FC History Essay


As you know, one of the most important questions we have addressed in this class concerns the concept of Roman adaptability. For your final paper, I want you to assess this concept as it applies to the last years of the Republic and the first years of the Empire (the period from about 60 BC until 37 AD). You should address the following questions:Why did the Roman state survive the death of the Republic? Was life better for Romans after Augustus established the principate?Your response should be 8-10 pages in length. In preparing your paper, you can consider the following points:How did the events of the period affect Roman life? (What happens to the Roman political system? How secure are people and their property? What happens to people living in Roman provinces?)What did Augustus and his successors do to correct the damage done during the civil wars? (How are people compensated? What sorts of physical reconstruction is done?)What measures did Augustus and his successors take to improve Roman life?NB—Although this paper asks for your opinion, your answer must be supported by appropriately cited ancient evidence (a good guideline for a paper of this length is at least 4 different ancient sources cited).

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195 I
First printing
Third printing
Professor of History
Professor of Jewish History, Literature, and Institutions on the Miller Foundation;
Director of the Center of Israeli Studies
Da Ponte Professor Emeritus of Italian
Gebhard Professor Emeritus of the Germanic Languages and Literatures
Seth Low Professor Emeritus
of History
Professor of the Latin Language and Literature
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Professor of English
Lieber Professor Emeritus of Political Philosophy
and Sociology
Professor of Church History
in the Union Theological
of History
Associate Professor of French
Bryce Professor Emeritus
of the History
of International
Professor Emeritus
of History
THE PRESE~TWORK,which will comprise two volumes when completed,
is intended to serve a function similar to that of Botsford and Sihler’s
Hellenic Civilization (Records of Civilization, No.-IY.Tike its,predecessor, our Roman Civilization is of necessity ar{ anthology. There is no
need to revie,v here in detail the editorial problems …
Jhat attend the attempt to compress within two Yolurnes of ordinary size a body of fairly
representative excerpts from the riches of the written records of Rome’s
thousand-year history. vVe recognize that every condensation involves
a process of interpretation, and that it would be impossible to find agreement among scholars on what is indispensable in such a compilation of
The procedure which we adopted as being, in our opinion, the most
fruitful, is to present the material in topical chapW-Fs-ar:t;”anged
chronologically; and in the selection of texts to exclude spippet~,.however classic, to avoid duplication of materials from different,.periods, and to limit
markedly technical or rhetorical pieces and purely narrative passagessuch as descriptions of the endless wars and battles of Roman historyto a very f e,v examples, in order to give more space and greater emphasis
to texts illustrating the political, administrative, religious, economic, social, and cultural aspects of Roman civilization. Where possible, we have
let the record speak for itself; where necessary, we have equipped the
texts with introductions and a minimum of explanatory notes. We assume that the reader will either be acquainted with the main lines of
Roman history and literature or have ready access to general histories
on these subjects as well as to an atlas of classical geography. Our Introduction, accordingly, does not attempt a formal survey of literary history but aims rather at sketching for the reader a background and perspective for the sources that he will actually encounter in these two
volumes. The bibliographies have been prepared primarily with a view
to assisting the English-speaking student and general reader who may
wish to probe further into the subject matter of the several chapters.
Consequently, there is no attempt at completeness: works in foreign
languages are, with a few exceptions, systematically excluded, and
periodical literature is cited only in a relatively small number of particularly pertinent cases. The Index is not an exhaustive one but is intended
as a guide to selected subjects.
A number of the texts contained in this first volume have hitherto
been unavailable in translation. In many other instances we have prepared new translations, or so basically revised existing ones as to have
produced in effect new translations. On the other hand, where we found
satisfactory existing translations we have been content to use them,
making such changes as we deemed necessary or advisable. Accordingly,
the source of the translation is indicated for each text as follows: where
no source is stated, the translation is our own; the notation “From … ”
indicates a translation reproduced by us with little or no change; where
we have made more considerable changes, this is indicated by the phrase
“Adapted from . … ”
We are indebted for our borrowed materials to the following publishers and authors: Harvard University Press, for permission to make
extensive use of the translations of the Loeb Classical Library, and to
quote from Vitruvius, The Ten Books on Architecture, by M. H. Morgan; Clarendon Press, Oxford, for permission to quote a passage from
T. R. Holmes, The Rornan Republic, and to base several of our translations on those of E. G. Hardy, Six Roman Laws and Three Spanish
Charters; the Macmillan Company, for permission to use E. G. Shuckburgh’s translation of The Histories of Poly bius; E. P. Dutton and
Company, for permission to borrow from W. M. Roberts’s translation of
Livy in Everyman’s Library; the Society for Promoting Christian
Knowledge, for permission to quote a passage from H. N. Bate, The
Sibylline Oracles, Books 111-V; Ginn and Company, for permission to
adapt a text from C. D. Buck, A Grarmnar of Oscan and Umbrian; D. C.
Heath and Company, for permission to base one of our translations oi-i
D. C. Munro, A Source Book of Roman History; Professor C. Bradford
Welles, of Yale University, for permission to reproduce two texts from
his Royal Correspondence in the Hellenistic Period.
We take particular pleasure in recording here our gratitude to the
editor of this series, Professor Austin P. Evans, for his encouragement
of our project and for his meticulous reading of the proof, and to the
members of the staff of the Columbia University Press who contributed
their skill to the publication of this volume. Among the latter we are
especially indebted to our editor, Mr. J. Christopher Herold, for the
sympathetic perspicacity and uncompromising passion for accuracy
with which he prepared our manuscript for the printer. Our thanks are
due also to the libraries of Dartmouth College and Columbia University
for generously making their facilities available to us.
Volume !I, which it is hoped may appear without undue delay, will
cover the penod from 2 7 B.c. to the fourth century A.D., and is planned
to contain in addition special chapters on law, technical matters, and religions ( especially Christianity).
N. L.
January, z95 z
FRO.i.’1 THE
I 3 3 B.C.
F. Abbott and A. C. Johnson, Municipal Administration in the Roman Empire (Princeton,
CIL = Corpus lnscriptionum Latinarunz ( 16 vols., Berlin,
Dessau = H. Dessau, Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae ( 3 vols.,
Berlin, 1892-1916)
Dittenberger = W. Dittenberger, Sy lloge Inscriptionzmz Graecarunz
(3d ed., 4 vols., Leipzig, 1915-1924)
FIRA = Fontes Juris Romani Antejustiniani (2d ed., 3 vols.,
Florence, 1940- 1943)
JG= lnscriptiones Graecae ( 14 vols., Berlin, 1873-)
IGRR = lnscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas Pertinentes
(3 vols., Paris, 1906-1927)
LCL = Loeb Classical Library
OGIS = W. Dittenberger, Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae (2 vols., Leipzig, 1903-1905)
ROL = E. H. Warmington, Remains of Old Latin (4 vols.,
Cambridge, Mass., 1935-1940; Loeb Classical Library)
SEG = Supplenientum Epigraphicum Graecunz ( 11 vols. to
date, Leiden, 1923-)
Abbott-Johnson =F.
Ron1an Historiography
Roman literature began in 240 B.c., its historiography shortly thereafter.
Thus, the history of Rome did not begin to be systematically written
until the end of the third century B.c., when Rome had already become
the dominating force in .Mediterranean affairs. Before that time Greek
historians had directed only scant attention to the institutions and growing might of the city on the seven hills. In the absence of formal history,
the early Roman historians called upon two principal resources, which
left a permanent impress on Roman historical writing-the
official pontifical annals, and the methods and principles of contemporary Greek
(Hellenistic) historiography.
Faced with the task of reconstructing the first five hundred years
of their history, Roman writers fell back upon a host of legends and oral
traditions of both native and Greek origin; family records of noble
houses; extant inscribed documents, such as treaties and laws; and the
archives of the priestly colleges, above all the annales compiled by the
pontifex maxinnn, ( chief pontiff) in connection with his duties as regulator of the calendar. This annual record of the names of magistrates and
of memorable events briefly noticed did not become part of the official ,,
state archives until 320 n.c. For the centuries preceding that date the/
mznales were “reconstructeo” in the interest of important Roman families,
to form a continuous list of magistrates. The introduction of falsifications was facilitated by the general destruction of Rome during the
Gallic invasion of 390 B.c., in which no doubt many, though certainly
not all, records per1shed. Subsequently, with the development of historical writing, the keeping of these pontifical records was abandoned; about
120 n.c. the entire text, known as Annales Maximi (Pontifical Chronicles), was compiled and published in eighty books by Publius Mucius
Scaevola, then chief pontiff. 1
1 In 18/17 B.c. the Emperor Augustus ordered the preparation and inscription on an
arch in Rome of the records now known, from their location in modern times, as
the Fasti Capitolini (published in CIL, Vol. I, and more recently in lnscriptiones
ltaliae Vol. XIII, Part 1 [Rome, 1947]). These contain ( 1) an annual list of high
officiais, together with brief notices of some memorable events, from the beginning of the Republic to Augustus’ own time (this list was subsequently kept up to
date until A.D. 13); and ( 2) a list of all triumphs celebrated from regal times to
19 B.c., after which date this honor was reserved as an imperial prerogative.
Servius, 2 Commentary on Vergil, Aeneid
There is this difference between annals and history: history belongs to
those times which we saw or could see …
but annals belong to those times
which our age did not experience. Hence Livy is both annalist and historian.
Nevertheless, these terms are easily confused.
Now the annals used to be prepared in the following way. The pontifex
maximus had every year a whitened tablet, on which he used to place at the
top the names of the consuls and the other magistrates and to note memorable
events that had occurred at home and abroad, on land and on sea, day by
day. Through the diligence of the chief pontiff the ancients compiled the
annual commentaries in eighty books, and called them Annales },f aximi from
the pontifices maximi by whom they were made.
Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights u. xxviii. 6
In the Fourth Book of his Origins Cato says: “I do not intend to write
the kind of thing that appears on the tablet of the pontifex maximus-when
grain was dear, or when darkness or something else obscured the light of
the sun or moon.”
Livy, History of Rome
I have set forth in the five preceding books the history of the Romans,
their foreign wars and domestic dissensions, from the founding of the city to
its capture, first under the kings, then under consuls, dictators, decemvirs,
and consular tribunes. These matters are enveloped in obscurity both by
reason of their great antiquity, like far-off objects which can be descrieq.
only with difficulty, and also because written records, the only trustworthy
memorials of events, were in those times few and scanty, and such records
as did exist in the Pontifical Chronicles and in public and private archives
nearly all perished in the burning of the city. From its second beginning,
when the city was reborn from its roots, so to speak, in more luxuriant and
fruitful growth, a clearer and more reliable account of political and military
history can be set forth.
Rome’s first formal historians quite naturally followed the annalistic
pattern of the pontifical records. Indeed, the annalistic structure made its
appearance even in early Roman epic poems, such as the Annals of
J1aurus Servius Honoratus, a learned grammarian of the late fourth century A.D.
His best-known work, the Commentary on Vergil, is extant in a shorter and in an
expanded version; the latter is used here. Biographical data on the other authors
cited here and below will be found on pp. 11-33.
Ennius and the Punic War of Naevius, and it remained a pennanent
feature of Roman historical writing. While all Roman historical works
composed before the middle of the first century n.c. are now lost except
for fragments, most of our extant sources for the regal and republican
periods ( e.g., Livy, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Plutarch, Appian, Dio
Cassius, Valerius Maximus) are based on the work of these early annalistic writers.
In the first place, these pioneers wrote down and fixed for all time
the traditional account of Roman history for the period before the
Second Punic vVar (218-201 B.c.), when contemporary data began to be
accumulated. They reconstructed the past out of legends, the vainglorious archives of noble families, and the official and falsified pontifical
annals. This material contains a basic core of historical fact, much embellishment, and much pure fiction; for the early annalists felt no restraint about inventing material to fill out gaps in their information. An
especially common practice was to retroject into dimmer periods various
social, economic, political, and military events of more recent or contemporary times. Moreover, the Roman annalists down to the middle of
the first century B.c. were all men of affairs belonging to the senatorial
order, the ruling class of the Roman Republic; in consequence, they
cast the historical framework ,vhich they created in the social and political perspectives of their class. Roman historiography was colored also
by the fact that, in its beginnings, it sought to demonstrate the resources
and might of the Roman state and to justify in influential Greek circles
the measures taken by Rome in handling world affairs.
Thus the first Roman historian, Quintus Fabius Pictor (c. 200 B.c.),
wrote his Annals of Rome in the Greek language, and, with the notable
exception of Cato, his immediate successors continued this practice.
With Lucius Cassius Hemina ( c. 150 B.c.), in whose times Roman overlordship over the Hellenistic world had become an established fact, Latin
supplanted Greek as the language of Roman annalistic literature. 3 Next
Gnaeus Gellius, who wrote c. 150-120 B.c., abandoned the earlier concise method for a treatment of Roman history on a vast scale, running to
at least ninety-seven books, and thereafter this expansive style became
an orthodox technique in Roman historiography, as the monumental
work of Livy reveals. The worst aspects of the Roman annalists manifested themselves in the Sullan period, when such writers as Quintus
Claudius Quadrigarius and Valerius Antias, who became notorious for
their falsifications, presented a version of Rome’s past that resembled a
kind of historical romance. An evanescent phenomenon, also in the
Sullan period, was the rewriting of the annals of Rome by Gaius Licinius
s On Cato, who had previously written in Latin, see p. r 1.
Macer, who colored the national history with the social and political
viewpoints of the antisenatorial faction.
In short, as a result of falsifications and distortions, of nationalistic
and sociopolitical tendentiousness, Roman historical writing made little
qualitative, though some stylistic, progress, down to the so-called Golden
Age of Latin literature-the
age of Cicero and Caesar. Educated Romans
of that period were conscious of the unreliability of the established traditions concerning early Roman history and of the technical and stylistic
deficiencies of the annalists of the two preceding centuries.
Livy, History of Rome vm. xl. 3-5
It is difficult to decide which account, or which authority, to prefer to
which. The record, I am convinced, has been falsified by funeral eulogies and
by untrue inscriptions on ancestral portraits, as each family with deceptive
falsehood appropriated to itself a tradition of great deeds and official distinctions. That is why the records of private careers and of public events are so
confused. And there is no such thing as a contemporary writer of those
days on whose authority one might rely.
Cicero, Brutus xvi. 62
From LCL
Of these [ funeral orations] some are, to be sure, extant, which the families
of the deceased have preserved as trophies of honor and for use on the death
of a member of the same family, whether to recall the memory of the past
glories of their house or to support their own claims to noble origins. Yet by
these laudatory speeches our history has become quite distorted; for much. is
set down in them which never occurred-false
triumphs, too large a number
of consulships, false relationships, and transfers of patricians to plebeian
status, in that men of humbler birth professed that their blood blended with
a noble family of the same name, though in fact quite alien to them; as if I
[Marcus Tullius], for example, should say that I was descended from Mani us
Tullius the patrician, who was consul with Servius Sulpicius ten years after
the expulsion of the kings.
Plutarch, Life of Numa i.
Though genealogies from the beginning to King N uma seem to be set
down accurately, yet there is a vigorous dispute concerning the time in which
he reigned. But a certain writer named Clodius, in a book entitled Examination of Chronology, maintains that the ancient records were lost when the
city was sacked by the Gauls and that those which are now extant were
forged to flatter the pride of some men by inserting their names among the
first families and the most illustrious houses, though in reality they had no
claim to it.
Cicero, Laws 1. ii. 5
From LCL
Attic-us. There has long been a desire, or rather a demand, that you 4
should write a history. For people think that, if you entered that field, we
might rival Greece in this branch of literature also. And to give you my own
opinion, it seems to me that you owe this duty not merely to the desire of those
who take pleasure in literature, but also to your country, in order that the
land which you have saved you may also glorify. For our national literature
is deficient in history, as I realize myself, and as I frequently hear you say.
But you can certainly fill this gap satisfactorily, since, as you at least have
always believed, this branch of literature is closer than any other to oratory. 5
Of even greater importance in molding the general pattern of
Roman historiography as it matured was the influence of the principles
and methods of the Hellenistic Greek historians, whom, almost from the
start, Roman historians used as their models. Thus among the Romans,
as among the Greeks, history was regarded not as a social science but as
a branch of literature. The Greek historians and their Roman imitators
,vere primarily literary artists, not scholars; their efforts were dominated
not by scientific methodology, but by canons of artistic form. Specifically, history was conceived as a branch of, or something akin to,
rhetoric. Hence no need was felt even by great historians like Sallust,
Livy, and T acitus, when they were not dealing with contemporary
events, to base their presentation on primary sources. Furthermore,
stylistic homogeneity was a more important aim than strict fidelity to
the facts, with the result that historical documents, for example, were
not reproduced in their original form but paraphrased, and speeches
and letters, attributed to historical personages but in reality the free
creations of the writers, were incorporated into the narrative for heightened effect. “We concede to rhetoricians,” says Cicero, “the privilege
of distorting history in order to produce a more effective narrative.” 6
Other characteristics, too, were inherited by the Romans from the
Hellenistic historians. From this source came the application to Roman
historiography of some of the techniques of the Greek drama and the
emphasis upon the role of individuals in the course of events, with the
resultant subordination or neglect of broad historical forces. Greek in
origin, also, was the utilitarian concept of history as a practical guide
for men of affairs, and the conscious moralizing purpose of providing
Atticus addresses himself to Cicero.
Cf. below.
6 Cicero, Brutus xi. 42.
through history ethical lessons for the edification of the reader. Above
all, the patriotic motif was kept constantly in the foreground by the
historians of Rome. A final influence, which made itself increasingly
felt in the last two centuries B.C., was the scholarly antiquarianism fostered by the Greek Peripatetic school, and this concept of “history for
its own sake” eventually brought into being a new, escapist literary
enjoyed a vigorous life
beginning in the troubled times of the dying Republic and continuing
through the Empire.
Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights v. xviii.
From LCL
Thus history, it is said, is the setting forth or description-call
it what you
will-of events, but annals set down the events of many years successively,
with observance of the chronological order. …
I quote a passage of some
length from the First Book of [the Histories of] Sempronius Asellio, 7 in
order to show what his opinion is of the difference between history and
“Between those,” he says, “who have desired to leave us annals and those
who have tried to write the history of the Roman people, there was this
essential difference. The books of annals merely made known what happened
and in what year it happened, which is like writing a diary ….
For my
part, I realize that it is not enough to make known what has been done, but
that one should also show with what purpose and for what reason things were
done.” A little later in the same book Asellio writes: “For annals cannot in
any way make men more eager to defend their country, or more reluctant to
do wrong. Furthermore, to write over and over again in whose consulship a
war was begun and ended, and who in consequence entered the city in triumph,
and in that book not to state what happened in the course of the war, what
decrees the senate made during that time, or what law or bill was passed, and
with what motives these things were done-that
is to tell stories to children,
not to write history.”
The classic expression of all the major characteristics of Roman
historiography as it evolved in the last nvo centuries n.c. is found in Livy,
whom the Romans considered their most distinguished historian. His
most comprehensive statement of aims and attitudes is contained in the
famous preface to his work.
Livy, History of Rome, Preface
From LCL
Whether I am likely to accomplish anything worthy of the labor, if I
record the achievements of the Roman people from the foundation of the
1 Lived c. r6o-c. 90 B.C.
city, I do not really know, nor if I knew would I dare avouch it; perceiving as
I do that the theme is not only old but hackneyed through the constant
succession of new historians, who believe either that in their facts they can
produce more authentic information or that in their style they will prove better
than the rude attempts of the ancients. Yet, however this may be, it will be
a satisfaction to have done myself as much as lies in me to commemorate the
deeds of the foremost people of the world; and if in so vast a company of
writers my own reputation should be obscure, my consolation would be the
fame and greatness of those whose renown will throw mine into the shade.
Moreover my subject involves infinite labor, seeing that it must be traced
back above seven hundred years, and that proceeding from slender beginnings
it has so increased as now to be burdened by its own magnitude; and at the
same time I doubt not that to most readers the earliest origins and the period
immediately succeeding them will give little pleasure, for they will be in
haste to reach these modem times, in which the might of a people which has
long been powerful is working its own undoing. I myself, on the contrary,
shall see in this an additional reward for my toil, that I may avert my gaze
from the troubles which our age has been witnessing for so many years, so
long at least as I am absorbed in the recollection of the brave days of old, free
from every care which, even if it could not divert the historian’s mind from
the truth, might nevertheless cause it anxiety.
Such traditions as belong to the time before the city was founded, or rather
was presently to be founded, and are rather adorned with poetic legends than
based upon trustworthy historical proofs, I purpose neither to affirm nor to
refute. It is the privilege of antiquity to mingle divine things with human,
and so to add dignity to the beginnings of cities; and if any people ought to
be allowed to consecrate their origins and refer them to a divine source, so
great is the military glory of the Roman people that when they profess that
their father and the father of their founder was none other than Mars, the
nations of the earth may well submit to this also with as good a grace as they
submit to Rome’s dominion. But to such legends as these, however they shall
be regarded and judged, I shall for my own part attach no great importance.
Here are the questions to which I would have every reader give his close attention-what
life and morals were like; through what men and by what
policies, in peace and in war, empire was established and enlarged; and then
let him note how, with the gradual relaxation of discipline, morals first gave
way, as it were, then sank lower and lower, and finally began the downward
plunge which has brought us to the present time, when we can endure neither
our vices nor their cure.
·what chiefly makes the study of history wholesome and profitable is this,
that you behold the lessons of every kind of experience set forth as on a conspicuous monument; from these you may choose for yourself and for your
own state what to imitate, from these mark for avoidance what is shameful
in the conception and shameful in the result. For the rest, either love of the
task I have set myself deceives me, or no state was ever greater, none more
righteous or richer in good examples, none ever was where avarice and
luxury came into the social order so late, or where humble means and thrift
were so highly esteemed and so long held in horror. For true it is that the less
men’s wealth was, the less was their greed. Of late, riches have brought in
avarice, and excessive pleasures the longing to carry wantonness and license
to the point of personal ruin and universal destruction.
With the decline of the Republic and the concentration of power in
the hands of the emperor, literature became increasingly the province of
professional litterateurs. As restraints upon freedom of expression grew,
literature developed an increasing emphasis on matters of form and was
more and more characterized by antiquarianism, “art for art’s sake,”
dilettantism, and rhetorical display. The influence of the prevailing rhetorical education, with its emphasis on artificial declamation, became
universal. The political oratory of the last two centuries of the Republic
received its death blow with the establishment of the Principate; the
accumulated technical skills of the art of rhetoric became a vehicle for
imperial pronouncements, for showpieces by professional rhetoricians,
for arguments in law cases, and for prolix and fulsome panegyrics of the
emperors. Historiography continued along the lines laid down during
the Republic, with these differences: its rhetorical, belletristic, ethical
approach is heightened; Roman writers who concern themselves with
the imperial period focus their attention on the city of Rome and the
emperor’s court, neglecting the broader aspects of the Empire as a whole,
and cater to the public taste for gossip and scandal about the court;
and contemporary history in general ceases to be written. The lastnamed tendency was fostered during the Augustan Age by the official
policy of celebrating and reviving the pristine virtues and customs of
the earlier Romans, a policy which inevitably operated to imbue history
with antiquarianism. In addition, the scholarly encyclopedic movement
of the declining Republic maintained a flourishing existence. The learning of the period expressed itself also in a number of technical treatises
on various subjects; among those extant are books on architecture, medicine, agriculture, and water supply. Finally, the growing cosmopolitanism of the Roman Empire resulted in the disappearance of significant
differences between Greek and Roman writers, except that universal
history continued to be almost exclusively the field of the Greeks.
Writers of tbe Republican Period
The conspectus which follows is not intended to outline the literary
history of the Roman Republic and Empire, but to provide the reader
with brief introductions to the authors whose works figure importantly
in the present collection of sources.
(234-149 B.C.)
Marcus Porcius Cato of Tusculum was the founder of Latin prose
literature. A soldier-statesman of extensive military and administrative
experience, he ,vas in his public career and his thinking the exponent of
the austere ancient Roman virtues and the spokesman of the ultraconservative, narrowly nationalistic reaction against the rising tide of
Hellenism and the inevitable transformation of Roman life under the
impact of wealth and power of empire. Himself a member of the possessing and ruling class, even if he was a “new man,” 8 he exhibited the
traditional Roman practicality and dogmatism. Little remains of his
numerous orations or of his Origines, a monograph in seven books on
the history of his times from 264 ( or 2 18) to 149 B.c., with digressions
on the origins of the cities of Italy. In keeping with his aggressive nationalism, he alone among the historians of his generation wrote his work
in Latin.
His sole surviving work, the oldest extant Latin prose work, is his
De Agricultura (On Agriculture), a manual on farm management for
absentee landowners written c. 160 B.c. Comprising 162 brief chapters,
this treatise is a precious source for the economic, social and religious
institutions of the second century B.c. Cato wrote this guide to serve the
needs of the increasingly numerous owners of latifundia who were as
yet inexperienced in the operation of these large estates that were developing in the transformation of Italian agriculture from subsistence
farming to one of the most important sources of income for the Roman
ruling class. It is especially important for its evidence on the beginnings
of “plantation” slavery in Italy.
See introduction
to § 155.
Polybius of Megalopolis in southern Greece, “the sun in the field
of Roman history,” as Mommsen called him, is our most trustworthy
authority for the period from the beginning of the Second Punic War to
the middle of the second century B.c. Of his Histories, a general history
of the Mediterranean world in forty books, covering the years 2 20146 B.c., with a two-book introduction on antecedent events, only the
first five books (to 216 B.c.) survive entire, together with excerpts and
fragments of the rest. The son of one of the leaders of the Achaean
League, he took an active part in the political and military affairs of his
native Achaea in the era when the Greeks were faced with the problem
of adjusting themselves to the realities of Roman overlordship. Deported
to Italy in 166 B.c. as one of 1,000 Achaean hostages, he remained in
Rome for over a decade, observing the character and institutions of the
conquerors of the Mediterranean, and winning the friendship of the
scions of the Roman nobility, in particular of Scipio the Younger. His
expatriation served to inculcate on him an admiration for Roman imperialism as a blessing to the world and a desire to expound to his fell ow
Greeks the rapid rise of Rome to world-wide hegemony in the short
span of fifty-three years (220-168
B.c.)-“a thing unexampled in history”-and the futility of continuing their resistance to such might.
Polybius is a unique figure in ancient historiography, for, contrary
to traditional practices, he did not propose to produce a work of literary
art, explicitly rejected rhetoric and the techniques of the tragic drama,
and introduced few speeches in his work. Equipped with a scientific
approach not again encountered in the field of history until the nineteenth century, he brought to his subject a combination of political
realism, military experience, personal knowledge of topography, and a
conviction of the organic unity of history. Thus he chose the year
2 20 B.c. as his starting point because “since that time history has been a
kind of organic whole, and the affairs of Italy and Africa have been
interconnected with those of Asia and Greece, all moving toward one
end,” namely, Roman world empire. 9 Like many ancient historians, he
had a pragmatic, utilitarian concept of history as rich in practical lessons
for statesmen, placed great emphasis on the individual in history, and
was frankly subjective in his ethical approach and his expression of
abstract moral judgments.
iii. 4.
In his constant effort to probe the causes and interrelations of events,
Polybius developed a series of theories of historical causation as he
progressively modified his interpretation of the Roman rise to power. At
first he saw Tyche (Chance, Fortune), an unpredictable, superhuman
power, as the prime motive force in history. Later, as his admiration for
the Romans grew, he attributed their ,vorld hegemony to human causality-the
national character and institutions of the Romans. Finally,
presumably as he lived to observe the growing corruption of the Roman
aristocracy, he modified his earlier views and fell back upon a form of
the mechanistic Stoic concept of Fate and the operation of recurrent
historical cycles. 10
(rn6-43 B.c.)
.Marcus Tullius Cicero of Arpinum “is the supreme index to his age.
He is in contact with all its interests. His works, therefore, form a history
of his era-of its politics and society as well as its literature and knowledge.” 11 A gifted speaker and brilliant lawyer, equipped with the finest
education available at that time, he came into the public eye early and
rose rapidly through the lower magistracies to the consulship (63 B.c.),
although he ,vas a “new man.” As consul he suppressed the revolutionary
conspiracy of Catiline. Subsequently his political enemies brought about
his exile, but he was restored after a year and a half through the influence
of Pompey the Great. But, though he served a year as governor of Cilicia
in 51-50 B.c., he remained in political eclipse, playing the part of elder
statesman and devoting most of his time to the practice of law and to
literary composition. He returned briefly to a position of political leadership and prominence after the assassination of Caesar, when his outspoken
attacks on Antony in his fourteen Philippics led to his proscription by
the Second Triumvirate and his brutal assassination by Antony’s soldiers.
1 0 The
continuator of Polybius’ history was the Greek polymath Posidonius of
Apamea (c. 135-c. 50 B.c.), whose universal history of the period from 136 to 82 B.c.
exerted a tremendous influence on later authors. His work, a retrogression from the
standards set by Polybius, combined the Roman oligarchical and the Stoic points
of view. He was primarily a moralist and was probably the first to enunciate the
idea, which quickly became conventional, of the superior virtues of the older
Romans and the degenerative effects of luxury and vice upon the Romans of the
last century of the Republic (cf. §§ So, 96, 170, r7r). He thus probably also gave
the initial impetus to the antiquarian interest which began to flourish in Rome
about the middle of the first century B.c. (cf. p. 8).
11 J. W. Duff, A Literary History
of Rome from tbe Origins to tbe Close of thf
Golden Age, 2d ed. (London, 1920), p. 35 r.
The fifty-seven extant speeches of Cicero constitute one of our
richest contemporary sources for the period 8 1-4 3 B.c. They are concerned with civil and criminal cases and with political affairs. For all
their prolixity and partisanship-in
his orations as an advocate he employs all the devices of a skilled lawyer; in his public addresses he is the
defender of the vested interests of the ruling and propertied classesthey provide accurate factual material in many areas, such as Roman law
and the judicial system, political institutions and constitutional history,
economic and social life, taxation, public finances, and provincial administration.
Equally important is the extensive body of letters collected and published after his death. The 864 extant letters ( 774 from the pen of Cicero,
90 from his correspondents) are addressed to, or written by, various
friends and members of his household (the sixteen books Ad Familiares),
to his friend and publisher Atticus (the sixteen books Ad Atticum), to
his brother Quintus ( three books), and to Brutus ( two books). Some are
dated as early as 68 B.c., but the bulk belongs to the last decade of his
life. In his letters Cicero reveals himself as does no other Roman whose
works survive; all the political great pass before us in a variegated
.panorama; we penetrate into large affairs and small-into the private
life of his times, the intellectual and business interests, the political
maneuverings of the upper classes.
Besides being a practical man of affairs, Cicero was also a scholarly
idealist, and in the years of his exile and political eclipse he devoted himself to the composition of treatises on political theory, rhetoric, and
philosophy. His De Republica, in six books, of which about one third is
extant, and his De Legibus (Laws), in at least five books, of which three
are extant, take as their models Plato’s dialogues of the same titles, but
they reveal a political philosophy which combines idealism and actual
Roman practices. His works on oratory, the most important of which
are the Orator, Brutus, and De Oratore (On Oratory), are valuable
sources for Roman education, the history of oratory, and forensic techniques. His philosophic essays are marked by no great profundity or
originality of thought; in them Cicero sought to transmit to the Romans
his own interest in speculative thought and to popularize Greek philosophy by presenting it in the Latin language and adapting it to Roman
needs. Leaning toward eclecticism, he poured his studies of Greek ethics,
theology, and epistemology into his treatises on Old Age, Friendship,
The Nature of the Gods, Divination, The End:; of Good and Evil, Duties,
and the famous Tusculan Disputations, as ,vell as into a number of minor
( rno-44 B.C.)
Gaius Julius Caesar, the most important political and military figure
of the middle of the first century n.c., prepared two tracts in the heat
of his military campaigns. His Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War), military memoirs in seven books on his
policies toward and campaigns against the Gauls, Germans, and Britons
in 59-52 B.c., were written not as history but as political pamphlets. 12
Caesar sought through the speedy publication of these memoirs to maintain in absentia his political prestige in Rome, to justify his unauthorized
acts in leading his troops outside the provinces assigned to him, and to
defend his policies toward the peoples beyond the Alps. Simple and unrhetorical, his Gallic TVar reveals the military genius of the author,
provides invaluable information on Roman military institutions, and
contains the earliest extant accounts of the ethnology and culture of the
Gauls, Germans, and Britons. His second set of memoirs, the Commentarii de Bello Civili (Commentaries on the Civil War), in three
books, is one of our prime sources for the events of 49-48 B.c. As in his
earlier work, Caesar’s basic purpose in writing the Civil War was a political one, to justify before the Roman public his war against Pompey
and his adherents. 13
Marcus Terentius Varro of Reate is the dean of Roman antiquarians.
Though he had a public career during the civil war period, he was essentially a learned encyclopedist-“the
most erudite of the Romans,”
Quintilian calls him. His gigantic output, comprising seventy-four
works in about 620 books, accumulated and marshaled information in
almost all fields of learning. Of his Ronzan Amiquities in forty-one books,
only tiny fragments survive. Of his De Lingua Latina (The Latin Language) in twenty-five books, six books are extant. This work is an
etymological study of the origins of Latin words, often faulty in method,
but containing valuable obiter dicta on many aspects of Roman history
and society. Only his De Re Rustica (On Landed Estates), in three
12 One of his officers, Aulus Hirtius, completed the story, carrying it down to 50 B.c.
in an eighth book.
1s The Civil War, too, is incomplete. ~h 7 authorship ?f three supple~entary books
on the wars in Egypt, Africa, and Spam m 48-45 B.c. 1s a vexed question.
books, has come down to us intact. Together with Cato’s De Agricultura
this treatise is our prime source for the management and operation of
the large estates in Italy under the Republic.
(86-c. 35 B.C.)
Gaius Sallustius Crispus of Amiternum in the Sabine country,
after an active public career as an adherent of Julius Caesar, retired from
politics after Caesar’s assassination and devoted himself to writing history. Of his Histories, in five books, covering the years 78-67 B.c., a
few fragments and excerpts remain. But his two extant monographs on
The Jugurthine JVar and The Catilinarian War establish his position as
one of the great Roman historians. Despite his moralizing emphasis on
the evils of greed and ambition, his carelessness in matters of chronology,
his geographical inaccuracies, and a predilection for analysis and comparison of personalities, Sallust is unique among extant Roman historians
in abandoning the annalistic method for the historical monograph and in
his application of Thucydidean realism and Polybian standards to his
subject matter. The poet Martial called him “the first in Roman history.”
It must be understood, however, that Sallust was primarily a political
pamphleteer in his Jugurtha and Catiline. In these two historicopolitical
tracts he sought to defend the policies and leaders of the antisenatorial
opposition by revealing the corruption and incompetence of the
optimates and by countering the propaganda directed against Caesar.
Yet his pamphlets afford us a lucid picture of the international and internal consequences of the partisan strife of the last century of the
(c. 8o-c. 29 B.C.)
Diodorus of Sicily, a Greek writer about whom little is known, is
the author of the Historical Library, a general world history in forty
books covering the period from mythological times to 60 B.c. Books
1-v, x1-xx, and fragments from the rest have survived. These provide
some useful information about Roman history, especially for the years
480-302 B.c. But in the main Diodorus’ work is a dull, inaccurate
chronicle of information culled from secondary sources, which attempts
mechanically to present the history of the Mediterranean world area by
area and year by year. Like most historians in antiquity, Diodorus reveals a pragmatic, ethical view of history and an emphasis upon the role
of the “strong man.”
lVriters of tbe hnperial Period
( 70-19
Publius Vergilius l1aro from the region of Mantua in Cisalpine
Gaul, the leading poet of the Augustan Age, poignantly and sensitively
reflects the contradictions between the official fa

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