Page images

CHAP. Edward III.46, declined to interfere in questions of XVI.

- peace and war, as being too high for them to com

pass; but they would not allow the crown to take their money without their own consent; and so the nation grew, and the influence of the house of commons grew along with it, till that house has become the great and predominant power in the British constitution.

If this view be correct, Trebonius judged far more wisely than M. Duilius; and the abandonment of half the plebeian tribuneship to the patricians, in order to obtain for the plebeians an equal share in the higher magistracies, would have been as really injurious to the commons, as it was unwelcome to the pride of the aristocracy. It was resigning a weapon with which they were familiar, for one which they knew not how to wield. The tribuneship was the foster nurse of Roman liberty, and without its care that liberty never would have grown to maturity. What evils it afterwards wrought, when the public freedom was fully ripened, arose from that great defect of the Roman constitution, its conferring such extravagant powers on all its officers. It proposed to check one tyranny by another; instead of so limiting the prerogatives of every magistrate and order in the state, whether aristocratical or popular, as to exclude tyranny from all.


46 Hallam, Middle Ages, Vol. III. p. 71. ed. 1822.




“ What can be more instructive than to observe the first principles of right springing up, involved in superstition and polluted with violence; until, by length of time and favourable circumstances, it has worked itself into clearness ?”—Burke, Abridgment of English History, Book III. Chap. IX.

- - -- -


The period of nearly forty years on which we are CHAP. now going to enter, so short a space in the history of a nation, so long to all of us individually, includes within it the whole of the Peloponnesian war. Whilst at Rome the very form and tendency of great political revolutions cannot be discovered without difficulty; whilst military events are wholly disguised by ignorance or flattery, and whilst we can as yet obtain no distinct ideas of any one individual, nor fully conceive the character of the national mind, Athens is, on the other hand, known to us almost in its minutest points of detail. During this time


CHAP. Thucydides was collecting materials for his history;

and Herodotus, after having travelled nearly all over the world, was making the last additions to his great work in the country of his later years, on the southern coast of Italy. Pericles had passed all of his glorious life except its most glorious close; and Socrates, the faithful servant of truth and virtue, was deserving that common hatred of the aristocratical' and democratical vulgar, which made him at last its martyr. The arts and manufactures of Athens were well known at Rome; and those names and stories of the wars of Thebes and Troy, which their dramatists were continually presenting afresh to the memory of the Athenians, were familiar also in the heart of Italy, were adopted into the language and traditions of Etruria and of Rome, and employed the genius of Italian artists as of those of their original country. But during the period at which we are now arrived, CHAP. central Italy became acquainted, not with Athenian art only, but with the fame of the Athenian arms. The Etruscans heard with delight that a mighty avenger of their defeat at Cuma was threatening their old enemies of Syracuse; their cities gladly lent their aid to the invader; and the Romans must have heard with interest from their neighbours and friends of Cære or Agylla, how some of their countrymen had done good service in the lines o of the Athenian army, and how they had been involved in that sweeping ruin in which the greatest armament ever yet sent out by a free and civilized Commonwealth had so miserably perished. But the Romans knew not, and could not know, how deeply the greatness of their own posterity, and the fate of the whole western world, was involved in the destruction of the fleet of Athens in the harbour of Syracuse. Had that great expedition proved victorious, the energies of Greece during the next eventful century would have found their field in the west no less than in the east; Greece, and not Rome, might have conquered Carthage; Greek, instead of Latin, might have been at this day the principal element of the languages of

1 The aristocratical hatred against down to the humblest. Socrates is exhibited in the Clouds : In the specimens of Etruscan of Aristophanes; and the famous vases and frescoes given by Micali speech of Cleon on the question in the atlas accompanying his of the punishment of the revolted History of the Ancient People of Mytilenæans, shows the same spi. Italy, and in those published more rit in connexion with the strong recently by the Antiquarian Sodemocratical party. Political par- ciety of Rome, it is curious to ohties are not the ultimate distinction serve how many of the subjects between man and man; there are are taken froin the story of the higher points, whether for good siege of Thebes, and still more or evil, on which a moral sym- from that of Troy. Many of the pathy unites those who politically vases on which these subjects ocare most at variance with each cur, are thought to be actually of other; and so the common dread Athenian manufacture; others apand hatred of improvement, of pear to be Italian imitations; but truth, of principle-in other words, both equally prove that the stories of all that is the light and life of of the heroic age of Greece were man, has, on more than one occa. well known in Italy, and the works sion, united in one cause all who of Grecian art adınired and sought are low in intellect and morals, after. from the highest rank in society


3 The naval victory of Cuma was discovered by an English trawas won by Hiero, the brother veller, in 1817, amongst the ruins and successor of Gelon, over the of Olympia, and bears an inscripEtruscans, in the year 474 B.C. tion which tells its story, “ that Olymp. 76-3. It is commemo- Hiero, the son of Dinomenes, and rated by Diodorus, XI. 51, and the Syracusans, offered it to Jove by Pindar, Pyth. I. 140; and one as a part of the Tyrrhenian spoil of the helmets taken from the from Cuma.” See Böckb, Corpus eneiny on this day, and sent as an Inscript. Græc. tom. I. p. 34. offering to the Olympian Jupiter, • Thucydides, VII. 53.



CHAP. Spain, of France, and of Italy: and the laws of

Athens, rather than of Rome, might be the founda

tion of the law of the civilized world. General The period now before us is marked, as far as of the en., Rome itself is concerned, with few events of great suing period.

importance. The commons retained and asserted those rights which were the best suited to their actual condition, and thus became gradually fitted to desire and to claim others of a higher character. But for the first important advantage to their cause they were indebted to one of the wisest and best Romans of his time, who was at once trusted by them, and respected by his own order, the patrician Mamercus

Æmilius. Nine years after the institution of the A.U.C. 321. censorship, Mamercus having been named dictator, A.C. 431.

to oppose a threatened attack from the Etruscans, proposed and carried a laws to limit the duration of the censorship. That office, in its powers and outward splendour a lively image of royalty, was held for a term of five years. By the law of Mamercus Æmilius it was to be held in future only for eighteen months; and as the election of censors still took place only at intervals of five years, this magistracy was always in abeyance for a longer time than it was in existence.

The censorship was an office so remarkable, that ship.

however familiar the subject may be to many readers, it is necessary here to bestow some notice on it. Its original business 6 was to take a register of the citi

The censor

5 Livy, IV. 24.
6 Magistratus, cui scribarum

ministerium custodiæque et ta-
bularum cura, cui arbitrium for-

« PreviousContinue »