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descendants may be exhibited by a description, in a future number, of the condition in later times of both morals and religion.
1. Credibility of the Early History of Rome. The early history of all ancient nations is necessarily obscure. It is a inistake, however, to imagine that it is midnight with antiquity because it is not noonday. It is the obscurity of the twilight, and not impenetrable darkness, that rests on the primeval days of Rome. The assertion that “the early history of Greece and Rome is deserving of no credit whatever," is much too sweeping, and cannot be maintained. It may be improbable, that in a period of nearly two hundred and fifty years the Roman monarchy was governed by only seven kings. The dates connected with the reigns of these sovereigns may be wholly supposititious, and many of the legends related of them sheer fabrications. But the probability that there were other kings does not disprove the existence of those of whom we have accounts.
Nor do the chronological impossibilities, and the interpolated fictions of a heroic age, destroy the historical foundation on which the common belief rests. Among others Niebuhr has been referred to as having annihilated the credibility of the early Roman history. But this writer states expressly that “there is no rational ground for doubting the personal existence of Tullus Hostilius.” He thinks that from the commencement of the reign of this prince very few of the characters mentioned in the history are imaginary, and that many of the chronological statistics taken from the yearly records are as definite as could at so remote a period be expected. At the same time he supposes that some poetical legends are added to the true account of his reign, and that it is only in the reign of the fourth king, Ancus Martius, that the public records assume the character of an unvarnished statement of facts. “The lay of Tullus Hostilius is followed by a narrative of a course of events without any marvellous circumstances or poetical coloring.” This historian seems to regard the received accounts of the first two kings either as fictions purely poetical, or as traditional tales in which truth and errror are confounded beyond hope of separation. He classes Romulus with Hercules and Siegfried, and thinks the legends respecting him and Numa belong to religious
poetry. “Romulus was a god, the son of a god, Numa a man, but connected with superior beings." And yet in another place he
says that Numa was not a theme of song like Romulus; nor does he, whatever particular expressions may seem to imply, appear to be prepared to deny the existence of either. the tradition, however, about them both is in all its parts poetical fiction, the fixing the pretended duration of their reigus can only be explained by ascribing it either to mere caprice, or to numerical speculations.”
It would not comport with the design of this article to enter upon an examination of the opinions and arguments of those historians whose authority, in connection with that of Niebuhr, has been appealed to in proof of the uncertainty of the early Roman history. Of Niebuhr it may be affirmed that his investigations have not always been able to abide the test of critical examination, and respecting the most distinguished of the other writers he has himself observed : “ The soul of his book is skepticism : he does nothing but deny and upset.” That much of what is related of the early Roman heroes and events is fabulous no one doubts. It was evidently regarded as such by the most judicious of the ancient historians. That Romulus ascended to heaven on the wings of the lightning, that Numa received divine revelations from a goddess, that Jupiter thundered from the right or left at the bidding of an augur, that an ox spoke, or that a priest cut through a flint-stone with a razor, is of course incredible.* Such stories evidently originated in that love of the marvellous which is native to the human mind, and which exists in a high degree among every rude and superstitious people. Like other heathen nations, the Romans were disposed to connect their ancestors with the gods, and to ascribe to them supernatural power. But this disposition cannot convert the walls of their city into air, nor annihilate the civil and religious institutions which existed among them, and which can be proved to have descended from the earliest times. The admis
* Respecting the credibility of Livy, Müller has the following remark. “The relation of prodigies proves nothing against his judgment: he reports what the ancient world believed, and what he perhaps was willing the Roman people should continue to believe." Allg. Geschichte, I. 182. Heerens Handbuch, 386, 382.
sion of Niebuhr at the commencement of his work, that long before any historical record of particular individuals occurs in those ages, the forms under which the commonwealth existed may be recognized with certainty, is both true and important. Whatever views may be entertained respecting the early periods of Roman history, there are certain points which cannot be ques. tioned. Rome had a beginning. The city itself, with its civil and religious institutions, must have had a founder, or founders. The popular belief ascribed the origin of the city and its
government to a man by the name of Romulus, while holy Numa was celebrated, first in poetical lays, and then in sober history, as the author of the national religion. If it is contended that the names of those chiefs are not genuine, that the hero who built the walls of the city was not called Romulus, and that his successor neither bore the name of Numa, nor received the additional title of Pompilius on account of the religious processions which he instituted, it may be replied that a name is of small importance. If it is affirmed that no such men existed, still the city and its institutions remain, and neither sprang spontaneously out of the earth. Their existence must be accounted for, and until some more plausible conjecture is started, it is safe to speak of Romulus as the founder of the city, and of Numa as the author of the national religion. Accordingly this has been the practice of the most judicious historians, even of those who have been often skeptical in regard to the narrations of the ancient writers. The following remarks respecting the sources of the first periods of Roman history will commend themselves to the good sense of the reader. “The earliest history of Rome is as incapable as that of Athens, or of any other city of antiquity, of being reduced to strictly historical truth; since it rests for the most part on traditions which were delivered by the poets and orators. That in connection with fiction they contain also truths, is proved in the clearest manner by the political institutions whose origin they relate, and which reach back with certainty to those times. To wish to draw a well defined boundary line between the mythical and the historical periods, is to misunderstand the nature of mythology.” “The traditions of the fathers were in part preserved in historical songs; (of a larger epic we hear nothing;) in this sense there existed a poetical history; but the history is by no means on this account to be regarded as merely poetical. Even at so early a period, the traditions respecting the institu
tions of Numa have no poetical characteristics."'* For an obvious reason, our brief examination of the Roman history in reference to the subject of discussion, has been commenced with the preceding remarks on the credibility of the scurces from which the earliest portions of that history are drawn. A suspicion that the whole had been founded on a false assumption was certainly to be forestalled or removed.
II. Character of the Early Romans. In all inquiries respecting the character of the early Romans, it is doubtless necessary to make allowance for that veneration for antiquity, and that pride of ancestry, which dispose men to lavish indiscriminate praises on their forefathers. After every reasonable deduction, however, it will still remain a truth as well established as any in history, that under the monarchy and in the first ages of the republic, the Romans were remarkable for their morality. Laudatory as the expression is, it was not without some reason that Ammianus called ancient Rome "the home of all the virtues. The character of the early Romans was almost the very opposite of that of the Greeks, and altogether diverse from the refined degeneracy of the modern Italians. Stern integrity, incorruptible love of justice, simplicity of life, and sincerity of manners—these are the qualities which we admire in the ancestors of Rome. The tribute of Sallust to the fathers of Rome, in which he affirms that in peace and war good morals were cultivated; that justice prevailed among them not so much by means of laws as from natural impulse; that quarrels, discords, and animosities found a place only in
* This writer returns to Niebuhr the compliment on the score of skepticism which the latter had paid to Beaufort. Of Niebuhr's work he remarks : “Rather a critique than a history, with a constant effort to overthrow what had been previously received. Acuteness is not always acute in discerning truth (Scharfsinn ist nicht immer Wahrheitsinn); and we do not so readily give credit to a work which is not only opposed to the prevailing view of Antiquity itself ; (occasionally inferences from particular passages do not carry this opposition so far as the general spirit of the work ;) but also, as the author himself confesses, (II. S. 5,) contrary to all analogy in history.” Handbuch, 384.
regard to enemies; that citizens strove with citizens only in virtue ; that frugality, and fidelity to friends reigned at home; and that their magnificence was displayed only in the sacrifices to the gods ;* may perhaps be suspected of baving had its origin in love of country, and a natural veneration for his ancestors. But the testimony of Polybius to the excellent character of the Romans is not liable to the same charge. This historian had thoroughly studied the character of the Roman people and the genius of their institutions. It has been affirmed that he understood them both the better for having been obliged to learn them as a foreigner. But however this may be, his judgment respecting them is worthy of the more confidence inasmuch as it was not biassed by the unavoidable partiality of a native. “ Such is the impulse to noble deeds,” says that writer, “and the virtuous emulation, which are produced by the institutions that exist among them. Moreover, in regard to the acquisition of wealth, the manners and customs of the Romans are superior to those of the Carthaginians. For with the latter nothing is base provided it is likely to be attended with gain; whereas in the estimation of the former, nothing is more disgraceful than to receive a bribe, or to acquire property by any unfair means. While they esteem wealth an honor to him who obtains it in a proper way, they consider gain secured by unlawful practices as a reproach. This is proved by the fact that among the Carthaginians offices are obtained by the unconcealed use of bribes, while among the Romans, the penalty for this is death. Since, therefore, different rewards of excellence are proposed by the two nations, it were reasonable to expect that the method of attaining these rewards would likewise be different.”+ The Roman senate was the refuge of nations, the arbitrator of causes, the avenger of wrongs, and the deliverer of the oppressed. “The Holy Spirit,” says Bossuet,“ has not disdained to praise, in the book of Maccabees, the distinguished prudence, and vigorous counsels of this wise assembly, in which no one arrogated to himself an authority not warranted by reason, and all whose members Jabored for the public good without partiality and without jealousy."I The simplicity ac
+ Hist. VI. 54. | Discours sur L 'Histoire Universelle, II. 269. It is not necessary to quarrel with the bishop respecting the canonical authority of the books of Maccabees; any more than it was
* Bell. Cat. § 8. 9.