But after the founding of Luna (577) no trace of further assignations of land is to be met with for a long time, with the exception of the isolated institution of the Picenian colony of Auximum (Osimo) in 597. The reason is simple. After the conquest of the Boii and Apuani no new territory was acquired in Italy excepting the far from attractive Ligurian valleys; therefore no other land existed for distribution there except the leased or occupied domain-land, the laying hands on which was, as may easily be conceived, just as little agreeable to the aristocracy now as it was three hundred years before. The distribution of the territory acquired out of Italy appeared for political reasons inadmissible; Italy was to remain the ruling country, and the wall of partition between the Italian masters and their provincial servants was not to be broken down. Unless the government were willing to set aside considerations of higher policy or even the interests of their order, no course was left to them but to remain spectators of the ruin of the Italian farmer-class; and this result accordingly ensued. The capitalists continued to buy out the small landholders, or indeed, if they remained obstinate, to seize their fields without title of purchase; in which case, as may be supposed, matters were not always amicably settled. A peculiarly favourite method was to eject the wife and children of the farmer from the homestead, while he was in the field, and to bring him to compliance by means of the theory of "accomplished fact." The landlords continued mainly to employ slaves instead of free labourers, because the former could not like the latter be called away to military service; and thus reduced the free proletariate to the same level of misery with the slaves. They continued to supersede Italian grain in the market of the capital, and to lessen its value over the whole peninsula, by selling Sicilian slave-corn at a mere nominal price. In Etruria the old native aristocracy in league with the Roman capitalists had as early as 620 brought matters to such a pass, that there was no longer a free farmer there. It could be said aloud in the market of the capital, that the beasts had their lairs but nothing was left to the burgesses save the air and sunshine, and that those who were styled the masters of the world had no longer a clod that they could call their own. The census lists of the Roman burgesses furnished the commentary on these words. From the end of the Hannibalic war down to 595 the numbers of the burgesses were steadily on the increase, the cause of which is mainly to be sought in the continuous and considerable distributions of domain-land:(22) after 595 again, when the census yielded 328,000 burgesses capable of bearing arms, there appears a regular falling-off, for the list in 600 stood at 324,000, that in 607 at 322,000, that in 623 at 319,000 burgesses fit for service--an alarming result for a time of profound peace at home and abroad. If matters were to go on at this rate, the burgess-body would resolve itself into planters and slaves; and the Roman state might at length, as was the case with the Parthians, purchase its soldiers in the slave-market.

Ideas Of Reform Scipio Aemilianus

Such was the external and internal condition of Rome, when the state entered on the seventh century of its existence. Wherever the eye turned, it encountered abuses and decay; the question could not but force itself on every sagacious and well-disposed man, whether this state of things was not capable of remedy or amendment. There was no want of such men in Rome; but no one seemed more called to the great work of political and social reform than Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus (570-625), the favourite son of Aemilius Paullus and the adopted grandson of the great Scipio, whose glorious surname of Africanus he bore by virtue not merely of hereditary but of personal right. Like his father, he was a man temperate and thoroughly healthy, never ailing in body, and never at a loss to resolve on the immediate and necessary course of action. Even in his youth he had kept aloof from the usual proceedings of political novices--the attending in the antechambers of prominent senators and the delivery of forensic declamations. On the other hand he loved the chase--when a youth of seventeen, after having served with distinction under his father in the campaign against Perseus, he had asked as his reward the free range of the deer forest of the kings of Macedonia which had been untouched for four years--and he was especially fond of devoting his leisure to scientific and literary enjoyment. By the care of his father he had been early initiated into that genuine Greek culture, which elevated him above the insipid Hellenizing of the semi-culture commonly in vogue; by his earnest and apt appreciation of the good and bad qualities in the Greek character, and by his aristocratic carriage, this Roman made an impression on the courts of the east and even on the scoffing Alexandrians. His Hellenism was especially recognizable in the delicate irony of his discourse and in the classic purity of his Latin. Although not strictly an author, he yet, like Cato, committed to writing his political speeches--they were, like the letters of his adopted sister the mother of the Gracchi, esteemed by the later -litteratores- as masterpieces of model prose--and took pleasure in surrounding himself with the better Greek and Roman -litterati-, a plebeian society which was doubtless regarded with no small suspicion by those colleagues in the senate whose noble birth was their sole distinction. A man morally steadfast and trustworthy, his word held good with friend and foe; he avoided buildings and speculations, and lived with simplicity; while in money matters he acted not merely honourably and disinterestedly, but also with a tenderness and liberality which seemed singular to the mercantile spirit of his contemporaries. He was an able soldier and officer; he brought home from the African war the honorary wreath which was wont to be conferred on those who saved the lives of citizens in danger at the peril of their own, and terminated as general the war which he had begun as an officer; circumstances gave him no opportunity of trying his skill as a general on tasks really difficult.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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