In like manner there can be no doubt that the constitution of the league implied the possibility of its waging defensive or even aggressive war in its own name; in which case, of course, it would be necessary to have a federal commander-in-chief. But we have no reason to suppose that in such an event each community was compelled by law to furnish a contingent for the army, or that, conversely, any one was interdicted from undertaking a war on its own account even against a member of the league. There are, however, indications that during the Latin festival, just as was the case during the festivals of the Hellenic leagues, "a truce of God" was observed throughout all Latium;(5) and probably on that occasion even tribes at feud granted safe-conducts to each other.

It is still less in our power to define the range of the privileges of the presiding canton; only we may safely affirm that there is no reason for recognizing in the Alban presidency a real political hegemony over Latium, and that possibly, nay probably, it had no more significance in Latium than the honorary presidency of Elis had in Greece.(6) On the whole it is probable that the extent of this Latin league, and the amount of its jurisdiction, were somewhat unsettled and fluctuating; yet it remained throughout not an accidental aggregate of various communities more or less alien to each other, but the just and necessary expression of the relationship of the Latin stock. The Latin league may not have at all times included all Latin communities, but it never at any rate granted the privilege of membership to any that were not Latin. Its counterpart in Greece was not the Delphic Amphictyony, but the Boeotian or Aetolian confederacy.

These very general outlines must suffice: any attempt to draw the lines more sharply would only falsify the picture. The manifold play of mutual attraction and repulsion among those earliest political atoms, the cantons, passed away in Latium without witnesses competent to tell the tale. We must now be content to realise the one great abiding fact that they possessed a common centre, to which they did not sacrifice their individual independence, but by means of which they cherished and increased the feeling of their belonging collectively to the same nation. By such a common possession the way was prepared for their advance from that cantonal individuality, with which the history of every people necessarily begins, to the national union with which the history of every people ends or at any rate ought to end.

Notes For Book I Chapter III

1. I. II. Italians

2. Like -latus- (side) and --platus-- (flat); it denotes therefore the flat country in contrast to the Sabine mountain-land, just as Campania, the "plain," forms the contrast to Samnium. Latus, formerly -stlatus-, has no connection with Latium.

3. A French statist, Dureau de la Malle (-Econ. Pol. des Romains-, ii. 226), compares with the Roman Campagna the district of Limagne in Auvergne, which is likewise a wide, much intersected, and uneven plain, with a superficial soil of decomposed lava and ashes--the remains of extinct volcanoes. The population, at least 2500 to the square league, is one of the densest to be found in purely agricultural districts: property is subdivided to an extraordinary extent. Tillage is carried on almost entirely by manual labour, with spade, hoe, or mattock; only in exceptional cases a light plough is substituted drawn by two cows, the wife of the peasant not unfrequently taking the place of one of them in the yoke. The team serves at once to furnish milk and to till the land. They have two harvests in the year, corn and vegetables; there is no fallow. The average yearly rent for an arpent of arable land is 100 francs. If instead Of such an arrangement this same land were to be divided among six or seven large landholders, and a system of management by stewards and day labourers were to supersede the husbandry of the small proprietors, in a hundred years the Limagne would doubtless be as waste, forsaken, and miserable as the Campagna di Roma is at the present day.

4. In Slavonia, where the patriarchal economy is retained up to the present day, the whole family, often to the number of fifty or even a hundred persons, remains together in the same house under the orders of the house-father (Goszpodar) chosen by the whole family for life. The property of the household, which consists chiefly in cattle, is administered by the house-father; the surplus is distributed according to the family-branches. Private acquisitions by industry and trade remain separate property. Instances of quitting the household occur, in the case even of men, e. g. by marrying into a stranger household (Csaplovies, -Slavonien-, i. 106, 179). --Under such circumstances, which are probably not very widely different from the earliest Roman conditions, the household approximates in character to the community.

5. The Latin festival is expressly called "armistice" (-indutiae-, Macrob. Sat. i. 16; --ekecheipiai--, Dionys. iv. 49); and a war was not allowed to be begun during its continuance (Macrob. l. c.)

6. The assertion often made in ancient and modern times, that Alba once ruled over Latium under the forms of a symmachy, nowhere finds on closer investigation sufficient support. All history begins not with the union, but with the disunion of a nation; and it is very improbable that the problem of the union of Latium, which Rome finally solved after some centuries of conflict, should have been already solved at an earlier period by Alba. It deserves to be remarked too that Rome never asserted in the capacity of heiress of Alba any claims of sovereignty proper over the Latin communities, but contented herself with an honorary presidency; which no doubt, when it became combined with material power, afforded a handle for her pretensions of hegemony. Testimonies, strictly so called, can scarcely be adduced on such a question; and least of all do such passages as Festus -v.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book