It is plain that it was essentially a relation based on mutual fidelity, which could not subsist without the help of the powerful sanction of custom consecrated by religion; and this was not wanting. The institution of clientship, altogether of a moral-religious nature, beyond doubt rested fundamentally on this assignation of the profits of the soil. Nor was the introduction of such an assignation dependent on the abolition of the system of common tillage; for, just as after this abolition the individual, so previous to it the clan might grant to dependents a joint use of its lands; and beyond doubt with this very state of things was connected the fact that the Roman clientship was not personal, but that from the outset the client along with his clan entrusted himself for protection and fealty to the patron and his clan. This earliest form of Roman landholding serves to explain how there sprang from the great landlords in Rome a landed, and not an urban, nobility. As the pernicious institution of middlemen remained foreign to the Romans, the Roman landlord found himself not much less chained to his land than was the tenant and the farmer; he inspected and took part in everything himself, and the wealthy Roman esteemed it his highest praise to be reckoned a good landlord. His house was in the country; in the city he had only a lodging for the purpose of attending to his business there, and perhaps of breathing the purer air that prevailed there during the hot season. Above all, however, these arrangements furnished a moral basis for the relation between the upper class and the common people, and so materially lessened its dangers. The free tenants-on-sufferance, sprung from families of decayed farmers, dependents, and freedmen, formed the great bulk of the proletariate,(13) and were not much more dependent on the landlord than the petty leaseholder inevitably is with reference to the great proprietor. The slaves tilling the fields for a master were beyond doubt far less numerous than the free tenants. In all cases where an immigrant nation has not at once reduced to slavery a population -en masse-, slaves seem to have existed at first only to a very limited amount, and consequently free labourers seem to have played a very different part in the state from that in which they subsequently appear. In Greece "day-labourers" (--theites--) in various instances during the earlier period occupy the place of the slaves of a later age, and in some communities, among the Locrians for instance, there was no slavery down to historical times. Even the slave, moreover, was ordinarily of Italian descent; the Volscian, Sabine, or Etruscan war-captive must have stood in a different relation towards his master from the Syrian and the Celt of later times. Besides as a tenant he had in fact, though not in law, land and cattle, wife and child, as the landlord had, and after manumission was introduced(14) there was a possibility, not remote, of working out his freedom. If such then was the footing on which landholding on a large scale stood in the earliest times, it was far from being an open sore in the commonwealth; on the contrary, it was of most material service to it. Not only did it provide subsistence, although scantier upon the whole, for as many families in proportion as the intermediate and smaller properties; but the landlords moreover, occupying a comparatively elevated and free position, supplied the community with its natural leaders and rulers, while the agricultural and unpropertied tenants-on-sufferance furnished the genuine material for the Roman policy of colonization, without which it never would have succeeded; for while the state may furnish land to him who has none, it cannot impart to one who knows nothing of agriculture the spirit and the energy to wield the plough.

Pastoral Husbandry

Ground under pasture was not affected by the distribution of the land. The state, and not the clanship, was regarded as the owner of the common pastures. It made use of them in part for its own flocks and herds, which were intended for sacrifice and other purposes and were always kept up by means of the cattle-fines; and it gave to the possessors of cattle the privilege of driving them out upon the common pasture for a moderate payment (-scriptura-). The right of pasturage on the public domains may have originally borne some relation -de facto- to the possession of land, but no connection -de jure- can ever have subsisted in Rome between the particular hides of land and a definite proportional use of the common pasture; because property could be acquired even by the --metoikos--, but the right to use the common pasture was only granted exceptionally to the --metoikos-- by the royal favour. At this period, however, the public land seems to have held but a subordinate place in the national economy generally, for the original common pasturage was not perhaps very extensive, and the conquered territory was probably for the most part distributed immediately as arable land among the clans or at a later period among individuals.


While agriculture was the chief and most extensively prosecuted occupation in Rome, other branches of industry did not fail to accompany it, as might be expected from the early development of urban life in that emporium of the Latins. In fact eight guilds of craftsmen were numbered among the institutions of king Numa, that is, among the institutions that had existed in Rome from time immemorial. These were the flute-blowers, the goldsmiths, the coppersmiths, the carpenters, the fullers, the dyers, the potters, and the shoemakers--a list which would substantially exhaust the class of tradesmen working to order on account of others in the very early times, when the baking of bread and the professional art of healing were not yet known and wool was spun into clothing by the women of the household themselves. It is remarkable that there appears no special guild of workers in iron. This affords a fresh confirmation of the fact that the manufacture of iron was of comparatively late introduction in Latium; and on this account in matters of ritual down to the latest times copper alone might be used, e.g.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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