While the fine arts in Greece became more and more the common property of the Hellenes individually and collectively and thereby became the means of developing a universal culture, they gradually disappeared in Latium from the thoughts and feelings of the people; and, as they degenerated into utterly insignificant handicrafts, the idea of a general national culture to be communicated to youth never suggested itself at all. The education of youth remained entirely confined within the limits of the narrowest domesticity. The boy never left his father's side, and accompanied him not only to the field with the plough and the sickle, but also to the house of a friend or to the council-hall, when his father was invited as a guest or summoned to the senate. This domestic education was well adapted to preserve man wholly for the household and wholly for the state. The permanent intercommunion of life between father and son, and the mutual reverence felt by adolescence for ripened manhood and by the mature man for the innocence of youth, lay at the root of the steadfastness of the domestic and political traditions, of the closeness of the family bond, and in general of the grave earnestness (-gravitas-) and character of moral worth in Roman life. This mode of educating youth was in truth one of those institutions of homely and almost unconscious wisdom, which are as simple as they are profound. But amidst the admiration which it awakens we may not overlook the fact that it could only be carried out, and was only carried out, by the sacrifice of true individual culture and by a complete renunciation of the equally charming and perilous gifts of the Muses.

Dance, Music, And Song Among The Sabellians And Etruscans

Regarding the development of the fine arts among the Etruscans and Sabellians our knowledge is little better than none.(16) We can only notice the fact that in Etruria the dancers (-histri-, -histriones-) and the pipe-players (-subulones-) early made a trade of their art, probably earlier even than in Rome, and exhibited themselves in public not only at home, but also in Rome for small remuneration and less honour. It is a circumstance more remarkable that at the Etruscan national festival, in the exhibition of which the whole twelve cities were represented by a federal priest, games were given like those of the Roman city-festival; we are, however, no longer in a position to answer the question which it suggests, how far the Etruscans were more successful than the Latins in attaining a national form of fine art beyond that of the individual communities. On the other hand a foundation probably was laid in Etruria, even in early times, for that insipid accumulation of learned lumber, particularly of a theological and astrological nature, by virtue of which afterwards, when amidst the general decay antiquarian dilettantism began to flourish, the Tuscans divided with the Jews, Chaldeans, and Egyptians the honour of being admired as primitive sources of divine wisdom. We know still less, if possible, of Sabellian art; but that of course by no means warrants the inference that it was inferior to that of the neighbouring stocks. On the contrary, it may be conjectured from what we otherwise know of the character of the three chief races of Italy, that in artistic gifts the Samnites approached nearest to the Hellenes and the Etruscans were farthest removed from them; and a sort of confirmation of this hypothesis is furnished by the fact, that the most gifted and most original of the Roman poets, such as Naevius, Ennius, Lucilius, and Horace, belonged to the Samnite lands, whereas Etruria has almost no representatives in Roman literature except the Arretine Maecenas, the most insufferable of all heart-withered and affected(17) court-poets, and the Volaterran Persius, the true ideal of a conceited and languid, poetry-smitten, youth.

Earliest Italian Architecture

The elements of architecture were, as has been already indicated, a primitive common possession of the stocks. The dwelling-house constitutes the first attempt of structural art; and it was the same among Greeks and Italians. Built of wood, and covered with a pointed roof of straw or shingles it formed a square dwelling-chamber, which let out the smoke and let in the light by an opening in the roof corresponding with a hole for carrying off the rain in the ground (-cavum aedium-). Under this "black roof" (-atrium-) the meals were prepared and consumed; there the household gods were worshipped, and the marriage bed and the bier were set out; there the husband received his guests, and the wife sat spinning amid the circle of her maidens. The house had no porch, unless we take as such the uncovered space between the house door and the street, which obtained its name -vestibulum-, i. e. dressing-place, from the circumstance that the Romans were in the habit of going about within doors in their tunics, and only wrapped the toga around them when they went abroad. There was, moreover, no division of apartments except that sleeping and store closets might be provided around the dwelling-room; and still less were there stairs, or stories placed one above another.

Earliest Hellenic Influence

Whether, or to what extent, a national Italian architecture arose o ut of these beginnings can scarcely be determined, for in this field Greek influence, even in the earliest times, had a very powerful effect and almost wholly overgrew such national attempts as possibly had preceded it. The very oldest Italian architecture with which we are acquainted is not much less under the influence of that of Greece than the architecture of the Augustan age. The primitive tombs of Caere and Alsium, and probably the oldest one also of those recently discovered at Praeneste, have been, exactly like the --thesauroi--of Orchomenos and Mycenae, roofed over with courses of stone placed one above another, gradually overlapping, and closed by a large stone cover. A very ancient building at the city wall of Tusculum was roofed in the same way, and so was originally the well-house (-tullianum-) at the foot of the Capitol, till the top was pulled down to make room for another building. The gates constructed on the same system are entirely similar in Arpinum and in Mycenae.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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