for the sacred plough and the shear-knife of the priests. These bodies of craftsmen must have been of great importance in early times for the urban life of Rome and for its position towards the Latin land--an importance not to be measured by the depressed condition of Roman handicraft in later times, when it was injuriously affected by the multitude of artisan-slaves working for their master or on his account, and by the increased import of articles of luxury. The oldest lays of Rome celebrated not only the mighty war-god Mamers, but also the skilled armourer Mamurius, who understood the art of forging for his fellow-burgesses shields similar to the divine model shield that had fallen from heaven; Volcanus the god of fire and of the forge already appears in the primitive list of Roman festivals.(15) Thus in the earliest Rome, as everywhere, the arts of forging and of wielding the ploughshare and the sword went hand in hand, and there was nothing of that arrogant contempt for handicrafts which we afterwards meet with there. After the Servian organization, however, imposed the duty of serving in the army exclusively on the freeholders, the industrial classes were excluded not by any law, but practically in consequence of their general want of a freehold qualification, from the privilege of bearing arms, except in the case of special subdivisions chosen from the carpenters, coppersmiths, and certain classes of musicians and attached with a military organization to the army; and this may perhaps have been the origin of the subsequent habit of depreciating the manual arts and of the position of political inferiority assigned to them. The institution of guilds doubtless had the same object as the colleges of priests that resembled them in name; the men of skill associated themselves in order more permanently and securely to preserve the tradition of their art. That there was some mode of excluding unskilled persons is probable; but no traces are to be met with either of monopolizing tendencies or of protective steps against inferior manufactures. There is no aspect, however, of the life of the Roman people respecting which our information is so scanty as that of the Roman trades.

Inland Commerce Of The Italians

Italian commerce must, it is obvious, have been limited in the earliest epoch to the mutual dealings of the Italians themselves. Fairs (-mercatus-), which must be distinguished from the usual weekly markets (-nundinae-) were of great antiquity in Latium. Probably they were at first associated with international gatherings and festivals, and so perhaps were connected in Rome with the festival at the federal temple on the Aventine; the Latins, who came for this purpose to Rome every year on the 13th August, may have embraced at the same time the opportunity of transacting their business in Rome and of purchasing what they needed there. A similar and perhaps still greater importance belonged in the case of Etruria to the annual general assembly at the temple of Voltumna (perhaps near Montefiascone) in the territory of Volsinii; it served at the same time as a fair and was regularly frequented by Roman traders. But the most important of all the Italian fairs was that which was held at Soracte in the grove of Feronia, a situation than which none could be found more favourable for the exchange of commodities among the three great nations. That high isolated mountain, which appears to have been set down by nature herself in the midst of the plain of the Tiber as a goal for the traveller, lay on the boundary which separated the Etruscan and Sabine lands (to the latter of which it appears mostly to have belonged), and it was likewise easily accessible from Latium and Umbria. Roman merchants regularly made their appearance there, and the wrongs of which they complained gave rise to many a quarrel with the Sabines.

Beyond doubt dealings of barter and traffic were carried on at these fairs long before the first Greek or Phoenician vessel entered the western sea. When bad harvests had occurred, different districts supplied each other at these fairs with grain; there, too, they exchanged cattle, slaves, metals, and whatever other articles were deemed needful or desirable in those primitive times. Oxen and sheep formed the oldest medium of exchange, ten sheep being reckoned equivalent to one ox. The recognition of these objects as universal legal representatives of value or in other words as money, as well as the scale of proportion between the large and smaller cattle, may be traced back--as the recurrence of both especially among the Germans shows--not merely to the Graeco-Italian period, but beyond this even to the epoch of a purely pastoral economy.(16) In Italy, where metal in considerable quantity was everywhere required especially for agricultural purposes and for armour, but few of its provinces themselves produced the requisite metals, copper (-aes-) very early made its appearance alongside of cattle as a second medium of exchange; and so the Latins, who were poor in copper, designated valuation itself as "coppering" (-aestimatio-). This establishment of copper as a general equivalent recognized throughout the whole peninsula, as well as the simplest numeral signs of Italian invention to be mentioned more particularly below(17) and the Italian duodecimal system, may be regarded as traces of this earliest international intercourse of the Italian peoples while they still had the peninsula to themselves.

Transmarine Traffic Of The Italians

We have already indicated generally the nature of the influence exercised by transmarine commerce on the Italians who continued independent. The Sabellian stocks remained almost wholly unaffected by it. They were in possession of but a small and inhospitable belt of coast, and received whatever reached them from foreign nations--the alphabet for instance--only through the medium of the Tuscans or Latins; a circumstance which accounts for their want of urban development. The intercourse of Tarentum with the Apulians and Messapians appears to have been at this epoch still unimportant. It was otherwise along the west coast.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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