serve in the regular army. Claudius incorporated with the legion the vanquished Goths, and after him the barbarians filled up the ranks, on account of the degeneracy of the times. But during the period when the Romans were conquering the world every citizen was trained to arms, and was liable to be called upon to serve in the armies. In the early age of the republic, the legion was disbanded as soon as the special service was performed, and was in all essential respects a militia. For three centuries, we have no record of a Roman army wintering in the field; but when Southern Italy became the seat of war, and especially when Rome was menaced by foreign enemies, and still more when a protracted foreign service became inevitable, the same soldiers remained in activity for several years. Gradually the distinction between the soldier and the civilian was entirely obliterated. The distant wars of the republic, like the prolonged operations of Caesar in Gaul, and the civil contests, made a standing army a necessity. During the civil wars between Caesar and Pompey, the legions were forty in number; under Augustus but twenty-five. Alexander Severus increased them to thirty-two. This was the standing force of the empire, from one hundred and fifty to two hundred and forty thousand men, and this was stationed in the various provinces. The main dependence of the legion was on the infantry, which wore heavy armor consisting of helmet, breastplate, greaves on the legs, and buckler on the left arm four feet in length and two and a half in width. The helmet was originally made of leather or skin, strengthened and adorned by bronze or gold, and surmounted by a crest which was often of horse-hair, and so made as to give an imposing look The crest not only served for ornament but to distinguish the different centurions. The breastplate or cuirass was generally made of metal, and sometimes was highly ornamented. Chain-mail was also used. The greaves were of bronze or brass, with a lining of leather or felt, and reached above the knees. The shield, worn by the heavy-armed infantry, was not round, like that of the Greeks, but oval or oblong, adapted to the shape of the body, and was made of wood or wicker-work. The weapons were a light spear, a pilum or javelin six feet long, terminated by a steel point, and a sword with a double edge, adapted to striking or pushing. The legion was drawn up eight deep, and three feet intervened between rank and file, which disposition gave great activity, and made it superior to the Macedonian phalanx, the strength of which depended on sixteen ranks of long pikes wedged together. The cavalry attached to each legion were three hundred men, and they originally were selected from the leading men in the state. They were mounted at the expense of the state, and formed a distinct order. The cavalry was divided into ten squadrons; and to each legion was attached a train of ten military engines of the largest size, and fifty-five of the smaller,--all of which discharged stones and darts with great effect. This train corresponded with our artillery. Besides the armor and weapons of the legionaries they usually carried on their marches provisions for two weeks, and three or four stakes used in forming the palisade of the camp, beside various tools,--altogether a burden of sixty or eighty pounds per man. The general period of service for the infantry was twenty years, after which the soldier received a discharge together with a bounty in money or land.
[Sidenote: Organization of the legion.]
[Sidenote: The Hastati.]
[Sidenote: The Principes and Velites.]
[Sidenote: The Triarii.]
[Sidenote: The Pilarii.]
[Sidenote: The Equites.]
The Roman legion, whether it was composed of four thousand men, as in the early ages of the republic or six thousand, as in the time of Augustus, of was divided into ten cohorts, and each cohort was composed of Hastati, Principes, Triarii, and Velites. The soldiers of the first line, called Hastati, consisted of youths in the bloom of manhood, and were distributed into fifteen companies or maniples. Each company contained sixty privates, two centurions, and a standard-bearer. Two thirds were heavily armed, and bore the long shield, the remainder carried only a spear and light javelins. The second line, the Principes, was composed of men in the full vigor of life, divided also into fifteen companies, all heavily armed, and distinguished by the splendor of their equipments. The third body, the Triarii, was also composed of tried veterans, in fifteen companies, the least trustworthy of which were placed in the rear. These formed three lines. The Velites were light- armed troops, employed on outpost duty, and mingled with the horsemen. The Hastati were so called because they were armed with the hasta; the Principes, for being placed so near to the front; the Triarii, from having been arrayed behind the first two lines as a body of reserve, armed with the pilum, thicker and stronger than the Grecian lance,--four and a half feet long, of wood, with a barbed head of iron,--so that the whole length of the weapon was six feet nine inches. It was used either to throw or thrust with, and when it pierced the enemy's shield, [Footnote: Liv. viii. 8.] the iron head was bent, and the spear, owing to the twist in the iron, still held to the shield. [Footnote: Plut. Mar. 25.] Each soldier carried two of these weapons. [Footnote: Polyb.
[Sidenote: The artillery.]
[Sidenote: The Testudo.]
[Sidenote: The Helepolis.]
[Sidenote: The Turris.]
The artillery were used both for hurling missiles in battle, and for the attack of fortresses. The tormentum, which was an elastic instrument, discharged stones and darts, and was continued until the discovery of gunpowder. In besieging a city, the ram was employed for destroying the lower part of a wall, and the balista, which discharged stones, was used to overthrow the battlements. The balista would project a stone weighing from fifty to three hundred pounds. The aries, or battering-ram, consisted of a large beam made of the trunk of a tree, frequently one hundred feet in length, to one end of which was fastened a mace of iron or bronze, which resembled in form the head of a ram, and was often suspended by ropes from a beam fixed transversely over it, so that the soldiers were relieved from supporting its weight, and were able to give it a rapid and forcible motion backward and forward. And when this machine was further aided by placing a frame in which it was suspended upon wheels, and constructing over it a roof, so as to form a testudo, which protected the besieging party from the assaults of the besieged, there was no tower so strong, no wall so thick, as to resist a long-continued attack. Its great length enabled the soldiers to work across the ditch, and as many as one hundred men were often employed upon it. The Romans learned from the Greeks the art of building this formidable engine, which was used with great effect by Alexander, but with still greater by Vespasian in the siege of Jerusalem. It was first used by the Romans in the siege of Syracuse. The vinea was a sort of roof under which the soldiers protected themselves when they undermined walls. The helepolis, also used in the attack of cities, was a square tower furnished with all the means of assault. This also was a Greek invention, and that used by Demetrius at the siege of Rhodes, B.C. 306, was one hundred and thirty-five feet high and sixty- eight wide, divided into nine stories. Towers of this description were used at the siege of Jerusalem, [Footnote: Josephus B. J., ii. 19.] and were manned by two hundred men employed upon the catapults and rams. The turris, a tower of the same class, was used both by Greeks and Romans, and even by Asiatics. Mithridates used one at the siege of Cyzicus one hundred and fifty feet in height. This most formidable engine was generally made of beams of wood covered on three sides with iron and sometimes with raw hides. They were higher than the walls and all the other fortifications of a besieged place, divided into stories pierced with windows. In and upon them were stationed archers and slingers, and in the lower story was a battering-ram. They also carried scaling-ladders, so that when the wall was cleared, these were placed against the walls. They were placed upon wheels, and brought as near the walls as possible. It was impossible to resist these powerful engines, unless they were burned, or the ground undermined upon which they stood, except by overturning them with stones or iron-shod beams hung from a mast on the wall, or by increasing the height of the wall, or the erection of temporary towers on the wall beside them.
[Sidenote: The advantages of defenders.]
[Sidenote: Ordinary way of capture.]
[Sidenote: Strength and advantage of fortresses.]
Thus there was no ancient fortification capable of withstanding a long siege when the besieged city was, short of defenders or provisions. With equal forces an attack was generally a failure, for the defenders had always a great advantage. But when the number of defenders was reduced, or when famine pressed, the skill and courage of the assailants would ultimately triumph. Some ancient cities made a most obstinate resistance, like Tarentum; Carthage, which stood a siege of four years; Numantia in Spain, and Jerusalem. When cities were of immense size, population, and resources, like Rome when besieged by Alaric, it was easier to take them by cutting off all ingress and egress, so as to produce famine. Tyre was only taken by Alexander by cutting off the harbor. Babylon could not have been taken by Cyrus by assault, since the walls were three hundred and thirty-seven feet high, according to Herodotus, and the ditch too wide for the use of battering-rams. He resorted to an expedient of which the blinded inhabitants of that doomed city never dreamed, which rendered their impregnable fortifications useless. Nor would the Romans have probably prevailed against Jerusalem had not famine decimated and weakened the people. Fortified cities, though scarcely ever impregnable, were yet more in use in ancient than modern times, and greatly delayed the operations of advancing armies. And it was probably the fortified camp of the Romans, which protected an army against surprises and other misfortunes, which gave such efficacy to the legions.
[Sidenote: The Tribunes.]
[Sidenote: The Centurions.]
[Sidenote: Gradation of ranks.]
The chief officers of the legion were the tribunes, and originally there was one in each legion from the three tribes--the Ramnes, Luceres, and Tities. In the time of Polybius the number in each legion was six. Their authority extended equally over the whole legion; but, to prevent confusion, it was the custom for these military tribunes to divide themselves into three sections of two, and each pair undertook the routine duties for two months out of six. They nominated the centurions, and assigned to each the company to which he belonged. These tribunes, at first, were chosen by the commander-in-chief,--by the kings and consuls; but during the palmy days of the republic, when the patrician power was preeminent, they were elected by the people, that is, the citizens. Later they were named half by the Senate and half by the consuls. No one was eligible to this great office who had not served ten years in the infantry or five in the cavalry. They were distinguished by their dress from the common soldier. Next in rank to the tribunes, who corresponded to the rank of brigadiers and colonels in our times, were the centurions, of whom there were sixty in each legion,--men who were more remarkable for calmness and sagacity than for courage and daring valor; men who would keep their posts at all hazards. It was their duty to drill the soldiers, to inspect arms, clothing, and food, to visit the sentinels, and regulate the conduct of the men. They had the power of inflicting corporal punishment. They were chosen for merit solely, until the later ages of the empire, when their posts were bought, as in the English army. These centurions were of unequal rank,--those of the Triarii before those of the Principes, and those of the Principes before those of the Hastati. The first centurion of the first maniple of the Triarii stood next in rank to the tribunes, and had a seat in the military councils, and his office was very lucrative. To his charge was intrusted the eagle of the legion. [Footnote: Liv. xxv. 5; Caes. B.C., vi. 6.] As the centurion could rise from the ranks, and rose by regular gradation through the different maniples of the Hastati, Principes, and Triarii, there was great inducement held out to the soldiers. In the Roman legion it would seem that there was a regular gradation of rank although there were but few distinct offices. But the gradation was not determined by length of service, but for merit alone, of which the tribunes were the sole judges. Hence the tribune of a Roman legion had more power than that of a modern colonel. As the tribunes named the centurions, so the centurions appointed their lieutenants, who were called sub-centurions.
[Sidenote: Change in the organization of the legions.]
There was a change in the constitution and disposition of the legion after the time of Marius, until the fall of the republic. The legions were thrown open to men of all grades; they were all armed and equipped alike; the lines were reduced to two, with a space between each cohort, of which there were five in each line; the young soldiers were placed in the rear, and not the van; the distinction between Hastati, Principes, and Triarii ceased; the Velites disappeared, their work being done by the foreign mercenaries; the cavalry ceased to be part of the legion, and became a distinct body; and the military was completely severed from the rest of the state. Formerly no one could aspire to office who had not completed ten years of military service, but in the time of Cicero a man could pass through all the great dignities of the state with a very limited experience of military life. Cicero himself served but one campaign.
[Sidenote: Changes under the emperors.]
[Sidenote: Pay of soldiers.]
Under the emperors, there were still other changes. The regular army consisted of legions and supplementa,--the latter being subdivided into the imperial guards and the auxiliary troops. The auxiliaries (Socii) consisted of troops from the states in alliance with Rome, or those compelled to furnish subsidies. The infantry of the allies was generally more numerous than that of the Romans, while the cavalry was three times as numerous. All the auxiliaries were paid by the state; the infantry received the same pay as the Roman infantry, but the cavalry only two thirds of what was paid to the Roman cavalry. The common foot-soldier received in the time of Polybius three and a half asses a day, equal to about six farthings sterling money; the horseman three times as much. The Praetorian cohorts received twice as much as the legionaries. Julius Caesar allowed about six asses a day as the pay of the legionary, and under Augustus the daily pay was raised to ten asses--little more than four pence per day. Domitian raised the stipend still higher. The soldier, however, was fed and clothed by the government.
[Sidenote: The Praetorian cohort.]
The Praetorian cohort was a select body of troops instituted by Augustus to protect his person, and consisted of ten cohorts, each of one thousand men, chosen from Italy. This number was increased by Vitellius to sixteen thousand, and they were assembled by Tiberius in a permanent camp, which was strongly fortified. They had peculiar privileges, and when they had served sixteen years, received twenty thousand sesterces, or more than one hundred pounds sterling. Each Praetorian had the rank of a centurion in the regular army. Like the body-guard of Louis XIV., they were all gentlemen, and formed gradually a great power, like the janissaries at Constantinople, and frequently disposed of the purple itself. It would thus appear that the centurion only received twice the pay of the ordinary legionary. There was not therefore so much difference in rank between a private and a captain as in our day. There were no aristocratic distinctions in the ancient world so marked as in the modern.
[Sidenote: The Roman camp.]
[Sidenote: The guardianship of the camp.]
[Sidenote: The breaking up of the camp.]
Our notice of the Roman legion would be incomplete without allusion to the camp in which the soldier virtually lived. A Roman army never halted for a single night without forming a regular intrenchment capable of holding all the fighting men, the beasts of burden, and the baggage. When the army could not retire, during the winter months, into some city, it was compelled to live in the camp. It was arranged and fortified according to a uniform plan, so that every company and individual had a place assigned. We cannot tell when this practice of intrenchment began; it was matured gradually, like all other things pertaining to the art of war. The system was probably brought to perfection during the wars with Hannibal. Skill in the choice of ground, giving facilities for attack and defense, and for procuring water and other necessities, was of great account with the generals. An area of about five thousand square feet was allowed for a company of infantry, and ten thousand feet for a troop of thirty dragoons. The form of a camp was an exact square, the length of each side being two thousand and seventeen feet. There was a space between the ramparts and the tents of two hundred feet to facilitate the marching in and out of soldiers, and to guard the cattle and booty. The principal street was one hundred feet wide, and was called Principia. The defenses of the camp consisted of a ditch, the earth from which was thrown inwards, and strong palisades of wooden stakes upon the top of the earthwork so formed. The ditch was sometimes fifteen feet deep, and the vallum or rampart ten feet in height. When the army encamped for the first time the tribunes administered an oath to each individual, including slaves, to the effect that they would steal nothing out of the camp. Every morning at daybreak, the centurions and the equites presented themselves before the tents of the tribunes, and the tribunes in like manner presented themselves to the praetorian, to learn the orders of the consuls, which through the centurions were communicated to the soldiers. Four companies took charge of the principal street, to see that it was properly cleaned and watered. One company took charge of the tent of the tribune, a strong guard attended to the horses, and another of fifty men stood beside the tent of the general that he might be protected from open danger and secret treachery. The velites mounted guard the whole night and day along the whole extent of the vallum, and each gate was guarded by ten men. The equites were intrusted with the duty of acting as sentinels during the night, and most ingenious measures were adopted to secure their watchfulness and fidelity. The watchword for the night was given by the commander-in-chief. "On the first signal being given by the trumpet, the tents were all struck and the baggage packed. At the second signal, the baggage was placed upon the beasts of burden; and at the third the whole army began to move. Then the herald, standing at the right hand of the general, demands thrice if they are ready for war, to which they all respond with loud and repeated cheers that they are ready, and for the most part, being filled with martial ardor, anticipate the question, 'and raise their right hands on high with a shout.'" [Footnote: Smith, Dict. of Ant., art. Castra.]
[Sidenote: Line of March.]
Josephus gives an account of the line of march in which the army of Vespasian entered Galilee. "1. The light-armed auxiliaries and bowmen, advancing to reconnoiter. 2. A detachment of Roman heavy-armed troops, horse and foot. 3. Ten men out of every century or company, carrying their own equipments and the measures of the camp. 4. The baggage of Vespasian and his legati guarded by a strong body of horse. 5. Vespasian himself, attended by his horse-guard and a body of spearmen. 6. The peculiar cavalry of the legion. 7. The artillery dragged by mules. 8. The legati, tribunes, and praefects of cohorts, guarded by a body of picked soldiers. 9. The standards, surrounding the eagle. 10. The trumpeters. 11. The main body of the infantry, six abreast, accompanied by a centurion, whose duty it was to see that the men kept their ranks.
[Sidenote: Excitements of military life.]
[Sidenote: Smallness of the Roman armies.]
[Sidenote: How battles were decided.]
From what has come down to us of Roman military life, it appears to have been full of excitement, toil, danger, and hardship. The pecuniary rewards of the soldier were small. He was paid in glory. No profession brought so much honor as the military. And from the undivided attention of a great people to this profession, it was carried to all the perfection which could be attained until the great invention of gunpowder changed the art of war. It was not the number of men employed in the armies which particularly arrests attention, but the spirit and genius which animated them. The Romans loved war, but so reduced it to a science that it required comparatively small armies to conquer the world. Sulla defeated Mithridates with only thirty thousand men, while his adversary marshaled against him over one hundred thousand; and Caesar had only ten legions to effect the conquest of Gaul, and none of these were of Italian origin. At the great decisive battle of Pharsalia, when most of the available forces of the empire were employed, on one side or the other, Pompey commanded a legionary army of forty-five thousand men; and the cavalry amounted to seven thousand more, but among them were included the flower of the Roman nobility. The auxiliary force has not been computed, although it was probably numerous. Caesar had under him only twenty-two thousand of legionaries and one thousand cavalry. But every man in both armies was prepared to conquer or die. The forces were posted on the open plain, and the battle was really a hand-to-hand encounter, in which the soldiers, after hurling their lances, fought with their swords chiefly. And when the cavalry of Pompey rushed upon the legionaries of Caesar, no blows were wasted on the mailed panoply of the mounted Romans, but were aimed at the face alone, as that alone was unprotected. The battle was decided by the coolness, bravery, and discipline of veterans, inspired by the genius of the greatest general of antiquity. Less than one hundred thousand men, in all probability, were engaged in one of the most memorable conflicts which the world has seen.
[Sidenote: Gradual organization of military power.]
[Sidenote: Magnanimity of the early generals.]
Thus it was, by unparalleled heroism in war, and a uniform policy in government, that Rome became the mistress of the world. The Roman conquests have never been surpassed, for they were retained until the empire fell. I wish that I could have dwelt on these conquests more in detail, and presented more fully the brilliant achievements of individuals. It took nearly two hundred years, after the expulsion of the kings, to regain supremacy over the neighboring people, and another century to conquer Italy. The Romans did not contend with regular armies until they were brought in conflict with the king of Epirus and the phalanx of the Greeks, "which improved their military tactics, and introduced between the combatants those mutual regards of civilized nations which teach men to honor their adversaries, to spare the vanquished, and to lay aside wrath when the struggle is ended." In the fifth century of her existence, the republic appears in peculiar splendor. Military chieftains do not transcend their trusts; the aristocracy are equally distinguished for exploits and virtues; the magistrates maintain simplicity of manners and protect the rights of the citizens; the citizens are self-sacrificing and ever ready to obey the call to arms, laying aside great commands and retiring poor to private stations. Marcus Valerius Corvus, after filling twenty-one curule offices, returns to agricultural life; Marcus Curius Dentatus retains no part of the rich spoils or the Sabines; Fabricius rejects the gold of the Samnites and the presents of Pyrrhus. The most trustworthy are elevated to places of dignity and power. Senators mingle in the ranks of the legions, and eighty of them die on the field of Cannae. Discipline is enforced to cruelty, and Manlius Torquatus punishes with death a disobedient son. Soldiers who desert the field are decimated or branded with dishonor. Faith is kept even with enemies, and Regulus returns a voluntary prisoner to his deadly enemies.
[Sidenote: Results of different wars.]
After the consolidation of Roman power in Italy, it took one hundred and fifty years more only to complete the conquest of the world--of Northern Africa, Spain, Gaul, Illyria, Epirus, Greece, Macedonia, Asia Minor, Pontus, Syria, Egypt, Bithynia, Cappadocia, Pergamus, and the islands of the Mediterranean. The conquest of Carthage left Rome without a rival in the Mediterranean, and promoted intercourse with the Greeks. The Illyrian wars opened to the Romans the road to Greece and Asia, and destroyed the pirates of the Adriatic. The invasion of Cisalpine Gaul, now that part of Italy which is north of the Apennines, protected Italy from the invasion of barbarians. The Macedonian War against Philip put Greece under the protection of Rome, and that against Antiochus laid Syria at her mercy; and when these kingdoms were reduced to provinces, the way was opened to further conquests in the East, and the Mediterranean became a Roman lake.
[Sidenote: Effect of Roman conquests on society.]
[Sidenote: Degeneracy of morals undermines military power.]
But these conquests introduce luxury, wealth, pride, and avarice, with arts, refinements, and literature. These degrade while they elevate. Civilization becomes the alternate triumph of good and evil influences, and a doubtful boon. Successful war creates great generals, and founds great families, increases slavery, and promotes inequalities. Demagogues arise who seduce and deceive the people, and they enroll themselves under the standards of their idols. Rome is governed by an oligarchy of military chieftains, and has become more aristocratic and more democratic at the same time. The people gain rights, only to yield to the supremacy of demagogues. The Senate is humbled, but remains the ascendant power, for generals compose it, and those who have held great offices. Meanwhile the great generals struggle for supremacy. Civil wars follow in the train of foreign conquests. Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Julius, Antony, Augustus, sacrifice the state to their ambition. Good men lament, and protest, and hide themselves. Cato, Cicero, Brutus, speak in vain. Degenerate morals keep pace with civil contests. Rome revels in the spoils of all kingdoms and countries, is intoxicated with power, becomes cruel and tyrannical, and, after yielding up the lives of citizens to fortunate generals, yields at last her liberties, and imperial despotism begins its reign,--hard, immovable, resolute,--under which genius is crushed, and life becomes epicurean, but under which property and order are preserved. The regime is bad; but it is a change for the better. War has produced its fruits. It has added empire, but undermined prosperity; it has created a great military monarchy, but destroyed liberty; it has brought wealth, but introduced inequalities; it has filled the city with spoils, but sown the vices of self-interest. The machinery is perfect, but life has fled. It is henceforth the labor of emperors to keep together their vast possessions with this machinery, which at last wears out, since there is neither genius to repair it nor patriotism to work it. It lasts three hundred years, but is broken to pieces by the Goths and Vandals.
* * * * *
The highest authority in relation to the construction of an army is Polybius, who was contemporary with Scipio, at a period when Roman discipline was most perfect. A fragment from his sixth book gives considerable information. A chapter of Livy--the eighth--is also very much prized. Salmasius and Lepsius have also written learned treatises. Smith's Dictionary, which is full of details in every thing pertaining to the weapons, the armor, the military engines, the rewards and punishments of the soldiers, refers to Folard's Commentaire, to Memoires Militaires sur les Grecs et les Remains, by Guischard, and to the Histoire des Campagnes d'Hannibal en Italie, by Vaudencourt. Tacitus, Sallust, Livy, Dion Cassius, Pliny, and Caesar reveal incidentally much that we wish to know. Gibbon gives some important facts in his first chapter. The subject of ancient machines is treated by Folard's Commentary attached to his translation of Polybius. Caesar's Commentaries give us, after all, the liveliest idea of the military habits and tactics of the Romans. Josephus describes with great vividness the siege of Jerusalem. The article on Exercitus, by Prof. Ramsay, in Smith's Dictionary, is the fullest I have read pertaining to the structure of a Roman army.
For the narrative of wars, the reader is referred to ordinary Roman histories--to Livy and Caesar especially; to Niebuhr, Mommsen, Arnold, and Liddell. See also Durny, Hist. des Romains; Michelet, Hist. de Rom. Napoleon's History of Caesar should be read, admirable in style, and interesting in matter, although a sophistical defense of usurpation.
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