Anno Urbis - The Year of the City

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It was a great change when Rome, which to the Greeks of Pyrrhus' time had seemed so rude and simple, was thought such a school of policy that Greek and half-Greek kings sent their sons to be educated there, partly as hostages for their own peaceableness, and partly to learn the spirit of Roman rule. The first king who did this was Philip of Macedon, who sent his son Demetrius to be brought up at Rome; but when he came back, his father and brother were jealous of him, and he was soon put to death.

When his brother Perseus came to the throne, there was hatred between him and the Romans, and ere long he was accused of making war on their allies. He offered to make peace, but they replied that they would hear nothing till he had laid down his arms, and this he would not do, so that Lucius Æmilius Paulus (the brother-in-law of Scipio) was sent to reduce him. As Æmilius came into his own house after receiving the appointment, he met his little daughter crying, and when he asked her what was the matter, she answered, "Oh, father, Perseus is dead!" She meant her little dog, but he kissed her and thanked her for the good omen. He overran Macedon, and gained the great battle of Pydna, after which Perseus was obliged to give himself up into the hands of the Romans, begging, however, not to be made to walk in Æmilius' triumph. The general answered that he might obtain that favor from himself, meaning that he could die by his own hand; but Perseus did not take the hint, which seems to us far more shocking than it did to a Roman; he did walk in the triumph, and died a few years after in Italy. Æmilius' two sons were with him throughout this campaign, though still boys under Polybius, their Achaian tutor. Macedon was divided into four provinces, and became entirely subject to Rome.

Roman corinth

The Greeks of the Achaian League began to have quarrels among themselves, and when the Romans interfered a fierce spirit broke out, and they wanted to have their old freedom, forgetting how entirely unable they were to stand against the power of the Romans. Caius Cæcilius Metellus, a man of one of the best and most gracious Roman families, was patient with them and did his best to pacify them, being most unwilling to ruin the noble old historical cities; but these foolish Greeks fancied that his kindness showed weakness, and forced on the war, sending a troop to guard the pass of Thermopylæ, but they were swept away. Unfortunately, Metellus had to go out of office, and Lucius Mummius, a fierce, rude, and ignorant soldier, came in his stead to complete the conquest. Corinth was taken, utterly ruined and plundered throughout, and a huge amount of treasure was sent to Rome, as well as pictures and statues famed all over the world. Mummius was very much laughed at for having been told they must be carried in his triumph; and yet, not understanding their beauty, he told the sailors to whose charge they were given, that if they were lost, new ones must be supplied. However, he was an honest man, who did not help himself out of the plunder, as far too many were doing. After that, Achaia was made a Roman province.

At this time the third and last Punic war was going on. The old Moorish king, Massinissa, had been continually tormenting Carthage ever since she had been weak, and declaring that Phoenician strangers had no business in Africa. The Carthaginians, who had no means of defending themselves, complained; but the Romans would not listen, hoping, perhaps, that they would be goaded at last into attacking the Moor, and thus giving a pretext for a war. Old Marcus Porcius Cato, who was sent on a message to Carthage, came back declaring that it was not safe to let so mighty a city of enemies stand so near. He brought back a branch of figs fresh and good, which he showed the Senate in proof of how near she was, and ended each sentence with saying, "Delenda est Carthago" (Carthage is to be wiped out). He died that same year at ninety years old, having spent most of his life in making a staunch resistance to the easy and luxurious fashions that were coming in with wealth and refinement. One of his sayings always deserves to be remembered. When he was opposing a law giving permission to the ladies to wear gold and purple, he said they would all be vying with one another, and that the poor would be ashamed of not making as good an appearance as the rich. "And," said he, "she who blushes for doing what she ought, will soon cease to blush for doing what she ought not."

One wonders he did not see that to have no enemy near at hand to guard against was the very worst thing for the hardy, plain old ways he was so anxious to keep up. However, Carthage was to be wiped out, and Scipio Æmilianus was sent to do the terrible work. He defeated Hasdrubal, the last of the Carthaginian generals, and took the citadel of Byrsa; but though all hope was over, the city held out in utter desperation. Weapons were forged out of household implements, even out of gold and silver, and the women twisted their long hair into bow-strings; and when the walls were stormed, they fought from street to street and house to house, so that the Romans gained little but ruins and dead bodies. Carthage and Corinth fell on the same day of the year 179.

Part of Spain still had to be subdued, and Scipio Æmilianus was sent thither. The city of Numantia, with only 5000 inhabitants, endured one of those long, hopeless sieges for which Spanish cities have in all times been remarkable, and was only taken at last when almost every citizen had perished.

At the same time, Attalus, king of Pergamus in Asia Minor, being the last of his race, bequeathed his dominions to the Romans, and thus gave them their first solid footing there.

All this was altering Roman manners much. Weak as the Greeks were, their old doings of every kind were still the admiration of every one, and the Romans, who had always been rough, straightforward doers, began to wish to learn of them to think. All the wealthier families had Greeks for tutors for their sons, and expected them to talk and write the language, and study the philosophy and poetry till they should be as familiar with it as if they were Greeks themselves. Unluckily, the Greeks themselves had fallen from their earnestness and greatness, so that there was not much to be learnt of them now but vain deceit and bad taste.

Rich Romans, too, began to get most absurdly luxurious. They had splendid villas on the Italian hill-sides, where they went to spend the summer when Rome was unhealthy, and where they had beautiful gardens, with courts paved with mosaic, and fish-ponds for the pet fish for which many had a passion. One man was laughed at for having shed tears when his favorite fish died, and he retorted by saying that it was more than his accuser had done for his wife.

Their feasts were as luxurious as they could make them, in spite of laws to keep them within bounds. Dishes of nightingales' tongues, of fatted dormice, and even of snails, were among their food: and sometimes a stream was made to flow along the table, containing the living companion of the mullet which served as part of the meal.

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