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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Evolution of States, by J. M. Robertson

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Title: The Evolution of States

Author: J. M. Robertson

Release Date: May 30, 2012 [EBook #39860]

Language: English


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WALT WHITMAN: An Appreciation.
MONTAIGNE AND SHAKESPEARE. (Second Edition, with additional Essays on cognate subjects.)
BUCKLE AND HIS CRITICS: a Sociological Study.
THE SAXON AND THE CELT: a Sociological Study.
MODERN HUMANISTS: Essays on Carlyle, Mill, Emerson, Arnold, Ruskin, and Spencer. (Fourth Edition.)
THE FALLACY OF SAVING: a Study in Economics.
THE EIGHT HOURS QUESTION: a Study in Economics. (Second Edition.)
THE DYNAMICS OF RELIGION: an Essay in English Culture-History. By "M.W. Wiseman."
A SHORT HISTORY OF FREETHOUGHT, Ancient and Modern. (Second Edition: 2 vols.)
PIONEER HUMANISTS: Essays on Machiavelli, Bacon, Hobbes, Spinoza, Shaftesbury, Mandeville, Gibbon, and Mary Wollstonecraft.
CHARLES BRADLAUGH. By Mrs. Bradlaugh Bonner. Part II. by J.M.R.
PAGAN CHRISTS: Studies in Comparative Hierology. (Second Edition, Revised and Expanded.)







"The sociologist has three main quests—first, he must try to discover the conditions that determine mere aggregation and concourse. Secondly, he must try to discover the law that governs social choices—the law, that is, of the subjective process. Thirdly, he must try to discover also the law that governs the natural selection and the survival of choices—the law, that is, of the objective process."

Professor Giddings.
[Pg v]


Preface vii
Part I.
Chap. I. —The Subject-Matter 1
II. —Roman Political Evolution 8
III. —Greek Political Evolution 36
IV. —The Laws of Socio-Political Development 54
Part II.
Chap. I. —Roman Economic Evolution 75
II. —Greek Economic Evolution 98
Part III.
Chap. I. —Greece 121
II. —The Saracens 146
III. —Rome 158
Epilogue —A General View of Decadence 170
Part IV.
Note on Literature 181
Chap. I. —The Beginnings 183
II. —The Social and Political Evolution 209
III. —The Political Collapse 233
Part V.[Pg vi]
Chap. I. —Ideas of Nationality and National greatness 257
II. —The Scandinavian Peoples 264
III. —The Hansa 286
IV. —Holland 291
§ 1. The Rise of the Netherlands 293
§ 2. The Revolt against Spain 301
§ 3. The Supremacy of Dutch Commerce 310
§ 4. Home and Foreign Policy 318
§ 5. The Decline of Commercial Supremacy 321
§ 6. The Culture Evolution 325
§ 7. The Modern Situation 328
V. —Switzerland 331
§ 1. The Beginnings of Union 332
§ 2. The Socio-Political Evolution 338
§ 3. The Modern Renaissance 347
VI. —Portugal 355
§ 1. The Rise and Fall of Portuguese Empire 355
§ 2. The Colonisation of Brazil 361
Part VI.
Chap. I. —Before the Great Rebellion 369
II. —The Rebellion and the Commonwealth 414
III. —From the Restoration to Anne 436
IV. —Industrial Evolution 458
   Conclusion 468
Index 473


[Pg vii]The following treatise is an expansion, under a new title, of one originally published (1900) under the name of An Introduction to English Politics. Several friendly reviewers of that work objected, not unjustly, that its title was something of a misnomer, or at least an imperfect indication of its contents. It had, as a matter of fact, originated remotely in a lecture delivered as preliminary to a course on "Modern English Politicians" (from Bolingbroke to Gladstone), the aim of the prefatory address being to trace in older politics, home and foreign, general laws which should partly serve as guides to modern cases, or at least as preparation for their scientific study; while the main course dealt with modern political problems as they have arisen in the careers and been handled by the measures of modern English statesmen. It was that opening exposition, developed into an essay, and published as a series of magazine articles, that had been further expanded into this treatise, by way of covering the ground more usefully; and the original name is therefore retained as a sub-title.

It is perhaps unnecessary to explain that the book makes no pretension to being a complete or systematic treatment of political history, or of political forms and theories. The object in view from the first has been, not the technical anatomy or documentary history of institutions, but the bringing into light of the ruling forces in all political life, ancient and modern alike. It seeks to help the reader to fulfil the precept of Montaigne: "Qu'il ne luy apprenne pas tant les histoires qu'à en juger."

Since it was first written, there has been so much fresh sociological study of history that I need not repeat the[Pg viii] justification originally offered for my undertaking. Alike as to ancient and modern history, the effort of scholars is now more and more towards comprehension of historic causation in terms of determining conditions, the economic above all; so much so that I have profited somewhat in my revision from various recent works, and might with more leisure have done so more fully. Revised as it is, however, the book may serve to expound views of history which are still not generally accepted, and to call in question fallacious formulas which seem to me still unduly common.

On any view, much remains to be done before the statement of historic causation can reach scientific thoroughness; and it may well be that some of my theories will incur modification. All I claim for them is that they are made in the light of a study of the concrete process; and I am satisfied that fuller light is to be obtained only in that direction. In the end, doubtless, conflicts of historical interpretation will turn upon problems of psychology. A contemporary German expert of distinction, Prof. Lamprecht, in his able lectures on the problem What is History? (Eng. trans. 1905), lays it down that the main problem of every scientific history of mankind is the "deducing from the history of the most important communities of men the evolution of the breadth of consciousness"; and again that "the full historical comprehension of a single change or of a single phenomenon, with their historical significance, can only be acquired from the most general principles; that is to say, from the application of the highest universal-historical categories." If I understand Prof. Lamprecht aright, he here means simply that we properly understand the motivation of men in the past in terms of our own psychosis, conceived as in touch only with their data. This seems to me substantially sound. But on the other hand I doubt the utility of his apparent purpose of explaining modern historic developments in terms of special psychic changes or movements in communities, considered as forces. That way seems to lie reversion to the old and vain device of explaining the course of nations in terms of their "characters."[Pg ix]

In any case, however, we have Prof. Lamprecht's avowal that "It would be a study of great value to establish, by comparative work in universal history, what are the constantly recurring economic factors of each period which are so uniformly followed by the development of other higher intellectual values." That is as full a recognition of the "economic factor" as I am concerned to contend for, if it be understood that economic motives are on the one hand recognised as affecting social action in general, and on the other that varying forms of social machinery react variously on intellectual life. Upon such hypotheses the following inquiry proceeds; to such conclusions it leads.

Obviously all critical exposition, historical or other, is an attempt to influence the psychic processes of the reader, to make him "feel" this and "think" that; and in this sense any resulting change of conduct means the play of "the psychic factor." But that is only another way of saying that the psychic factor is conditioned by material circumstances, by knowledge, and by ignorance. To insist on the perpetual social significance of all three is the general aim of this book.

September, 1912.



Chapter I


§ 1[Pg 1]

Politics, in its most general and fundamental character, is the strife of wills on the ground of social action. As international politics is the sum of the strifes and compromises of States, so home politics is the sum of the strifes and compromises of classes, interests, factions, sects, theorists, in all countries and in all ages. In studying it, then, we study the evolution of an aggregate, a quasi-organism, in terms of the clashing forces of its units and of their spontaneous combinations.

This may seem too obvious and simple a truth to need formal telling; and yet no truth is more often missed or set aside by writers who deal with political history. The past course of nations, when it is sought to be explained at all, is by two writers out of three accounted for by certain supposed qualities of character in the given nation as a whole, instead of by the specially conditioned play of forces common to all peoples.[1] For instance, M. Taine, in the preface to the first volume of his fascinating work, Les origines de la France contemporaine, goes about to justify his own political indifferentism by stating that in eighty years his country had thirteen times changed its constitution. "We," he says, have done this; and "we have not yet found that which suits us."[2] It is[Pg 2] here implied that a body of men collectively and concurrently seeking for a fixed constitution have failed, and that the failure is discreditable—that those who thus seek and fail have been badly employed. It is by implication denied that successive changes of a constitution may fitly be regarded as a process of growth and healthy adjustment of parts: the ideal of political health is assumed to be a state of fixity. Thus does indifferentism, naturally if not necessarily, miss the point of view from which itself is to be studied as one of the forces whose conflict the true historian ought to analyse.

There is no national "we" aiming collectively at a fixed and final constitution; nor are the successive constitutions of France as such more significant of failure or permanent harm than the successive changes in the professedly unchanged constitution of Great Britain, though the violent kinds of change are as such harmful. If M. Taine had but applied with rigour the logic he once before prescribed, soundly if wittily, for all problems alike, he could not have begun his history with that delusive abstraction of a one-minded community, failing to achieve "their" or "its" purpose. "Je n'en sais rien," he remarks with a shrug, over the protest of M. Royer-Collard that certain scientific reasoning will make Frenchmen revolutionary; "est-ce qu'il y a des Français?"[3] In dead earnest he now assumes that France consists just of the single species "Frenchmen," whose constitution-building is a corporate attempt to build a French house to live in; when all that is truly historical in his own book goes to show clearly enough that French constitutions, like all others, are products of ever-varying and conflicting passions and interests of sets of people in France who are "Frenchmen" merely when they happen to act in concert against other geographical groups. At no moment were all of the French people consenting parties to any one of the thirteen constitutions. Then there was no collective failure.

Of course M. Taine knew this well enough in his capacity of narrator; but as teacher he could not escape from the rut dug for his thought by his fatalism. He must needs make the synthetic abstraction of "we," which excludes the political analysis essential to any practical explanation; and it inevitably followed that his generalisations were merely pseudo-biological, and not what is most[Pg 3] wanted in history—sociological truth rooted in psychology and biology. In denuding himself alike of hopes and fears, M. Taine really gave the great illustration of the truth of his own penetrating comment on Mérimée,[4] that he who will be duped by nothing ends in being the dupe of his distrust. He will not be duped by this ideal or that; he will not care enough for any to have a strong wish to see it realised; and so he comes to be duped by the wish to disprove all, to work down all sociology to the plane of cynical pseudo-biology. The enthusiastic amateur can show it, can convict the critic of hearing only the devil's advocate in every moral process,[5] and of becoming at length the historic oracle of those, of all readers, who are most alien to his philosophy.

Such an outcome, in the work of such a critic, is vividly instructive. At worst, indeed, he has a positive value as the extremest reactionist against the merely partisan method of history, which is almost all we have had in England since the French Revolution, down to the other day. After M. Taine has passed, fools' paradises must needs fall in market value. But when the devil's advocate has made his round, we must still plough and eat, and the paradises must just be laid out for new sowing. The evil of theoretical extremes is not so much their falsehood as their irrelevance. If we are to instruct each other in conduct, it must be in terms of sympathies and antipathies; and if we are to profit by a study of politicians, who are among the most generally typical of men, and of politics, which is the expression of so much of life, we must go about it as humanists and not as fatalists.

§ 2

Humanity, however, will not suffice to save us from false philosophy if, as humanists, we seek to gain our polemical ends by M. Taine's didactic methods. He, naturally so much of an analyst, took to pseudo-synthesis when he wished with little labour to discredit certain popular aspirations. But pseudo-synthesis is the favourite expository process of many men with ardent aspirations,[Pg 4] and of many writers who are friendly enough to the aspirations of their fellows. By pseudo-synthesis I mean that process, above exemplified, of "cooking" an intricate moral problem by setting up one or more imaginary entities, to whose volition or potency the result is attributed. It was the method of medieval science; and it is still popular among the experts as well as the amateurs of historical science. It was the ordinary expedient of Comte, in whose pages history becomes a Jonsonian masque of personified abstractions; and Buckle too often resorts to it. But hear a learned and judicious English Liberal, not to be suspected of doctrinary extravagance:—

"As in time past Rome had sacrificed domestic freedom that she might be the mistress of others, so now" [in the later Empire] "to be universal she, the conqueror, had descended to the level of the conquered" [in respect of Caracalla's edict giving to all subjects of the Empire the rights of Roman citizenship]. "But the sacrifice had not wanted its reward. From her came the laws and the language that had overspread the world; at her feet the nations laid the offerings of their labour; she was the head of the Empire and of civilisation."[6]

The "she" of this passage I take to be as purely imaginary an entity as Phlogiston; and it is not easy to see how a method of explanation which in physical science is found worse than barren can give any edification in the study of history. To say nothing of the familiar explanation that Caracalla's sole motive in conferring the citizenship on the provincials was the desire to lay on them corresponding taxes,[7] the proposition has no footing in political actualities. "Rome's self-abnegation that she might Romanise the world"[8] expresses no fact in Roman volition, thought, or deed; it is not the mention of a sentiment which swayed men's action, but the attempt to reduce a medley of actions to the semblance of a joint volition. There was no "Rome" capable of "self-abnegation" and susceptible of "reward." Why, then, should it be said? It is said either because the writer permits himself to fill in a perspective with a kind of pigment which he would not employ in his foreground, or because he is still too much under the sway of old methods when he is generalising conventional knowledge instead of analytically reaching[Pg 5] new.[9] Either way the lapse is only too intelligible. And if an innovating expert, dealing with old facts, runs such risks, great must be those run by plain people when they seek to attain a generalised knowledge of facts which are the battle-ground of current ideals. Only by perpetual analysis can we hope partly to escape the snare of the pseudo-synthetic, the traps of rhetoric and exegetic fiction.

§ 3

The term "pseudo-synthesis" implies, of course, that there may be a true synthesis. What is necessary to such synthesis is that there shall have been a preliminary analysis; but a synthesis once justly made is the greatest of helps to new analyses. Now there is one such which may safely be brought to bear on the study of practical politics, because it is an axiom alike of inorganic physics and of biology, and a commonplace of human science, though seldom used as a means of historic generalisation. This is the simple principle that all energy divides ostensibly into forces of attraction and of repulsion.

[The principle thus stated should be compared with the theorem of Kant as to the correlative forces of sociability and unsociability (Idee zu einer allgemein Geschichte), and the important and luminous formula of Professor Giddings, that all sociological processes, properly so called, turn upon "consciousness of kind" (Principles of Sociology, 1896, 3rd ed. pp. 17-19, and Preface; and in earlier writings by Professor Giddings, there mentioned). The scientific value of that formula is obvious; but other ways of stating the case may still serve a purpose. The view in the text I find to have been partly anticipated by Shaftesbury, Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour, 1709, pt. iii, § 2 (Characteristics, ed. 1733, i, pp. 111-12), who is followed by Eusèbe Salverte, De la Civilisation depuis les premiers Temps historiques, 1813, p. 53. Shaftesbury even anticipates in part the formula of Professor Giddings in the passage: "If anything be natural, in any Creature or any Kind, 'tis that which is preservative of the Kind itself," and in the sequel. As Professor Giddings traces (pref. to 3rd ed. p. x) the first suggestion of his "consciousness of kind" to Adam Smith's Theory of the Moral Sentiments, [Pg 6]which is certainly in the line of descent from Shaftesbury, there may really be a causal connection.]

That principle obviously holds of the relations of men in society as it does of their muscular action and of their moral and intellectual life; and so fundamental is the fact that when we study human history in view of it, we find it more and more difficult to suppose that it will ever cease to hold. That is to say, it is almost impossible to conceive state of life in which the forces of attraction and repulsion shall not operate energetically in the moral and intellectual relations of human beings. From the primitive and the barbaric stages in which the sight of an alien moves the savage to such destructive rage as is seen in some dogs at the sight of others, or in which a difference of personal odour rouses a no less spontaneous repulsion—as in Chinese against Europeans, or in Europeans against Chinese[10]—down to the fierce battle in self-governing countries over every innovating law, or that strife of opinion in which these lines play their part, the clash of opposing tendencies is perpetual, ubiquitous, inevitable. And so difficult is it to conceive any cessation that at once many observers leap from the general principle to the particular conclusion that all the modes in which the action and reaction, the attractions and repulsions of individuals and groups, have operated in the past must needs operate in the future. They conclude, that is, that the particular phenomenon of WAR, above all, is chronic, and can never definitely disappear. Thus M. Zola, looking around him and finding strife everywhere, decides that all the past forms of strife are inevitably recurrent.[11] It may be well at the outset to insist that the general principle involves no such particular necessity.

War is simply a form in which the instincts of attraction and repulsion have operated in human societies during ages in which certain psychological and physiological types have been normal. It may very well recur, with growing infrequency, for a long time to come; but it is not rationally to be regarded as a necessary function of the grand biological forces. What does seem certain is a different thing—that the forces of attraction and repulsion will always operate in some form; and that the very fact of their finding less expression in the mode of physical strife will imply their coming[Pg 7] into play in other modes, such as the strife of ideals, doctrines, and class interests as they are expressed in politics without bloodshed. The general law is that the forces of attraction and repulsion, as exhibited in human thought or feeling, run during the earlier stages of growth in channels which may be broadly regarded as animal; and that when altered political and social conditions partly or wholly close these channels, the biological forces open for themselves new ones.

War is precisely the blindest, the least rational, the least human of all the forms of human conflict, inasmuch as it is the collective clashing of communities whose members, divided among themselves by many real differences of interest, bias, and attraction, are set against each other, as wholes—if by anything higher than animal pugnacity—either by the mere ideals or appetites of rulers or leaders, or by more or less imaginary differences of interest, seen under the moral illusion of the most primitive of social instincts—the sensus gregis. As evolution proceeds, the blind form may be expected to disappear, and the more reasoned forms—that is, the inter-social and intellectual—to develop.


[1] It is one of the shortcomings of Buckle that, though he at least once (Introd. to Hist. of Civ. in Eng., Routledge's ed. p. 352) recognises the futility of explaining history in terms of national character, he repeatedly lapses to that method, and speaks of peoples as if they were of one will, bent, and mind. (Ed. cited, edit. notes pp. 354, 385, 540, 553, 558, 719, etc.). See below, pt. iii, ch. iii, second note, as to Eduard Meyer.

[2] Similarly De Tocqueville begins L'ancien régime et la révolution with "Les Français ont fait...." (Avant-Propos, 2e éd. p. 5), and makes the successors of the Revolutionists "les mêmes Français" (p. 12). Soon he makes the Revolution an entity (p. 35). Compare with Taine's passage the programme of the first number of Le Play's La Réforme Sociale, 1881 (cited by H. Higgs, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Boston, July, 1890, p. 418), which might almost have been written by Taine. In the case of Le Play the ideal of a quasi-patriarchal order, very stable and very fixed, led to an attitude resembling at points that of Taine. It is easy to see how the natural recoil from political turmoil has, since the French Revolution, developed successive schools such as those of Saint Simon, Comte, and Le Play, all aiming at stability and order, all seeking to elbow out the cosmic force of Change. In Taine's case the result was an acceptance of Spencer's "administrative nihilism."

[3] Les philosophes classiques du XIXe siècle en France, 3ième éd. p. 37.

[4] Lettres de Prosper Mérimée à une Inconnue, préf. end. When, however, M. Taine wrote on Sainte-Beuve's death (1869), he laid down, as one of the necessities of the search for "the true truth," this very determination "to be the dupe of nothing and nobody, above all of oneself" (Derniers Essais, p. 52). Years before an acute critic had said of his literary criticism: "M. Taine, at bottom, let us say it with bated breath, is the dupe of himself when he supposes himself to have given a rigorous formula, an exact definition, a chemical analysis of his author" (Frédéric Morin, Les hommes et livres contemporains, 1862, p. 33). Compare the brochure of Professor Edouard Droz, La critique littéraire et la science, 1893, discussed in the present writer's New Essays towards a Critical Method, 1897, p. 13 sq.

[5] See Napoléon et ses détracteurs, par le Prince Napoléon, p. 13, and passim.

[6] Professor Bryce, The Holy Roman Empire, 8th ed. p. 7.

[7] Gibbon, ch. vi (Bohn ed. i, pp. 201, 212-13). In the same way, Julius Cæsar, and the triumvirs after him, were in their day moved to extend citizenship in Italy because of the falling-off in the free Roman population. Widened citizenship meant a wider field for Italian recruiting. At that time the extension involved not taxation, but immunities; but, according to Cicero, Antony received great sums from the Sicilians in payment for the privilege he conferred upon them. Ad Atticum, xiv, 12; Philipp. ii, 36.

[8] Bryce, p. 9.

[9] A different explanation holds in the case of Hegel, who—after very pointedly affirming that "nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion" (Leidenschaft), in the sense of individual interest and self-seeking aim, and that "an individual is such and such a one, not a man in general, for that is not an existence, but one in particular" (Philos. der Geschichte, 2te Aufl. p. 30)—proceeds to express historical processes in terms of universal spirit, abstract universality, and so forth. Here the trouble is the cherished tendency to verbal abstraction.

[10] Cp. Professor H.A. Giles, The Civilisation of China, 1911, pp. 214-15. Smell appears to be an insuperable bar to any general association of "whites" with "blacks," and it probably enters into many racial repugnances. Compare the curious device of Lombard women to set up by an artificial bad smell a repugnance on the part of their alien suitors such as they themselves may have felt. Gummere, Germanic Origins, 1892, p. 138.

[11] Cited by Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You, ch. vi, end.

Chapter II


§ 1

A survey of the ancient history best known to us may help to make clearer the fatality of strife and the impossibility of solving it save by transcending the physical plane. The habit of summing up all Roman history as so many planned actions of "the Romans," or of "Rome," is in singular contrast with the imbroglio of the records. In the social stage discovered to us by the analysis of the oldest known institutions, "early" Rome is already an artificial political organism, far removed from the simple life of tribal barbarism.[12] There are three tribes; the very name of tribe, it may be, comes from the number three[13] in the flection tribus; and the subdivisions are fixed by the numbers three and ten.[14] Behind the artificial "tribe" is a past in which, it may be, a group of villages forms the pagus or settlement.[15]

Already privilege and caste are fully established, even between classes of freemen; and only by inference can we reach the probable first bases of civic union among the ruling caste. They were clearly a caste of conquerors. Their curiæ, apparently the oldest form of group after the family or the clan,[16] are artificially arranged, numbering thirty, each curia containing nominally a hundred gentes, each gens nominally ten families.

Eduard Meyer (Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, 511) decides for the view of L. Lange, that the historic appellation of [Pg 9]Roman citizens, Quirites, derives from curia. The ancients had several theories as to the name. One (Festus) was that the Sabine goddess Curis gave her name to the Sabine town Cures (cp. Athenê, Athenai), whence, according to the legend, had come a band under Titus Tatius, who conquered the Capitoline and Quirinal hills, and had for tribe-god Quirinus. Cp. Ihne, Early Rome, p. 82. Mommsen (Eng. tr. 1862, i, 57, 78, notes) has secured currency for the other tradition, argued for by F.W. Newman (Regal Rome, 1852, pp. 55-56), that the root is the Sabine word curis, quiris, a spear. For this somewhat unplausible theory there is support in the fact that in the cognate Gaelic coir, pronounced quîr, means a spear, and that there is derived thence curiadh, a warrior. Mommsen is followed by Merivale, General History of Rome, 5th ed. p. 13; and Greenidge, Roman Public Life, p. 33. Pott and Becker, who derived Quirites from curia, explain the latter word as co-viria, the band of warriors. And as the view that "Athenê" comes from "Athenai," not vice versâ, has the stronger claims to acceptance, the more acceptable presumption is that "Curis" and Quirinus evolved from the curia. If Quirites meant spearmen, how could Cæsar be understood to cow mutineers by simply addressing them as Quirites [= citizens]? The curia theory is supported by the facts that "the Roman constitutional tradition ... makes the division into curies alone originate with the origin of the city"; that it "appears as an essential part of the Latin municipal system;" and that of all the old divisions it seems to be the only one that "really fulfilled important functions in the primitive constitutional organisation" (Mommsen, B. i, ch. v, pp. 73-75).

These curiæ may be conceived as derived from inner tribal or clan groups formed in the conquering stage, since they are ostensibly united by their collective or curial sacra, the rites for which the grouped gentes—who each have their private sacra—assemble in a special place, under a special priest. They still retain the usage of a common banquet,[17] the earliest form of collective religion known to us.[18] Apart from the members of the curiæ are the conquered plebs,[19] "the many" not enslaved, but payers of tribute; without share in the curiæ or vote in the comitia, or assembly, and without part in the curial or other sacra.[Pg 10]

On this head there has been some gratuitous confusion. Schwegler (i, 621 sq.) gives convincing reasons for the view that in early times the plebs were not members of the curiæ. Cp. Ihne, as cited, pp. 110, 127; and Fustel de Coulanges, p. 278 sq. Meyer (ii, 513, 521) asserts, on the contrary, without any specification of periods, that the curiæ included plebeians as well as patricians. The contradiction seems to arise out of inattention to chronology, or a misreading of Mommsen. That historian rightly sets forth in his history (B. ii, ch. i; Eng. trans. ed. 1862, i, 264-65) that the plebs were not admitted into the comitia curiata before the "Servian" period; adding that these bodies were "at the same time" almost totally deprived of their prerogatives. In his Römisches Forschungen, 1864, i, 144 sq., he shows that they were admitted in the "historic period"—when the comitia in question had ceased to have any legal power, and when, as he elsewhere states, the admission "practically gave little more than the capacity for adrogation" (Römisches Staatsrecht, Bd. iii, Abth. i, p. 93). Here again he states that "to equal rights in the curies, especially to the right of vote in the comitia, the plebeians attained only in the later times" (Id. p. 72). Yet Professor Pelham, in asserting (p. 21; cp. p. 46) that "the primitive Roman people of the thirty curiæ included all the freemen of the community, simple as well as gentle," gives the note: "The view here taken on the vexed question of the purely patrician character of the curiæ is that of Mommsen (Röm. Forschungen, vol. i)."

When this error is corrected, the question ceases to be vexed. Schwegler has disposed of the blunder of Dionysius, who ascribes to the plebeians a share in the curiæ from the beginning; and it is not disputed that they were allowed to enter when the comitia curiata had been practically superseded by the comitia centuriata. It is to be noted that the denial of the inclusion of the plebeians in the original curiæ does not apply to the clientes, whose status, though non-patrician, had been different from that of the true plebs. M. Delaunay, who argues that the plebeians were all along admitted to the curiæ, adds the qualification: "Doubtless not the entire mass of the plebeians, but only those who were ... attached to the gentes" (Robiou et Delaunay, Les Institutions de l'ancienne Rome, 1884, i, 21). But who were these gentilitia if not the clientes? (cp. loc. cit. p. 26).

The populus at this stage, then, is not "the people" in the modern sense; it is the aggregate of the privileged curiæ, and does not include the plebs,[20] which at this stage is not even[Pg 11] part of the army. But a separate quasi-plebeian class, the clientes of the patricians, are in a state of special dependence upon the latter, and in a subordinate fashion share their privileges.

The clientes have very much the air of being primarily the servile or inferior part of the early clan or gens, as distinct from its "gentlemen." Cp. Burton, Hist. of Scotland, viii, 524-25, as to the lower and the higher (duniewassal) orders in the Scottish Highland clans. "In the old life of the pagus and the gens the weaker sought the protection of the stronger by a willing vassalage" (Greenidge, Roman Public Life, p. 6). The clientes are the nominal as distinct from the real "family" of the chief or patronus. M. Delaunay (Les Institutions de l'ancienne Rome, as cited, i, 27) thinks with Mommsen (so also Dupond, pp. 20-21) that they were mainly freedmen, but gives no evidence. As to the meaning and etymology of the word (clientes from cluere or cliere, "to listen" or "obey"), cp. Newman, Regal Rome, p. 49; Ortolan, p. 29; Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht, III, i, 1887, p. 63. The theory that the plebeians were all clientes (Ortolan, pp. 25, 27) seems untenable, though Mommsen (Staatsrecht, III, i, 63) pronounces that "all non-patricians were clients"; and Meyer (ii, 521) appears to acquiesce. Only in theory can the mass of the plebs have been clients at any time. Cp. Fustel de Coulanges, pp. 277-78. The clientes, it seems clear, were as such admitted to the comitia, whereas the plebs were not. See the citations of Fustel de Coulanges from Livy, ii, 56-64; also iii, 14 (Dupond, p. 22, doubts the fact). On any view, the clientela rapidly dwindled, passing into the plebs (cp. Dupond, p. 23; Livy, vi, 18). As to its early status see Fustel de Coulanges, p. 273 sq. Ortolan, after representing all plebeians as clients, speaks (p. 31) of plebeians belonging to no gens (so Aulus Gellius, x, 20).

Wealth is not yet a matter of land-owning—the main element of property is cattle;[21] and the bulk of the land is ager occupa[Pg 12]torius, a great "common" on which all men's cattle feed. The voteless free plebeian has simply his home and homestead, "toft and croft," the latter being two yokes (= five roods) of land, on which he raises the grain and olives and vegetables that feed his household.[22] This goes to his heir. Here arises another problem. E.W. Robertson (as last cited) decides that the "two yokes" can have been only "the homestead, and could not have included the farm or property attached to it." The heredium, he holds, following Pliny (Hist. Nat., xix, 19), and citing Livy (vi, 36), was only in the hortus, the house and garden, "and not in the arable or pasture land." But surely the arable was on a different footing from the pasture land (ager compascus). Corn was not grown in common, unless it were by the gentes (Mommsen, vol. i, pp. 38, 72, 193). The solution seems to be that given by Greenidge, that as "the heredium consisted only of two jugera (Festus, p. 53), an amount obviously insufficient for the maintenance of a family," "there must have been ager privatus as well, owned by some larger unit, and this unit would naturally have been the gens" (Roman Public Life, p. 15).

Among general historians of Rome Mommsen seems to be the first to note this circumstance, and he gives neither details nor evidence. Schwegler, discussing (i, 619) the theory of Puchta that there was no private property in Rome before the "arrival" of the plebs, admits that among the ancient Germans the land was yearly apportioned among the groups as such, but finds that "Roman tradition tells of nothing of the kind." (So Greenidge, p. 15.) In any case, Mommsen, while insisting that "the fields (sic) of the gentes (Geschlechts-Genossen) in the earliest period lay together" (Staatsrecht, III, i, 24; cp. p. 94), admits that such gentile ownership had at an early stage disappeared (früh verschwundenen). There was then no communal tillage in the historic period. Cincinnatus, in the legend, returns to the plough on his own croft. Further, the early complaints cited by Livy as to the "two yokes" being "hardly enough to raise a roof on or to make a grave in" were addressed by the tribunes on behalf of plebeians to patricians who each had above five hundred yokes. The non-client plebeians then had no share in the land of the gentes or clans, being themselves in large part dispossessed by conquest.

Meyer (ii, 519) pronounces that the plot of two yokes was, "of course, no farm, but a kitchen-garden," adding: "It is also the personal land of the small farmers and day-labourers who look after the lands of the large landholders, not the original private holding in contrast to the mark belonging in common to the gens (Geschlecht) or commune (Gauverband)." But on the previous page Meyer says that "the land was settled not by the [Pg 13]gentes, but communally (genossenschaftlich) by unions of equal freemen." If these, then, were the curiæ (the Mark, says Meyer in this connection, did not belong to the gentes), they did not include the plebs; and we come back to the datum that the free plebeian had no means of support save his five roods and what beasts he had on the public pasture. The pasture-land, again, is surmised by Mommsen (ch. xiii, p. 201) to have been small in area relatively to the arable-land communally owned and cultivated by the gentes or clans—a proposition irreconcilable with the evidence as to the quantity of cattle. As to the two yokes of land, Schwegler decides (i, 618) that it was "nowise inadequate" as arable-land, in view of the extraordinary fruitfulness of Italy, and, further, of the circumstance that "the free burghers had also the use of the common land" (for pasture). We are to remember that Italian land could yield two crops in a year. (Niebuhr, Lebensnachrichten, ii, 245, cited by Schwegler.)

On the general problem as to why or how the land once communally tilled ceased to be so, we have still no better light than the old generalisation of Hobbes in reply to his own question: "Upon what impulsives, when all was equally every man's in common, men did rather think it fitting that every man should have his inclosure?" "I found," he puts it, "that from a community of goods there must needs arise contention whose enjoyment should be greatest, and from that contention all kind of calamities must unavoidably ensue." [Epistle Dedicatory to Philosophical Rudiments concerning Government and Civil Society (translation of De Cive), 1651. Cp. Goldwin Smith, The United States, 1893, p. 23.]

The patrician, of course, had a larger homestead, at least "four yokes" in the earlier stages; later seven; later still twenty-five.[23] But the patricians were "a class of occupying landholders rather than proprietary landowners."[24] The "public land" was literally so, save in so far as the patricians would have the ampler (and often untaxed or low-rented) use of it for their much larger herds;[25] or, it may be, for cultivation by their clients or slaves. Heredia, however, were saleable, and herein lay one usual path to the dispossession and enslavement of freemen; while at all stages there went on that pressure of population on means of subsistence which underlies all economic history.

Thus far, however, mere conquest has done less to impoverish and enslave the mass than the economic process is to do later.[Pg 14] The conquerors, probably highland herdsmen to begin with, take estates for themselves, but leave the mass of the conquered in possession or use of land for which they pay tribute, and upon which they can independently live.[26] And thus far they live mainly as small pastoral farmers.[27]

Trade and artisanship were for long but slightly developed, and were mainly in the hands of slaves, dependent "clients," or foreigners; and artisans and aliens were not admitted into the legions.[28] The ruling caste occupied, potentially[29] if not constantly, the city proper, the two or three fortified hills[30] on which at this stage it stands. They were certainly not the founders. The Palatine and the Quirinal hills had been occupied by Latins and Sabines respectively long before the time traditionally assigned to the "founding" of Rome; and there were communities there before them. Modern excavators trace many successive strata of civilisation before that which we call the Roman; and the probability is that the Romans of history, like the kindred Sabines, conquered a previous city "aristocracy" of kindred race, whose place and possessions they took. The previous inhabitants had presumably grown weak for self-defence by reason of some such disintegrating economic evolution as was soon to affect the conquerors themselves. Such a disintegration may well have taken place in the case of Alba Longa, of which the prior supremacy seems entirely credible.[31] But before Alba Longa there had been a civilisation[32] on the Roman hills which perhaps outwent in economic evolution anything attained in the Roman period until the last century of the Republic.

This was already inferred in the eighteenth century by Ferguson (History of the Roman Republic, 1783, ch. i, note; perhaps following Maffei [1727], cited by Schwegler, i, 807), from the nature of the remains of the great cloacæ, which he held could not have been built by any of the early Roman kings. That view is since adopted by various authorities; see Middleton's Remains of Ancient Rome, 1892, i, 104-107; and Robiou et Delaunay, Les Institutions de l'ancienne Rome, 1884, [Pg 15]vol. ii, ch. i, § 1. Cp. Merivale, General History of Rome, pp. 9-11; Burton, Etruscan Bologna, 1876, pp. 170-74. Livy (i, 38) ascribes great cloacæ to the legendary Tarquin the elder. Professor Ettore Pais, on the other hand, confidently decides that the cloaca maxima belongs to the republican period, and dates it about 170 B.C. In any case, we know that an ante-Roman civilisation underlies the historic, and may now decide with Mr. Mahaffy that "as civilisation of some kind was vastly older on the Hill of Troy than any of us had imagined, so the site of every historic city is likely to have been the habitation of countless generations" (Survey of Greek Civ. 1897, p. 28).

§ 2

There had in fact been a "decline and fall of Rome" before the Rome we know began to be. Relatively to their predecessors, the early Romans were even as the northerners who in a later age were to capture historic Rome—vigorous barbarians beginning a new era on a footing of fraternity in conquest; and the condition of their early success as State-builders seems to have been precisely the joining of several tribe-groups in a real federation,[33] securing local peace as between the hill-holders. It has been said that Rome grew up without any known aid from men of political genius such as Solon.[34] But men of genius have counted for something in all stages of upward human evolution. The guiders of early Rome are lost in a cloud of myth and fable; but some man or men of civic faculty there must have been to shape tendency, though doubtless a main factor in the early union was the simple collocation of the hills first fortified. Granting that Servius Tullius is a mythical king, the elaborate constitution assigned to him stood for some planning by able men, and has several main points in common with that given to Athens by Solon.

Whatever were the part played by individual leaders, Roman or Etruscan, there clearly came into play in early Rome as in Athens the important factor of mixture of stocks. Romans and Sabines united to begin with; and the conquered plebs, destined later to enter the constitution and share in all the civic offices, represented some such source of recuperation to the Roman aristocracy as did the Saxons to that of England after the Norman Conquest. If we add the probable factor of an Etruscan element, Rome is to be conceived as standing for a ruling class of more[Pg 16] various faculty than was to be found in any of the rival communities singly. The progressive absorption of the most enterprising of the plebeians was again, probably, an exception to the rule of Italic life as to that of other races, so that in following the class struggles of Rome we are to note not so much the violence of the process as the fact that, so far as it went, it was relatively fortunate. And its success, again, is conceivably due to the fact, among others, that from an early period the region of the seven defensible hills was a refuge or centre for men breaking away from the other Italian communities, where conservatism held firm.

Behind the legend of the flocking of all manner of "broken men" to the standard of Romulus lies the probability that the ancient "asylum" behind the Capitol brought a variety of types to the place; and as in Athens so in Rome, such variety of stock might well raise the level of faculty. But it was a faculty for aggression. Given the initial federation of Romans and Sabines, the one general force of comity or cohesion, apart from the more public cults, is the bond of mere collective antagonism to other communities. The total polity is one of war; and never in the history of civilisation has that ground of comity long averted the economic process by which social inequality deepens and widens. It is thus entirely credible that, through this economic process, which we shall trace later, the early Roman polity came to a pass at which its conquest by Etruscan "kings" was welcomed by the plebs, sinking into poverty or held in outlawry under primitive "capitalistic" exploitation. There is no clear historic record of the process; but all the better evidence goes to prove its occurrence.[35]

The most plausible theory of the constitution ascribed to Servius Tullius is that it was imposed by Etruscan conquerors. The earlier Romans had been quasi-sacerdotally ruled by priest-kings of the primitive type, "kings of the sacrifice," whose religious powers were balanced by the secular interest of the patrician heads of families—themselves priests of their family cults. The "Servian" constitution put down the rex sacrificulus, divided the city into four tribes, and its territory into twenty-six districts, each under a headman or headmen. The city at the same time was in part new walled, and the seven hills united; while the mass of the free population were divided into five classes according to their property, and enrolled for[Pg 17] military purposes in 193 "centuries." In the first and richest class were forty centuries of men above forty-six for the defence of the city, and forty of younger men for service in the field; while the second, third, and fourth classes were divided into twenty centuries each, and the fifth class into thirty. The poorest of all were grouped in a separate century, the "Proletarians," or "breeders," without military duties; and the trumpeters, armourers, and carpenters in four more. New assemblies, the comitia centuriata, were formed, in which all members of the centuries shared, the old comitia curiata being thus virtually superseded. The military organisation was made the basis of a fiscal one, in which the classes were taxed on the capital value of their property. As freedom from direct taxation was the mark of the ancient "free" communities in general, the whole arrangement seems to be one that only a conqueror could have imposed; and the tradition ran that Servius was regarded as the friend of the poor, who made his birthday an annual festival.

But plebeian distress was probably not the sole, perhaps not the primary, factor in the convulsion. All along, the process of inequality had gone on among plebeians and patricians alike, some of the former rising to wealth and some of the latter sinking to relative poverty. Thus arises in effect the struggle of a "middle class" to share the political and social privileges of the "upper"; and there is reason to think that the Etruscan conquest was furthered by rich plebeians as against the patricians. The new constitution was what the Greeks called a "timocracy," or "rule of property"; and though in respect of the comitia centuriata plebeians were admitted to the franchise, it was under such provisions as to voting that the richer classes easily held the balance of power.[36] At the same time the patricians retained the religious power of the old kings, as custodians of the ritual mysteries—a great source of dominion. Thus the crisis was only temporarily relieved, and the struggle was renewed again and again, both under and after the kings. We can broadly divine that the anti-patrician rule of the king, who would rely on the plebs, unified against him the patricians or "free" citizens, who sought to keep down the masses; while, on the other hand, the increasing outlaw plebs was unified by its sheer need.[Pg 18][37]

As to the rule of the kings, whether native or Etruscan, no exact knowledge is now possible. We can but trace some of their functions in certain constitutional forms. Thus the Senate, or Council of the Elders, appears to have been the council of the king, selected by him, but capable of nominating his successor.[38] Whatever were its original function, it became in time the supreme power in the State, growing alike in numbers and in power, overruling or eclipsing the comitia curiata, comitia centuriata, and other bodies in which the general mass, first of patrician citizens and later of enfranchised plebeians, were enrolled.[39] But it is not through the complicated archæology of the Roman constitution, latterly compiled with such an infinity of scholarly labour, that the nature of Roman evolution is really to be known. The technique of the system resulted from an endless process of compromise among social forces; and it is in the actual clash and play of those forces, as revealed in the simple records, that the human significance of it all is to be felt. In this way we substitute for a vague and false conception of unitary growth one of perpetual strife of classes, interests, and individualities.

In the doubtful transition period, as the tradition goes, it is in the time of discontented plebeian subjection, after the expulsion of the king (510 B.C.), that the Etruscan enemy captures the city (497); and the surmise that the battle of Lake Regillus was not really a Roman victory[40] is partly strengthened by the fact that soon after it there occur the division into twenty-five tribes, the tumults of the nexi, and the successful Secession of the Plebs, ending in their incorporation, with two tribunes to represent their interests (494). There is a clear presumption that only from a weakened patriciate, forced to seek union, could the plebs have won their tribunate and enfranchisement. On the other hand, it is after victories over the Volscians that the consul Spurius Cassius, who had proposed to divide among landless men the land conquered from the Hernicans, is said to have been executed (485) by the triumphant aristocracy; and it is in another period of security, when the Veientines and Sabines are depressed (473), that the tribune Cneius Genucius is murdered for having ventured to bring a consular to trial. Always we are in presence of a brutal caste, in the main utterly selfish, some of whose members are at all times as prone to the use of the dagger[Pg 19] as an Italian camorra of our own day. Yet it is by the forcing of concessions on this caste that the Roman polity is kept vigorous and adaptable in comparison with those of the surrounding States which Rome subordinated or overran.

While Rome thrives, a new project for popular law reform is defeated (462); and it is after Cincinnatus, according to the legend, barely saves the State (458) that the tribunes are raised from five to ten, and the land is divided among the poor (456); though at the same time decemvirs are appointed and the conservative Twelve (at first Ten) Tables are drawn up (451-450). Thus partially strengthened, the plebs are able soon to force the abdication of the decemvirate (449) by the old menace of their withdrawal; and for a time the commonalty sufficiently holds its own, getting (445) the right of marriage with patricians, and (444) the institution of military tribunes with consular power;[41] though fresh distribution of land is prevented, and the patricians learn to divide the tribunes against each other. Thus class dissension goes on till the Gauls capture the city (390), multitudes of the Romans flying to Veii. Then it is that the plebeian party, after the Gauls have gone, are willing to transfer the seat of government to Veii; and the threat would doubtless win them some concessions in the rebuilding of Rome. But population always blindly increases; and the cancer of poverty spreads, despite the chronic planting of colonies in subject territory. Manlius is executed for trying to relieve debtors; but some land is reluctantly distributed. New wars create new popular distress, and new colonies fail to relieve it. At length the Licinian laws, relieving debtors and limiting estates, are proposed (376), and after nine years of agitation are passed at the crisis (367) at which the Gauls (who themselves had in the meantime undergone dissensions) again attack Rome; while the powers of the consuls (limited in 443 by the appointment of two Censors) are now further limited by the creation of a Prætor (patrician) and of Curule ædiles, alternately taken from the two strata.

This makes a temporary palliation, and in time the now privileged plebeians[42] lean to the patrician side and status; while fresh wars with Hernicans, Gauls, Etruscans, and Samnites check class strife, and the patricians recover preponderance, passing a law (358)[Pg 20] to check "new men." This is immediately followed by counter measures, limiting interest to ten per cent. and putting a five per cent. tax on manumissions; but the eternal distress of debtors is renewed, and a vain attempt is made to meet it (352) by State loans, and again by reducing interest to five per cent. (347). Increase of plebeian poverty again causes reactions, and after a mutiny futile laws are passed prohibiting interest altogether (342); the dictator Publilius carries popular political laws (339) checking the power of the Senate, and debtors are once more protected (326). After many wars, checking all domestic progress, popular distress causes a last Secession of the Plebs (287) and new political concessions to them; but still wars multiply, till all Italy is Romanised (266). The now mixed warlike aristocracy of birth, wealth, and office monopolises power in the Senate; and the residual plebs gradually ceases to be a distinct moral force, its last great struggle being made under the Gracchi, to whom it gives no valid support.

If we consider this evolution purely as a play of domestic political forces, we recognise it from first to last as a simple conflict of class needs and interests, partially modified at times by movements of true public spirit on the part of such men as the patricians who supported the Licinian laws, and such men as the Gracchi. The State-organism is the result of the struggles and pressures of its elements. What happened in the chronic readjustments was never a democratisation of the State, but at most an institutional protection of the poorer plebeians, and an admission of the richer to something like equal status with the optimates. Never was the "people" really united by any common home interest beyond the need of extorting some privileges. Only to that extent were the richer plebeians at one with the poorer; and there can be little doubt that as soon as the former secured the privileges they craved they tended to abuse them as the patricians had done. There was no personnel adequate to the effective working of the Licinian laws in face of a perpetual process of conquest which infallibly evoked always the instinct of acquisition, and never the science which might have controlled it. The early division of the State-territory into twenty-five tribes (495), of whom twenty-one were rural, determined the limitation of the political problem to the simple sharing of land; and every effort of public-spirited men to arrest the aggregation of lands in the hands of a few meant a convulsive explosion of resistance by the wealthy.

From the Polonian prattle of Cicero to his son we can gather how all schemes of reconstruction were viewed by the ruling class,[Pg 21] whether in retrospect or prospect. The slaying of Tiberius Gracchus by Scipio Nasica is a standing theme of praise;[43] the lesson of the course of things social towards a steep sunderance of "haves" and "have-nots" is angrily evaded. Cicero knew as well as any the need for social reconstruction in Rome;[44] and he repeatedly records the sagacity of Lucius Marcus Philippus, who had been tribune and consul in Cicero's boyhood. As consul, Philippus had resisted the attempts of M. Livius Drusus to reform the Senate and provide for the poorer citizens and the Italians; but inasmuch as he had during his tribuneship avowed the fact that there were not left two thousand men in the State who owned property, Cicero denounces the avowal as pernicious.[45] The ideal aristocratic course was to resist all political change and slay those who attempted it—Drusus as the Gracchi before him. It was as a consummation of that policy that there exploded the so-called Marsian or Social War, in which Rome and the Italian States around her grappled and tore for years together like their ancestors of the tribal period; whereafter Marians and Sullans in turn rent Rome, till Sulla's iron dictatorship, restoring class supremacy, marked the beginning of the end of self-governing institutions, and prepared for the day of autocracy, which was not to come without another agony of long-protracted civil war. It is the supreme proof of the deadliness of the path of conquest that for most Romans the end of Roman "freedom" was a relief.

§ 3

The effect of continuous foreign war in frustrating democracy is here plain. On the one hand, the peasant-farmers are reduced to debt and slavery by their inability to farm their lands in war-time, while the patrician's lands are worked by his slaves. On the other hand, their distress is met by a share in the lands conquered; and after the soldiers are allowed pay (406 B.C.) they are more and more ready to join in conquest. Not only is popular discontent put off by the prospect of foreign plunder, but the perpetual state of aggressive war, while tending first to pauperise most of the small cultivators who make the army, breeds a new public spirit on a low plane, a sinister fraternity of conquest. Ethics must needs worsen throughout the State when the primitive instinct of strife developed into a policy of plunder; and worsened ethics means a positive weakening of a society's total strength. There is no lesson that men are slower to learn—and this naturally, because they see the success of unjust[Pg 22] conquest—yet there is no truth easier to prove from history. Early Rome was strong as against strong enemies, because not only were its people hardily bred, but the majority were on the whole satisfied that they had just laws: the reciprocal sense of recognised rights sustained public spirit at the possible maximum. But the rights are thoroughly selfish at best; and it is the diversion of their selfishness to the task of continuous conquest that "saves" the community from early dissolution, preserving it for the life of dominion, which in turn destroys the old forces of cohesion, and leaves a community fit only for subjection to a military autocracy. The society of mutual selfish rights has a measure of cohesion of its own, up to the point of conflict between the "haves" and the "have-nots." An outwardly similar cohesion can, indeed, be sustained for a time by mere concurrence in piracy; but it lies in the very nature of society that union so engineered, cohesion so secured, is fleeting. Men whose main discipline is the practice of tyranny over aliens become simply incapable of strict reciprocity towards kin, and there must ensue either internecine strife or the degradation of the weaker elements, or a sequence of these results.

This is what happened in Rome. One of the first political signs of the contagion of the life of rapine in the later Republic is the growth of public bribery as a means to further wealth. Administrative posts being the chief of these means, candidates for them set about buying votes in the modern manner.[46] As early as 432 B.C. the law against canvassing by candidates[47] (lex de ambitu) suggests the recognition of electoral corruption; and later there followed a whole series of futile vetoes—futile because the social conditions grew always morally worse. The lex Æmilia Bæbia (182 B.C.) forbade all money gifts by candidates; and twenty-three years later another law decreed that offenders should be exiled. This also failing, there followed the leges tabellariæ, establishing the ballot (139-137). Still the disease persisted, because there was no stop now possible to the career of conquest, which had undermined the very instincts whereon law depends; and on the treacherous struggle for place and pelf by way of bribery there supervened the direct grapple over the ill-gotten gains. The Roman ruling class had evolved into a horde of filibustering fortune-hunters, as did the Greeks under and after Alexander; and the political sequels of despotism and civil war were substantially the same.

The process was gradual, and the phenomena are at times apt to[Pg 23] delude us. When a political machinery was set up that conduced to systematic and extending warfare in which the commonwealth was often at stake, the community had a new albeit fatal bond of cohesion, and the destructive or repulsive energies for generations found a wide field outside of the State. It is when the aristocratic Republic, succeeding finally in the long struggle with Carthage for the wealth of Sicily and Spain and the control of the Mediterranean, has further overrun Greece and pretty well exhausted the immediate fields of conquest, that the forces of repulsion again begin to work destructively within the body politic itself, and men and classes become the fools of their animosities. The wars of faction, the popular propaganda of the Gracchi, the murderous strifes of Marius and Sulla, the rivalries of Pompey and Crassus, Conservatives and Democrats, Cæsar and Pompey, the pandemonium on Cæsar's death, all in turn represent the renewed operation within the State of the crude energies of cohesion and strife which had been so long employed in foreign war. And the strife is progressively worse, because the materials are more complex and more corrupt. The aristocracy are more arrogant and hardened, the free farmer class has in large part disappeared, and the populace are more debauched.[48]

The perpetual wars had multiplied slaves; and the slaves added a new and desperate element to the social problem. It was the proof of the fatal lack in Rome of vital ethical feeling—or, let us say, of social science—that this deadly iniquity was never effectually recoiled from, or even impugned as it had been, before Aristotle, among the more highly evolved of the Greeks.[49] As wealth and luxury, pride and power accumulated, the usage of slave labour spread ever further and ate ever deeper into the population, brutalising alike the enslaved and the free.

It was doubtless a partial recognition of this that motived, in Cicero's day, the large number of affranchisements of slaves (Wallon, Hist. de l'Esclavage, ii, 409). But fresh enslavements went on; the amelioration consisted in the brevity of the period of enslavement in cases of good conduct. And the evil was in [Pg 24]the main a product of conquest. It is fairly established by Dureau de la Malle (Écon. polit. des Romains, 1840, vol. i, liv. ii, ch. 2) that down to the second Punic War Roman slaves were few. They would be for the most part nexi, victims of debt. As conquests multiplied prisoners, the class increased rapidly. Broadly speaking, the house servants were all slaves, as were the bulk of the shepherds in the great latifundia, the crews of the galleys, and many of the artisans. The total number has doubtless been greatly exaggerated, both in ancient and modern times, as has been the population of the imperial city. Athenæus is responsible for many wild estimates. (Cp. Letronne, as cited by Dureau, liv. ii, ch. 4.) Dureau arrives by careful calculation at an estimate of an Italian population of some five millions about the year 529 A.U.C., of whom some two and three quarter millions were free and some two and a quarter millions were slaves or metæci, aliens without political rights (i, 296). The population of Rome as late as Aurelian he puts at between 500,000 and 600,000 (i, 368). (See Prof. Bury's note in his ed. of Gibbon, iii, 308, for different views. Gibbon, Bunsen, and Hodgkin put the figure at about a million.) The exact proportion of slaves to free is not of the essence of the problem. A society with nine slaves for every eleven free was sufficiently committed to degeneration.

But the fatality of war was as irresistible as the fatality of plebeian degradation; and the collapse of the slave war in Sicily (132), and the political movement of the Gracchi, alongside of the new warlike triumphs in Spain and Southern Gaul (121—the first great successes since the fall of Carthage), illustrate the general principle that a ruling class or house may always reckon on checking domestic criticism and popular self-assertion by turning the animal energies of the people to animal strife with another nation, in which case union correlates with strife. Wars imply comradeship and the putting aside of domestic strife for the time being; and a war with Illyria was made the pretext for suspending the operation of the new land law passed by the elder Gracchus when the younger later sought to carry it out. The triumphs of Marius, again, over Jugurtha and the Cimbri availed nothing to unify the parties in the State, or to secure his own. In democratising the army by drawing on a demoralised demos, he did but make it a more facile tool for the general, a thing more detached from the body politic.[50] The tendency of all classes in Rome to unite against the claims of the outside Italians was from the first a stumbling-block[Pg 25] to the democrats within Rome; and the final identification of the popular interest, in the period of Marius and Sulla, with an anti-Roman policy among the Marians, gave to Sulla, strong in the prestige of recent conquest, the position of advantage, apart from his own strength. Further, as Montesquieu very justly notes, civil wars turn an entire nation into soldiers, and give it a formidable advantage over its enemies when it regains unity.[51] But this again is only for a time; there is no enduring society where there is no general sense of reciprocal justice among free men; and systematic militarism and plunder are the negation of moral reciprocity.

One partial exception, it is true, must be made. In the early days of the Republic the poor soldier stood to lose his farm by his patriotism. Soon the fighters had to be paid; and from the day of Marius onwards Roman commanders perforce provided for their veterans—so often their accomplices in the violation of their country's laws and liberties. The provision was made on the one hand by donations from the loot, on the other by grants of land taken from others, it might be in Italy itself. Sulla so rewarded his sworders; the triumvirs took the land of eighteen Italian towns to divide among their legionaries.[52] To the end the emperors had constantly to provide for their time-expired men by confiscations. Thus did empire pay for its instrument.

§ 4

The animal energies themselves, in time, are affected by domestic conditions; and when Cæsar comes on the scene Rome is visibly far on the way to a state of things such as had long before appeared in older civilisations[53]—a state of things commonly but rather loosely called degenerate, in which the animal energies are grown less robust, and the life therefore in some respects more civilised. Such a course had been run in Italy long before the rise of Rome, notably in Etruria, where, after a conquest of aborigines by a small body of invaders,[54] who were in touch with early Greek culture, the civilisation remains at that archaic stage while Greek civilisation continues to progress.[55] There, with a small aristocracy lording it over a people of serfs,[56] progress of all kinds was arrested, and even the religion of the conquerors assimilated to that of the aborigines.[Pg 26][57] In the Rome of Cæsar we see, after much fluctuation, with a more complex and less enfeebled structure of population, the beginnings of the same fixation of classes; while, at the same time, there has been such psychological variation as can begin to give new and ostensibly higher channels to the immanent forces of union and strife. This is the social condition that, given the required military evolution, above all lends itself to imperialism or absolute monarchy; which system in turn best maintains itself by a policy of conquest, so employing the animal energies and keeping up the cohesive force of militarist pride throughout all classes. Even now, of course, in a semi-enslaved populace, as in a slave population pure and simple,[58] there were possibilities of insurrection; and it was at length empirically politic for the emperors to give the populace its daily bread and its daily games, as well as to keep it charmed with the spectacle of conquest. The expedient of doles of food did not at once condemn itself by dangerously multiplying mouths, because, although it was only in the upper classes that men commonly refused to marry and have legitimate children, population was now restrained by the preventive checks of vice, city life, and wholesale abortion,[59] which are so much more effective—alike against child and mother[60]—than the random resort to infanticide, though that too had greatly increased.[61]

On the other hand, as the field of practicable conquest again approaches exhaustion and no sufficiently strong rival arises to conquer the conquerors, nothing can hinder that people of all classes, having no ideals tending to social and intellectual advance, and no sufficient channel for the instinct of union in the politics of the autocracy, shall find some channels of a new kind.[62] These are opened in due course, and take the shape especially of religious combinations or churches. Such modes had appeared even in the earlier stages of civic disintegration, when the semi-private or[Pg 27] sectarian cults had begun to compete successfully with the public or civic. They did so by appealing more freshly and directly to the growths of emotional feeling (the outcome in part of physiological modification)[63] which no longer found outlet in primary forms, such as warfare and primitive revelry. After having themselves consented in times of panic to the introduction of several cults in the name of the public interest, the ruling classes, instinctively conservative by the law of their existence, take fright at the startling popularity of the unofficial Bacchic mysteries, and decide to stamp out the movement.[64] But the attempt is futile, the causal conditions remaining; and soon Judaism, Osirianism, Mithraism, the worships of Attis, Adonis, Bacchus, Isis, Serapis, all more or less bound up with divination and sorcery, make way in the disintegrating body politic.[65] The wheel of social evolution had, so to speak, "gone full circle" since the first Roman curia, the basis of the State, subsisted as groups with their special sacra, finding in these their reason for cohering. Decadent Rome, all other principles of subordinate cohesion having been worked out, resolves itself once more into groups similarly motived. But the principle is newly conditioned, and the sacra now begin the struggle for existence among themselves. The rise of Christianity is simply the success of a system which, on a good economic foundation, copied from that of the Jewish synagogues, assimilates the main attractions of similar worships, while availing itself of exoteric and democratic as well as esoteric methods. It thus necessarily gains ground among the multitude, rich as well as poor;[66] and its ultimate acceptance by the autocrat was due to the very exclusiveness which at first made it intolerable. Once diffused widely enough to set up the largest religious organisation in the Empire, it became the best possible instrument of centralisation and control, and as such it was accepted and employed.[67]

And now again we see how inevitably the force of attraction correlates with the force of repulsion. The new channels of the spirit of union, being dug not by reason but by ignorance, become[Pg 28] new channels for the reverse flow of the spirit of strife; and as sectarian zeal spreads, in the absence of openings, good or bad, for public spirit, there arise new forms of domestic hate and struggle. Crude religious fervours, excluding, or arising in lack of, the play of the saner and higher forms of thought and feeling, beget crude antipathies;[68] and Christianity leads back to bloody strifes and seditions such as had not been seen since the fall of the Republic. There is not intellectuality enough to raise men above this new superinduced barbarism of ignorant instinct; half of the old Christendom, disintegrated like the old politics, is overrun by a more robust barbarism that adopts a simpler creed; and the new barbaric Christendom exhibits in its turn all the modes of operation of the biological forces that had been seen in the old.

§ 5

Thus far we have considered Roman evolution in terms of a moral estimate of the reactions of classes. But lest we lose sight of the principle of total causation, it is fitting to restate the process in terms of that conception, thus explaining it non-morally. We may view Rome, to begin with, as a case of the unique aggrandisement of a State in virtue of fit conditions and institutions. Thus (1) the comparatively uncommercial situation of the early Latins, leaving them, beyond cattle-breeding and agriculture, no occupation save war for surplus energy, and no readier way of acquiring wealth;[69] (2) the physical collocation of a group of seven defensive hills, so close that they must be held by a federated group;[70] (3) the ethnic collocation of a set of tribe groups of nearly equal vigour and ardour, strengthening each other's sinews by constant struggling; (4) the creation (not prescient, but purely as a provision against kingship) of the peculiar institution of the annual consulate,[71] securing a perpetuity of motive to conquest and a continuous flow of administrative energy;[72] (5) the peculiar need, imposed by this very habit of[Pg 29] all-round warfare, for accommodation between the ruling and ruled classes, and for the safeguarding of the interests of the latter by laws and franchises; (6) the central position of Rome in Italy, enabling her to subdue it piecemeal; and finally (7) the development by all these means of a specialist aristocracy, habitually trained to administration[73]—all these genetic conditions combined to build up the most remarkable military empire the world has ever seen. They obtrude, it is clear, half of the explanation of the fact that the Romans rose to empire where the much more early civilised Greek cities of Italy did not.

Of the latter fact we still receive the old explanation that it came of "the habit, which had ever been the curse of Hellenism, of jealous separation and frequent war between town and town, as well as internal feuds in the several cities themselves."[74] But this is clearly no vera causa, as these symptoms are duplicated in the history of Rome itself. The determining forces must, then, be looked for in the special conditions. The Greeks, indeed, brought with them the tradition of the separate City-State; but just as the cities remained independent in Greece by reason of natural conditions,[75] so the Greek cities of Italy remained isolated and stationary at a certain strength, because their basis and way of life were commercial, so that while they restricted each other's growth or dominance they were in times of peace mutually nutritive. They wanted customers, not plunder. For the Romans plunder was the first social need after agriculture, and as they began they continued. When Jugurtha learned that anything could be had of the Romans for gold, he had but read an open secret.

Of course, the functions that were originally determined by external conditions came in time to be initial causes—the teeth and claws, so to speak, fixing the way of life for the body politic. The upper-class Romans became, as it were, the experts, the specialists of war and empire and administration. Until they became wholly demoralised by habitual plunder, they showed, despite their intense[Pg 30] primeval superstition of citizenship,[76] a degree of sagacity in the conciliation of their defeated rivals which was a main cause of their being able to hold out against Hannibal, and which contrasts markedly with the oppressive and self-defeating policy of imperial Carthage, Athens, and Sparta. Their tradition in part was still that of conquering herdsmen, not wholly turned into mere exploiters of humanity. Pitted against any monarch, they were finally invincible, because a still-growing class supplied their administrators, as the swarming provinces supplied their soldiers, and because for all alike war meant plunder and new lands, as well as glory. Pitted against a republic like Carthage, even when its armies were led by a man of genius, they were still insuppressible, inasmuch as Carthage was a community of traders employing mercenaries, where Rome was a community in arms, producing generals as Carthage produced merchants. Mithridates failed in turn, as Hannibal failed. The genius of one commander, exploiting passive material, could not avail against the accumulated faculty for organisation in the still self-renewing Roman patriciate.[77]

Carthage had, in fact, preceded Rome on the line of the evolution of class egoism. Herself an expression of the pressure of the social problem in the older Semitic world, she began as a colony, staved off domestic strife by colonies, by empire, and by doles,[78] and was already near the economic stage reached only centuries later by the Roman Empire. Save for Rome, her polity might have endured on the imperialist basis for centuries; but, as it was, it was socially exhausted relatively to the task and the danger, depending as it did on hired foreign troops and coerced allies. It is idle to speak, as men still do, of Hannibal's stay in Capua as a fatal mistake.[79] Had Hannibal taken Rome, the ultimate triumph of the Romans would have been just as certain. Their State was bound to outlast the other, so long as it maintained to any extent its old basis of a fecund rural population of free cultivators, supplying a zealous soldiery, headed by a specialised class equally dependent on conquest for all advancement. For the trading Carthaginians, war was, beyond a certain point, a mere act of self-defence; they could not have held and administered Italy had they taken it. The supreme general could last only one lifetime; the nation of warriors[Pg 31] still yielded a succession of captains, always learning something more of war, and raising the standard of capacity as the progress of machinery widens the scope of all engineers.

The author of a recent and meritorious History of Rome, Mr. Shuckburgh, is satisfied to quote (p. 231) from Polybius, as explaining the fall of Carthage, the generalisation that "Italians as a nation are by nature superior to Phœnicians and Libyans, both in strength of body and courage of soul"; and to add: "That is the root of the matter, from which all else is a natural growth." This only leaves us asking: "What was the natural root of the alleged physiological superiority?" There must have been reasons. If they were "racial" or climatic, whence the later implied degeneration of the Romans in body or soul, or both? We are driven to the explanation lying in polity and institutions, which it should have been Mr. Shuckburgh's special aim to give, undertaking as he does to deal with "the state of the countries conquered by the Romans." And such explanations are actually offered by Polybius (vi, 53).

§ 6

And yet the deterioration of the Roman State is visibly as sure a sequence as its progress. Nothing that men might then have proposed could save it. In Cicero's day the Senate had become a den of thieves. The spectacle of the wealth of Lucullus, taken in Napoleonic fashion from the opulent East, set governor after governor elsewhere upon a course of ruthless extortion which depraved Rome as infallibly as it devastated the subject States.

Roman exploitation of conquest began in the relatively moderate fashion of self-supporting victors willing to live and let live. Sicily was at first (210) taxed by Marcellus in a fashion of which Livy makes boast;[80] and after the suppression of the slaves' revolt in 131 B.C., the system was further reformed. Seventeen towns, retaining their lands, paid a fixed tax to the Republic; eight were immune, save for an annual contribution of 800,000 modius of wheat for free doles in Rome; and the rest of the island paid a tenth of all produce, as under Hiero.[81] Later, the realms of the kings of Macedonia, Pergamos, and Bithynia, and the lands of Cyrene and Cyprus, were made the public patrimony of the conquering State. Sardinia, Spain, North Africa, and Asia were in general taxed a tenth of their produce of all kinds. As the exploitation went on, individual governors added to all this regular taxation a vast irregular plunder[Pg 32] on their own account; and nearly every attempt to impeach them was foiled by their accomplices in the Senate.[82] Verres in Sicily, Fonteius in Southern Gaul, Piso in Macedonia, Appius in Cilicia, Flaccus in Asia Minor, wrung infinite gold and loot immeasurable from the victim races by every device of rapacious brigandage, trampling on every semblance of justice, and then devised the ironic infamy of despatching corrupted or terrorised deputations of citizens to Rome to testify to the beneficence of their rule.[83]

It was a riot of robbery in which no public virtue could live. To moralise on the scarcity of Catos is an ill way of spending time if it be not recognised that Catos had latterly become as impossible as eaters of acorns in the upper grades of the ever-plundering State. Cato himself is a product of the last vestiges of the stage before universal conquest; and he begins to show in his own later years all the symptoms of the period of lawless plutocracy. To yearn for a series of such figures is to ask that men shall be capable of holding doggedly by an ethic of honest barbarism while living the lives of pirates and slavers, according no moral sympathy to the larger world of aliens and slaves, yet cherishing a high public spirit for the small world of the patrician State. The man himself was a mere moral anomaly; and in Cato the Younger, dreaming to the last of a loyal republican life, but always ready at his fellow-citizens' behest to go and beat down the rights or liberties of any other State,[84] we have the paternal bias reproduced in an incurable duality. He sought for honour among thieves, himself being one. Concerning the Catonic attitude towards the "degeneration" of Roman patrician life in the age of conquest, it has been truly said that "the policy of shameless selfishness which was pursued by the Roman Senate during this period, and reached its climax in their abominable conduct towards the unhappy, prostrate city of Carthage—the frivolous wars, tending to nothing but aggrandisement and enrichment, waged by Rome continuously after the second Punic War—destroyed the old Roman character[85] far more effectually than Grecian art and philosophy could ever have done. Henceforth there was a fearful increase in internal corruption, immorality,[Pg 33] bribery, an insatiable eagerness for riches, disregarding everything else and impudently setting aside laws, orders of the Senate, and legal proceedings, making war unauthorised, celebrating triumphs without permission, plundering the provinces, robbing the allies."[86] And the ideal of conquest inspired it all.

We have only to ask ourselves, What was the administrative class to do? in order to see the fatality of its course. The State must needs go on seeking conquest, by reason alike of the lower-class and the upper-class problem. The administrators must administer, or rust. The moneyed men must have fresh plunder, fresh sources of profit. The proletaries must be either fed or set fighting, else they would clamour and revolt. And as the frontiers of resistance receded, and new war was more and more a matter of far-reaching campaigns, the large administering class at home, men of action devoid of progressive culture, ran to brutal vice and frantic sedition as inevitably as returned sailors to debauch; while the distant leader, passing years of camp life at the head of professional troops, became more and more surely a power extraneous to the Republic. When a State comes to depend for its coherence on a standing army, the head of the army inevitably becomes the head of the State. The Republic passed, as a matter of course, into the Empire, with its army of mercenaries, the senatorial class having outlived the main conditions of its health and energetic stability; the autocracy at once began to delete the remaining brains by banishing or slaying all who openly criticised it;[87] and the Empire, even while maintaining its power by the spell of its great traditional organisation, ran through stage after stage of civic degeneration under good and bad emperors alike, simply because it had and could have no intellectual life commensurate with its physical scope. Its function involved moral atrophy. It needs the strenuous empiricism of a Mommsen to find ground for comfort in the apparition of a Cæsar in a State that must needs worsen under Cæsars even more profoundly than it did before its malady gave Cæsar his opportunity.

Not that the Empire could of itself have died as an organism. There are no such deaths in politics; and the frequent use of the phrase testifies to a hallucination that must greatly hamper political science. The ancient generalisation[88] to the youth, maturity, and decrepitude and death of States is true only in respect of their[Pg 34] variations of relative military and economic strength, which follow no general rule.

The comparison of the life of political bodies to that of individuals was long ago rightly rejected as vicious by Volney (Leçons d'Histoire, 1794, 6ième Séance), who insisted that political destruction occurred only through vices of polity, inasmuch as all polities have been framed with one of the three intentions of increasing, maintaining, or overthrowing. The explanation is obscure, but the negation of the old formula is just. The issue was taken up and pronounced upon to the same effect in the closing chapter of C.A. Walckenaer's Essai sur l'histoire de l'espèce humaine, 1798. (Professor Flint, in his History of the Philosophy of History, cites Walckenaer, but does not mention Volney's Leçons.) Le Play, in modern times, has put the truth clearly and strongly: "At no epoch of its history is a people fatally doomed either to progress or decline. It does not necessarily pass, like an individual, from youth to old age" (cited by H. Higgs in American Quarterly Journal of Economics, July, 1890, p. 428). It is to be regretted that Dr. Draper should have adhered to the fallacy of the necessary decay and death of nations in his suggestive work on the Intellectual Development of Europe (ed. 1875, i, 13-20; ii, 393-98). He was doubtless influenced by the American tendency to regard Europe and Asia as groups of "old countries." The word "decay" may of course be used with the implication of mere "sickness," as by Lord Mahon in the opening sentence of his Life of Belisarius; but even in that use it gives a lead to fallacy.

Had there been no swarming and aggressive barbarians, standing to later Rome as Rome had done to Carthage—collectively exigent of moral equality as Romans had once been, and therefore conjunctly mighty as against the morally etiolated Italians—the Western Roman Empire would have gone on just as the Eastern[89] so long did, just as China has so long done—would have subsisted with little or no progress, most factors of progress being eliminated from its sphere. It ought now to be unnecessary to point out that Christianity was no such factor, but rather the reverse, as the history of Byzantium so thoroughly proves. No Christian writer of antiquity, save perhaps Augustine[90] in a moment of moral aspiration, shows any perception of the political causation of the[Pg 35] decay and fall of the Empire.[91] The forces of intellectual progress that did arise and collapse in the decline and the Dark Ages were extra-Christian heretical forces—Sabellian, Arian, Pelagian, anti-ritualistic, anti-monastic, Iconoclastic. These once deleted, Christianity was no more a progressive force among the new peoples than it was among the old; and the later European progress demonstrably came from wholly different causes—new empire, forcing partial peace; Saracen contact, bringing physics, chemistry, and mathematics; new discovery, making new commerce; recovery of pagan lore, making new speculation; printing, making books abundant; gunpowder, making arms a specialty; and the fresh competition and disruption of States, setting up fruitful differences, albeit also preparing new wars. To try to trace these causes in detail would be to attempt a complete sociological sketch of European history, a task far beyond the scope of the present work; though we shall later make certain special surveys that may suffice to illustrate the general law. In the meantime, the foregoing and other bird's-eye views of some ancient developments may illustrate those of modern times.


[12] Cp. A. Schwegler, Römische Geschichte, 1853, i, 610-615; Pelham, Outlines of Roman History, 1893, p. 25. When Professor Ferrero (Greatness and Decline of Rome, Eng. trans. 1907, i, 5) pronounces that "The Romans were a primitive people without the defects peculiar to a primitive people," he sets up a needless mystification. They had the defects of their own culture stage, which was far beyond that of "primitives" in the general sense of the term. They were "semi-civilised barbarians," with a long past of institutional life.

[13] It might be an interesting inquiry whether a grouping by threes could have arisen from a primary union of two exogamous clans.

[14] Schwegler, i, 616. The origin of tribus from three is not an accident special to the Romans. Among the Spartans and Dorians likewise there were three stocks (cp. K.O. Müller, The Dorians, Eng. tr. 1830, i, 35-37; Fustel de Coulanges, La Cité antique, 8e édit. p. 135, note 2); and the great number of Greek epithets in which "three" or "thrice" enters is a proof of the special importance anciently attached to the number. Cp. K.D. Hüllmann, Ursprung der römischen Verfassung durch Vergleichungen erläutert, 1835, p. 24.

[15] Greenidge, Roman Public Life, 1901, p. 1.

[16] Pelham, p. 20; Fustel de Coulanges, p. 132, sq.; Schwegler, i, 610, 615; Ihne, Early Rome, 1897, p. 108; Ortolan, Hist. de la Législation romaine, ed. Labbé, 1880, pp. 35, 36.

[17] Schwegler, i, 611, following Dionysius. Cp. Meyer, ii, 514.

[18] Cp. Fustel de Coulanges, pp. 13, 24, 132, 179; Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, 1889, pp. 245, 247, 251, etc.; Jevons, Introd. to the History of Religion, ch. xii.

[19] Cp. Schwegler, i, 628; Ihne, Early Rome, p. 107; Dupond, Magistratures romaines sous la République, 1877, p. 19. The source of the plebs is one of the vexed points of Roman origins; and the view that they were primarily a conquered population is not yet generally accepted. See Shuckburgh, History of Rome, 1894, p. 44. The true solution seems to be that the plebs were always being added to in various ways—by aliens, by "broken men," by discarded clients, and by fugitives. Cp. Fustel de Coulanges, p. 279.

[20] Schwegler, i, 621-28, 636-38; Fustel de Coulanges, p. 277. Note the expression populo plebique in Livy, xxix, 27; Cicero, Pro Murena, i; Macrobius, Saturnalia, i, 17. Ortolan (endorsed by Labbé) argues (work cited, p. 31) that populus plebsque no more implies separation than senatus populusque. But this argument destroys itself. The Senate as such was distinct from the populus, as having auctoritas, while the populus had only potestas. The phrase then was not a pleonasm. By this very analogy populus plebsque implies a vital legal distinction. Niebuhr, who first made the facts clear (cp. his Lectures, Eng. trans. ed. 1870, p. 107), followed Vico, who was led to the true view by knowledge of the separateness of the popolo from the commune in the Italian republics.

[21] Schwegler, i, 619; E.W. Robertson, as cited, p. xxvii. Yet the constant tradition is that not only did the mass of the people live mainly on farinaceous food and vegetables, but the upper classes also in the early period ate meat only on festival days. Cp. Guhl and Koner, The Life of the Greeks and Romans, Eng. trans., pp. 501-2; Pliny, H.N., xviii, 3, 19; Ramsay, Roman Antiquities, 1851, p. 437. The cattle then were presumably sold to the people of the Etruscan and Campanian cities. Professor Ferrero leaves this problem in a state of mystery. The early Romans, he writes, had "few head of cattle" (i, 2); but land capture, he admits, meant increase (p. 5); and at the time of the Roman Protectorate over all Italy (266 B.C.) he recognises "vast wandering herds of oxen and sheep, without stable or pen" (p. 9), conducted by slave shepherds. On such lands there must have been a considerable amount of cattle-breeding at a much earlier period. On the other hand, noting that the Romans early imported terracottas and metals from Etruria, Phœnicia, and Carthage, "besides ivory-work and ornaments, perfumes for funerals, purple for the ceremonial robes of the magistrates, and a few slaves" (p. 3), Professor Ferrero lightly affirms that "it was not difficult to pay for these in exports: timber for shipbuilding, and salt, practically made up the list."

[22] Cp. Schwegler, i, 451, 617-19; ii, 108; E.W. Robertson, Historical Essays in connection with the Land, the Church, etc., 1872, pp. xxvi-vii, 244.

[23] E.W. Robertson, as cited, pp. 243-44; Schwegler, i, 617-19.

[24] E.W. Robertson, p. xxv.

[25] Schwegler, i, 619, and refs.; Robertson, pp. 244-45; Ferrero, i, 9; Greenidge, Rom. Pub. Life, p. 35.

[26] Cp. E.W. Robertson, as cited, p. xxv.

[27] Schwegler, i, 629; Robertson, p. xxvii.

[28] Schwegler, i, 620 and refs.

[29] Mommsen (ch. xiii. i, 200) puts this point in some confusion, making the patricians live mostly in the country. Meyer (ii, 521) seems to put a quite contrary view. Greenidge (History of Rome, 1904, p. 11) agrees with Mommsen, putting town houses as a development of the second century B.C.

[30] According to Niebuhr (Lectures, xv; Eng. trans. ed. 1870, p. 81) and Mommsen (ch. iv), the Palatine and the Quirinal. (But cp. Greenidge, p. 2.) The Palatine was probably the first occupied by Romans. Schwegler, i, 442. Cp. Merivale, General History of Rome, 5th ed. p. 3, as to its special advantages. The Quirinal was held by the Sabines. Cp. Koch, Roman History, Eng. trans. p. 2.

[31] Ihne, Early Rome, p. 82.

[32] Presumably "Pelasgian." Cp. K.O. Müller, The Dorians, Eng. trans. i, 15; Schwegler, i, 155 sq.

[33] Perhaps the result of a partial conquest. Cp. Mommsen, vol. i, ch. 6, ad init., as to the precedence of the Palatine priests over those of the Quirinal.

[34] So Ihne, Early Rome, p. 5.

[35] Cp. Pelham, ch. iii. Ihne, who argues that the narratives concerning the Etruscan kings are no more trustworthy than those as to their predecessors, recognises that Pliny's record of the humiliating conditions of peace imposed on the Romans by Porsenna "would not have been made if the fact of the subjugation of Rome by an Etruscan king had not been incontestable" (Early Rome, p. 79; cp. pp. 85-86).

[36] Cp. Mérimée, Études sur l'histoire romaine, t. i, Guerre sociale, 1844, p. 352 sq.; Mommsen, B. ii, ch. i (i, 265).

[37] Cicero (De Officiis, ii, 12) and Sallust (cited by Augustine, De Civ. Dei, iii, 16) preserved the belief (accepted by Niebuhr) that the oppression of the poor by the rich had been restrained under the kings. Cp. Mahaffy (Problems in Greek History, pp. 81-83; Social Life in Greece, 3rd ed. p. 83) and Wachsmuth (Hist. Antiq. of the Greeks, Eng. tr. i, 416) as to Greek despots. And see Schwegler, Römische Geschichte, ii, 203, as to the weakness of Rome through class-strifes after the expulsion of the kings.

[38] Greenidge, pp. 47-48; Mommsen, i, 72.

[39] Greenidge, pp. 147, 262, 273.

[40] Niebuhr, Lect. xxv, 3rd Eng. ed. p. 134. So Ihne, Early Rome, p. 80; and also Schwegler, ii, 200. Mommsen takes the traditional view. Cp. Shuckburgh (History of Rome, p. 71), who remarks that the battle was at least not a decisive victory. Meyer (Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, 812) gives no verdict.

[41] The demand for the admission of plebeians to the consulate was thus met on the patrician plea that religion vetoed it. Only in 367 was it enacted that one of the two consuls should always be a plebeian.

[42] Plebeians first admitted to the Quæstorship, 421 B.C.; to the Military Tribuneship, 400; to the Consulate, 367; to the Dictatorship, 356; to the Censorship, 351; to the Prætorship, 337. This left the patricians in possession of the important privilege of membership of the sacred colleges. But that, in turn, was opened to plebeians in 300 or 296.

[43] De Officiis, i, 22, 30.

[44] Ad Atticum, i, 19.

[45] De Officiis, ii, 21.

[46] See Long, Decline of the Roman Republic, iv, 272-76, for some interesting details; and refs. in Mérimée, Guerre Sociale, p. 22.

[47] Livy, iv, 25.

[48] A writer in many respects instructive (W. Warde Fowler, The City State of the Greeks and Romans, 1893, p. 194), in pursuance of the thesis that "the Romans" had an "innate political wisdom" and an "inborn genius" for accommodation, speaks of the process of democratic self-assertion and aristocratic concession as "leaving no bad blood behind," this when social disease was spreading all round. The theorem of "national genius" will suffice to impair any exposition, however judicious otherwise. And this is the fundamental flaw in the argument of Bagehot in Physics and Politics. Though he notes the possibility of the objection that he is positing "occult qualities" (p. 24), he never eliminates that objection, falling back as he does on an assumed "gift" in "the Romans" (p. 81), instead of asking how an activity was evoked and fostered.

[49] Cp. the Politics, i, 6.

[50] Cp. Professor Pelham's Outline of Roman History, 1893, p. 197; Mérimée, Guerre Sociale, pp. 217, 220.

[51] Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains, et de leur décadence, ch. xi. He refers to the many cases in point in modern European history.

[52] Dio Cassius, xlvii, 14; xlviii, 6; Appian, Bell. Civ. iv, 3; v, 5, 22.

[53] See below, p. 30, as to Carthage.

[54] Schwegler, Römische Geschichte, i, 269.

[55] Idem, i, 272-73.

[56] See Livy, xxxiii, 36, as to the conjuratio servorum throughout Etruria in 557 A.U.C.

[57] Schwegler, i, 270, 275.

[58] Compare the slave wars of Rome in Sicily with the modern disorders (1892) in the same region, and with Aristotle's testimony as to the constant tendency of the slave populations in Greece to conspire against their owners (Politics, ii, 9).

[59] Juvenal, Sat. vi, 368, 593-96; Ovid, Amor. 1. ii, elegg. 13, 14. It is uncertain whether among the ancients any prudential preventive check was thought of. On the whole question see Malthus' fourteenth chapter. Malthus, however, omits to notice that the Romans probably learned the arts of abortion from the Greeks, Egyptians, and Syrians.

[60] Ovid speaks of the many women killed, Amor. ii. xiv, 38.

[61] Malthus cites Tacitus, De Mor. Germanorum, c. 19; Minucius Felix, c. 30; Pliny, Hist. Nat. xxix, 4.

[62] Cp. Shaftesbury, Characteristics, Treatise ii, pt. iii, § 2 (i, 114). Guizot seems to find the process surprising: "Singulier phénomène! C'est au moment où l'Empire se brise et disparaît, que l'Eglise chrétienne se rallie et se forme définitivement. L'unité politique périt, l'unité religieuse s'élève" (Histoire de la civilisation en France, éd. 1874, i, 339). He does not recognise the case as one of cause and effect. Of course, the fall of the State is not necessary to set up new combinations. It suffices that men should be without political influence or national consciousness—e.g., the secret societies of China in recent times.

[63] An inquiry, or series of inquiries, into the physiological side of social and political development is obviously necessary, and must be made before sociology can on this side attain much scientific precision. I know, however, no general treatise on the subject except an old essay on Changes Produced in the Nervous System by Civilisation, by Dr. Robert Verity (2nd ed., Edinburgh, 1839). This is suggestive, but, of course, tentative. Cp. Ferrero, Greatness and Decline of Rome, Eng. trans, i, 298-99.

[64] Livy, xxxix, 8-18. See below, pt. iii. ch. iii.

[65] Cp. Salverte, De la Civilisation, p. 52.

[66] The subject is discussed in the author's essay on Mithraism in Pagan Christs.

[67] M. Hochart (Études d'histoire religieuse, 1890, ch. ix) argues that Constantine was never really converted to Christianity; and this is perhaps the best explanation of his long postponement of his baptism.

[68] Compare episodes in the history of the Salvation Army in England (1890), where that body was seen prepared to practise continuous fighting. It had no thought of "Christian" conciliation.

[69] Various causes, the chief being probably Greek piracy, had caused in pre-Roman Etruria a decay of the original seaports. See Schwegler, Römische Geschichte, i, 273.

[70] On this cp. Ihne, Early Rome, p. 6; and Mommsen, ch. iv.

[71] This may have been set up in imitation of the Carthaginian institution of Suffetae, which would be well known to the Etruscans of the monarchic period, who had much traffic with Carthage. E. Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, 701. But it may also be explained by the simple fact that the original army was divided into two legions (id. ii, 812).

[72] On this see Montesquieu, Grandeur des Romains, c. 1. No one has elucidated so much of Roman history in so little space as Montesquieu has done in this little book, which Buckle rightly set above the Esprit des Lois. (Cp. the eulogy of Taine, in his Tite-Live.) Its real insight may perhaps best be appreciated by comparing it with the modern work of M. Charles Gouraud, Histoire des Causes de la Grandeur de l'Angleterre (1856), in which it will be hard to find any specification of real causes.

[73] The specification of this detail is one of the items of real explanation in Mr. Warde Fowler's scholarly and sympathetic account of the development of the Roman City-State (work cited, c. viii). He credits the Romans with an "innate genius" for combination and constitutionalism as compared with the Greeks, not noticing the fact that Roman unity was in the main a matter of conquest of non-Romans by Romans; that the conquest was furthered by the Roman institutions; that the institutions were first, so to speak, fortuitously shaped in favour of systematic war and conquest by the revolt against kingship; that war and conquest, again, were taken to almost inevitably as the main road to wealth; and that the accommodations of later times were forced on the upper classes by the career of warfare, to which domestic peace was indispensable. (Cp. Hegel as to the element of coercion and patrician policy in the Roman social system. Philos. der Gesch., Theil iii, Abschnitt i, Kap. i.) See below, § 6, as to the very different conditions of the Greek City-States.

[74] E.S. Shuckburgh, History of Rome, 1894, p. 16.

[75] See below, ch. iii, end; ch. iv, § 2 (c).

[76] Cp. Livy, viii, 3-5.

[77] Cp. Ferrero, Greatness and Decline of Rome, Eng. trans, i, 240.

[78] Cp. Aristotle, Politics, ii, 11; vi, 5.

[79] Already in Montesquieu's Grandeur des Romains it is pointed out that for Hannibal's soldiers, loaded with plunder, anywhere was Capua. Montesquieu rightly observes that the stock phrase on that head is one of the things everybody says because it has once been said. And it is repeated still.

[80] Livy, xxv, 40.

[81] Cicero, In Verrem, iii, 6; iv, 65; v, 21, 22.

[82] Sallust, Bell. Jugurth., c. 36.

[83] Cicero, In Verrem, iii, 20, 38, 81; v, 34; In Pisonem,34-36; Pro Flacco, 12; Pro Fonteio, 5; Pro lege Manilia, 13. See the record in Dureau de la Malle, Econ. polit. des Romains, 1840, vol. ii, liv. iv, ch. 8. Cp. Ferrero, i, 113-14, 183.

[84] Cp. Long, Decline of the Roman Republic, ii. 78-81, and Merivale, General History of Rome, pp. 299-300, as to the plunder and annexation of Cyprus. "Whether the annals of British India contain so foul a crime," writes Long, "I leave those to determine who know more of Indian affairs than I do."

[85] An admission that national "character" is not a connatural or fixed bias, but a simple function of variables.

[86] Teuffel, Hist. of Roman Literature, ed. Schwabe, Eng. trans. i, 122 (§ 91).

[87] See the process traced in W.A. Schmidt's Geschichte der Denk und Glaubensfreiheit im ersten Jahrhundert der Kaiserherrschaft und des Christenthums, 1847.

[88] Polybius, vi, 51. See below, ch. iv, § 1 (11).

[89] I am aware that Mr. Bury protests against this division; but his own difficulty in calling the middle (Byzantine) Empire the "later Roman Empire," while implicitly accepting the "Holy" Empire as another "later Roman Empire," is the best proof that the established nomenclature is the most convenient. Nobody is misled by it. A compromise might perhaps be made on the form "Greek Empire," contended for by M. Sathes (Monumenta Historiæ Hellenicæ, i, pref. p. 5), following on M. Rambaud.

[90] As cited below, pt. v, ch. i.

[91] Salvian, for instance, sees in the barbarian irruption a punishment of Christian sins; he never dreams of asking the cause of the Christian and pre-Christian corruption. Prudentius, again, is a thorough imperialist. See the critique and citations of M. Boissier, La Fin du Paganisme, ii, 136-141,407. Origen had set the note a century before Constantine (Contra Celsum, viii, 68-72).

Chapter III


The politico-economic history of Greece has been less cleared up than that of Rome, by reason not only of the greater complexity of the problem, but of the predominance of literary specialism in Greek studies.

The modern Greek historian, Paparrigopoulo, has published in French an Histoire de la Civilisation hellénique (Paris, 1878), which condenses his learned Greek work in five volumes; but the general view, though sometimes suggestive, is both scanty and superficial as regards ancient Greek history, and runs to an unprofitable effort at showing the "unity" of all Hellenic history, Pagan and Christian, in terms of an assumed conception of Hellenic character.

The posthumous Griechische Culturgeschichte of Jakob Burckhardt (1898) throws little light on social evolution. Trustworthy, weighty, and lucid, like all Burckhardt's work, it is rather a survey of Greek moral conditions than a study of social development, thus adding something of synthesis to the previous scholarly literature on the subject without reducing the phenomena to any theory of causation. It includes, however, good studies of vital social developments, such as slavery, to which Grote and Thirlwall paid surprisingly little attention, and which Mahaffy handles inadequately. This is also to be studied in W.R. Patterson's Nemesis of Nations (1907)—with some caution as regards the political generalisations.

Since the first edition of the present work there has appeared, in Dr. G.B. Grundy's Thucydides and the History of his Age (1911) a new recognition of the fundamental character of economic conditions in Greek as in other history. Dr. Grundy, finding no academic precedent for his sociological method, has urged as new truths propositions which for economic historians are or should have been axioms. The result, however, is a really stimulating and valuable presentment of Greek history in terms of causal forces.

The chapters on Greece in Dr. Cunningham's Western Civilisation (1898), though they contain not a few explanations of Greek culture-phenomena on the old lines, in terms of themselves, are helpful for the purposes of the present inquiry, [Pg 37]since they really study causation, as do Meyer's Wirthschaftliche Entwickelung des Alterthums and some other recent German treatises, of which Dr. Cunningham makes use.

Much use, however, remains to be made of these and previous expert studies. Boeckh's great work on the Public Economy of the Athenians, which, though containing economic absurdities, hardly deserves even in that regard the strictures passed on it by the first English translator (Sir G.C. Lewis, 1828; 2nd ed. 1842; superior American ed. tr. from 2nd German ed. by A. Lamb, 1857), has not very fruitfully affected the later historians proper. The third German edition by Fränkel, 1886, typifies the course of scholarship. It corrects details and adds a mass of apparatus criticus equal in bulk to the whole original work, but supplies no new ideas. Heeren's section on Greece in his Ideen, etc., translated as a Sketch of the Political History of Ancient Greece (1829), and also as part of Heeren's Thoughts on the Politics, etc., of the Ancient World, is too full of early misconceptions to be well worth returning to, save for its general view. On the other hand, Grote's great History of Greece, though unmatched in its own species, and though a far more philosophical performance than that of Mitford (which Professor Mahaffy and the King of Greece agree in preferring for its doctrine), is substantially a narrative and critical history on the established lines, and does not aim at being more than incidentally sociological; and that of Bishop Thirlwall, though in parts superior in this regard, is substantially in similar case. At several points, indeed, Grote truly illuminates the sociological problem—notably in his view of the reactions between the Greek drama and the Greek life. Of the German general histories, that of Holm (Eng. tr. 4 vols. 1894-98) is a trustworthy and judicious embodiment of the latest research, but has no special intellectual weight, and is somewhat needlessly prolix. The history of Dr. Evelyn Abbott, so far as it has gone, has fully equal value in most respects; but both leave the need for a sociological history unsatisfied. Mr. Warde Fowler's City State of the Greeks and Romans (1893) points in the right direction, but needs following up.

Apart from Burckhardt and Cunningham, the nearest approach yet made to a sociological study of Greek civilisation is the series of works on Greek social history by Professor Mahaffy (Social Life in Greece; Greek Life and Thought from the Age of Alexander to the Roman Conquest; The Greek World under Roman Sway; Problems of Greek History; and Survey of Greek Civilisation). These learned and brilliant volumes have great value as giving more vivid ideas of Greek life than are conveyed by any of the regular histories, and as constantly stimulating reflection; but they lack method, omit much, and abound regrettably in capricious and inconsistent dicta. The Survey is disappointing as emphasising rather than making good the defects [Pg 38]of the previous treatises. G.F. Hertzberg's Geschichte Griechenlands unter der Herrschaft der Römer (1866), and indeed all his works on Greek history, are always worth consulting.

Some help may be had from the volume on Greece in the Industrial History of the Free Nations by W.T. M'Cullagh (1846); but that fails to throw any light on what should have been its primary problem, the rise of Greek industry, and is rather sentimental than scientific in spirit. For later Greece, Finlay (History of Greece from its Conquest by the Romans, revised ed. 7 vols. 1877) becomes illuminating by his interest in economic law, though he holds uncritically enough by some now exploded principles, and exhibits some religious prejudice. His somewhat entangled opening sections express his difficulties as a pioneer in sociological history—difficulties only too abundantly apparent in the following pages. Professor J.B. Bury's History of the Later Roman Empire (2 vols. 1889) is an admirable work; but it does not attempt, save incidentally, to supersede Finlay in matters economic.

§ 1

The political history of ancient Greece, similarly summarised, will serve perhaps even better the purpose of illuminating later evolution. That history has served historian after historian as a means of modern polemic. The first considerable English historians of Greece, Gillies and Mitford, pointed to the evil fate of Greek democracy as a conclusive argument against countenancing democracy now; never stopping to ask whether ancient monarchies had fared any better than the democracies. And it is perfectly true that present-day democracies will tend to bad fortune just as did the ancient unless they bottom themselves more firmly and guide themselves by a deeper political science. It will not suffice that we have rejected the foundation of slavery, on which all the Greek polities rested. The strifes between the demos and the aristocracy in the Greek City-States would have arisen just as surely, though more slowly, if the demos, instead of being an upper-grade populace owning slaves, had included the whole mass of the artisan and serving class.[92] Where population increases at anything like the natural animal rate, and infanticide is not overwhelming, poverty must either force emigration or breed strife between the "have-nots" and the "haves," barring such continuous stress of war as suffices at once to thin numbers and yield conquerors the lands of the slain[Pg 39] losers. During some centuries the pressure was in part relieved by colonisation, as had already happened among the Phœnicians;[93] the colonies themselves in turn, with their more rapid evolution, developing the inevitable strife of rich and poor more quickly and more violently than the mother cities.[94] Among these, it was when that relief seemed to be exhausted that strife became most dangerous, being obscurely perceived to be a means to advancement and prosperity for individuals, as well as for the State which could extort tribute or plunder from the others. War, however, limits agriculture, so that food supply is kept proportionately small; and with peace the principle of population soon overtakes lost ground; so that, though the Greek States like others tended to gain in solidarity under the stimulus of foreign war, the pressure of poverty was always breeding fresh division.

If we take up Grecian history after the settling down of the prehistoric invasions, which complicated the ordinary process of rupture and fission, that process is seen occurring so frequently, and in so many different States, that there can be no question as to the presence of a general sociological law, not to be counteracted in any community save by a radical change of conditions. Everywhere the phenomena are broadly the same. The upper class ("upper" in virtue either of primary advantages or of special faculty for acquiring wealth) attains to providing for its future by holding multitudes of poorer citizens in debt—the ancient adumbration of the modern developments of landlordism, national debts, and large joint-stock enterprises, which yield inheritable incomes. In early times, probably, debt led as often to adult enslavement in Greece as in Rome;[95] but in a world of small and warring City-States, shaken by domestic division, constantly making slaves by capture and purchase, and always exposed to the risk of their insurrection, this was too dangerous a course to be long persisted in,[96] and the creditor was led to press his mortgaged debtor in other[Pg 40] ways. The son or the daughter was sold to pay the father's dues, or to serve in perpetual payment of interest; and the cultivator's share was ever at the lowest point. The pressure increases till the mass of debtors are harassed into insurrection, or are used by an adventurer to establish himself as despot.[97] Sometimes, in later days, the documents of debt are publicly destroyed;[98] sometimes the land is divided afresh.[99] Landholders burdened with debt would vote for the former course and resist the latter;[100] and as that was clamoured for at Athens in early times, it may be presumed that in some places it was resorted to. Sometimes even a refunding of interest would be insisted on.[101] Naturally such means of rectification availed only for a moment; the despot stood a fair chance of being assassinated; the triumphant demos would be caballed against; the exiled nobles, with the cold rage of Theognis in their hearts, would return; and the last state of the people would be worse than the first; till again slackened vigilance on one side, and intolerable hardship on the other, renewed the cycle of violent change.

In the course of ages there was perforce some approach to equipoise;[102] but it was presumably at the normal cost of a definite abasement of the populace;[103] and it was by a famous stroke of statecraft that Athens was able so to solve her first great crisis as to make possible some centuries of expanding democratic life. The name of Solon is associated with an early crisis (594 B.C.) in which debt and destitution among the Athenian demos (then still for the most part small cultivators, for whom the city was a refuge fortress, but as a rule no longer owning the land they tilled) brought matters to the same point as was marked in Rome by the Secession of the Plebs. The Athenian oligarchy was very much like the Roman; and when the two sides agreed to call in Solon as arbitrator it was with a fairly general expectation that he would take the opportunity to become tyrant. The people knew him to be opposed to plutocratic tyranny; the nobles and traders, anxious for security, thought him sure to be their friend; and both sorts had small objection to such a one as "despot." But Solon, a noble of moderate means, who had gained prestige in the wars of Athens with her neighbour,[Pg 41] Megara, and some knowledge of life as a travelling trader, brought to his problem a higher vision than that of a Roman patrician, and doubtless had a less barbarous stock to deal with. Later ages, loosely manipulating tradition, ascribed to him a variety of laws that he cannot have made;[104] but all the records concur in crediting him with a "Seisachtheia," a "shaking-off-of-burdens," and a healing of the worst of the open wounds of the body politic. All existing mortgages were cancelled; all enslavement for debt was abolished; Athenians who had been sold into alien slavery were bought back (probably by a contribution from relieved debtors[105]); and the coinage was recast—whether or not by way of reducing State payments is not clear.

Grote (ii, 471), while eulogising Solon's plan as a whole, accepts the view that he debased the money-standard; while Boeckh (Metrologie, ch. 15) holds him to have further altered the weights and measures. For the former view there is clear support in Plutarch (Solon, c. 15), and for the latter in the lately recovered Aristotelian Polity of Athens (c. 10). But when Messrs. Mitchell and Caspari, in their abridgment of Grote (p. 45), declare that the latter document makes clear that the coinage measure was solely for the promotion of trade, and entirely independent of the Seisachtheia (so also Bury, p. 183), they unduly stress the evidence. The document, which is hardly Aristotelian in structure, proceeds doubtfully on tradition and not upon record; and there may be some truth in the old view of Androtion (Plut. c. 15), that Solon only reduced the rate of interest while altering the money-standard. The point is really obscure. Cp. Abbott, Hist. of Greece, i, 407-8; Grote, ii, 472-76; Meyer, ii, 651-52; Cox, Gen. Hist. of Greece, 2nd ed. pp. 76-79. So far are we from exact knowledge that it is still a moot point whether the tenant Hektemorioi or "Sixth-men" paid or received a sixth part of their total product. Cp. Mitchell and Caspari, abr. of Grote, p. 14, note; Cox, Gen. Hist. of Greece, 2nd ed. p. 77; Bury, Hist. of Greece, ed. 1906, p. 181; Meyer, ii, 642; Abbott, Hist. of Greece, i, 289.

While the burdened peasants and labourers were thus ostensibly given a new economic outlook on life, they were further humanised by being given a share in the common polity. To the Ecclesia or "Congregation" of the people Solon gave the power of electing the public magistrates; and by way of controlling somewhat the power of the Areopagus or Senate, he established a "pre-considering" Council or "Lower House" of Four Hundred, chosen from all save[Pg 42] the poor class, thus giving the State "two anchors." And though the executive was in the hands of the aristocracy, subject only to popular election, the burdens of the community were soundly adjusted by a new or improved classification of citizens according to their incomes ("timocracy"), which worked out somewhat as a graduated income-tax, whether by way of a money-rate or in respect of their share in military duties and public "liturgies," which had to be maintained by the richer citizens.

As to this vexed question, see Boeckh, Staatsaushaltung der Athener, B. iv, c. 5 (Grote's ref. wrong), as expounded and checked by Grote (ii, 485-88). Messrs. Mitchell and Caspari, in their abridgment of Grote (pp. 22, 49, notes), reject the whole interpretation (which is reached by a combination of ancient data, Plutarch [c. 18] telling nothing as to taxation). But they adduce only the negative argument that "as we know that Peisistratos, the champion of the poorer classes, subsequently levied a uniform tax of five or ten per cent., it is absurd to suppose that the highly democratic principle of a sliding-scale had been previously adopted by Solon. Peisistratos would not have dared to attempt a reaction from a sliding-scale income-tax to a sort of poll-tax." To this it might be replied that the "flat rate" of Peisistratos—which ought to modify the conception of him as the "friend of the poor"—may have been an addition to previous taxes; and that the division of citizens into income-classes must have stood for something in the way of burdens. The solution would seem to be that these were not regular money taxes. "Regular direct taxes were as little known in free Athens as in any other ancient State; they are the marks of absolute monarchy, of unfreedom" (Meyer, ii, 644). "Seemingly, it was not until later times that this distribution of classes served the purposes of taxation" (Maisch, Manual of Greek Antiquities, Eng. tr. p. 40). But already the cost of certain public services, classed under the head of "liturgies," was laid upon the rich; and there may well have been a process of collective contribution towards these at a time when very rich citizens cannot have been numerous.

Doubtless the graduated income-tax would have been unworkable in a systematic way, though in the "Servian" timocracy of early Rome a tributum seems to have been imposed on the classes (Livy, ii, 9).

At yet other points Solon prepared the ground for the democratic structure of the later Athenian polity. By overthrowing the sacrosanct power of the aristocratic priestly houses, who had aggrandised themselves by it like the nobles of early Rome, he prevented the growth of a hierocracy. By constituting out of all the citizens,[Pg 43] including the Thetes or peasant cultivators, a kind of universal jury-court, out of which the panels of judges were to be taken by lot, he put the people on the way of becoming a court of appeal against the upper-class archons, who recruited the Areopagus. "The constitution of the judicial courts (Heliaia) out of the whole people was the secret of democracy which Solon discovered. It is his title to fame in the history of the growth of popular government in Europe."[106]

The whole reform was indeed a great achievement; and so far definitive that from that time forward Athens needed no further resort to "Seisachtheia" or to alteration of the money-standard. Solon had in fact eliminated the worst disruptive force at work in the community—the enslavement of the debtor; a reform so radical,[107] when considered as one man's work, that to note its moral limits may seem to imply blindness to its value. Henceforth, on the lines of the democracy which he made possible, Athenians were so far homogeneous that their slaves were aliens. Beyond that point they could not rise; after Solon, as before, they were at daggers drawn with neighbouring Statelets, and to the end it remained tolerable to them to enslave the men of other Greek-speaking communities. Floated over the first reef by Solon, they never found a pilot to clear the second—the principle of group-enmity. Upon that the Hellenic civilisation finally foundered.

Even in respect of what he achieved, Solon received but a chequered recognition in his own time. The peasantry had expected him to divide the land among them;[108] and when they found that the abolition of enslavement for debt did not mean much less stress of life, they were ready to forfeit all the political rights he had given them for some more tangible betterment.

The simple fact that a generation later Peisistratos was able to become tyrant in the teeth of the aged Solon's vehement opposition is intelligible only as standing for the feeling of many of the common people that through a tyrannos alone could their interests be maintained against the perpetual conspiracy of the upper class to overreach them.[109] It may be that Solon had alienated the rural folk by his concern for commerce, which would be likely to mean the[Pg 44] encouragement of imports of food.[110] Peisistratos, we know, was the leader of the Diakrioi, the herdsmen and crofters of the uplands, and was "accounted the most thorough democrat" as against the landlords of the plains (Pediaioi), led by Lycurgos, and the traders of the coast (Paraloi), led by Megacles.[111] The presumption is that by this time the fertile plain-lands were largely owned by rich men, who worked them by hired labour; but the nature of the conflicting forces is not now to be clearly ascertained. The credit given afterwards to Peisistratos for maintaining the Solonian laws points to an understanding between him and the people;[112] and their acceptance of him in Solon's despite suggests that they even identified the latter with the failure of his laws to secure them against further aristocratic oppression.

Nonetheless, Solon's recasting of the political structure of the State determined the future evolution. As Athens grew more and more of an industrial and trading city, her people reverted more and more surely to the self-governing ideal; albeit the Solonian constitution preserved the unity of the State, keeping all the people of Attica "Athenians." The rule of Peisistratos was twice upset, and that of his house in all did not last much above fifty years. When the last member was driven out by Kleisthenes (510 B.C.), the constitution was re-established in a more democratic form than the Solonian; all freemen of Attica became burghers of Athens; and thousands of unenfranchised citizens and emancipated slaves obtained full rights of citizenship. For better and for worse, republican Athens was made—a new thing in the ancient world, for hitherto "democratical government was a thing unknown in Greece—all Grecian governments were either oligarchical or despotic, the mass of the freemen having not yet tasted of constitutional privilege."[113]

What followed was an evolution of the old conflicting forces on a new constitutional basis, the balance of power and prestige being on the side of the demos and its institutions, no longer on that of a land-owning and dominant aristocracy. But the strife never ceased. Kleisthenes himself found "the Athenian people excluded from everything" once more, and, "being vanquished in the party contest with his rival, took the people into partnership."[114] The economic[Pg 45] tendencies of all civic life reproduced the hostility again and again. One of the most remarkable of the laws of Solon was that which disfranchised any citizen who in a "stasis" or seditious feud stood aloof and took no side.[115] He had seen the risks of such apathy in the attempt of Kylon, in his youth, to become despot of Athens; and his fears were realised when Peisistratos seized power. The law may have helped to promote public-spirited action; but in the nature of things it was hardly necessary when once democracy was established. Again and again the demos had to fight for its own hand against the cliques who sought to restore oligarchy; and apathy was not likely to be common. The perpetual generation of fresh poverty through rapid increase of population, and the inevitable resort to innovating fiscal and other measures to relieve it, sufficed to provide grounds of class strife while free Athens endured.

It lies on the face of Aristotle's Politics, however, that even if the population difficulty had been solved otherwise than by exodus, and even if the Athenians could have guarded against class strife among themselves, the fatality of war in the then civilised world would have sufficed to bring about political dissolution. As he profoundly observes, the training of a people to war ends in their ruin, even when they acquire supremacy, because their legislators have not "taught them how to rest."[116] Add the memorable testimony of Thucydides concerning the deep demoralisation wrought by the Peloponnesian War—a testimony supported by every page of the history of the time. Even the sinister virtue of uniting a people within itself was lacking to the perpetual warfare of the Greeks: the internal hatreds seemed positively to worsen in the atmosphere of the hatreds of the communities. But while the spirit of strife is universal, peoples are inevitably trained to war; and even if the Greek States could have so far risen above their fratricidal jealousies as to form a stable union, it must needs have turned to external conquest, and so run the downward course of the post-Alexandrian Hellenistic Empires, and of the Roman Empire, which in turn sank to dissolution before the assaults of newer militarisms.

§ 2

Nothing can save any democratic polity from the alternatives of insane strife and imperial subjection but a vital prosperous culture, going hand in hand with a sound economy of industry. The Greek[Pg 46] democracies in their different way split on the rock that wrecked the Roman Republic: there was (1) no general mental development commensurate with the political problems which arose for solution, and (2) there was no approach to a sound economics. The first proposition will doubtless be denied by those who, nourished on the literature of Greece, have come to see in its relative excellence, the more confidently because of the abiding difficulty of mastering it, the highest reach of the faculties of thought and expression. But this judgment is fundamentally astray, because of the still subsisting separation, in the literary mind, of the idea of literary merit from the idea of scientific sanity. Men themselves too often vowed to the defence and service of a mythology are slow to see that it was not for nothing that the Athenian people bottomed its culture to the last on myth and superstition. Yet a little reflection might make it clear that the community which forced Socrates to drink the hemlock for an alleged and unproved scepticism, and Anaxagoras to fly for a materialistic hypothesis concerning the sun, could have no political enlightenment adequate to the Athenian needs. We see the superstitious Athenian demos playing the part of the ignorant multitude of all ages, eager for a master, incapable of steadfast self-rule, begging that the magnificent Alcibiades, who led the sacred procession to Eleusis in despite of the Spartans near at hand, shall put down his opponents and reign at Athens as king[117]—this after he had been exiled by the same demos on a charge of profane parody of the Eleusinian mysteries, and sacerdotally declared accursed for the offence.[118] A primitive people may stumble along in primitive conditions by dint of elementary political methods; but a civilised people with a complex political problem can solve it only by means of a correspondingly evolved science. And the Athenian people, with their purely literary and æsthetic culture, never as a body reached even a moderate height of ethical and scientific thought,[119] or even any such general æsthetic well-being as we are apt to credit them with. Moderns think of them, as the great song of Euripides has it, "lightly lifting their feet in the lucid air,"[120] and are indulgently ready to take by the letter the fine panegyric of the Athenian polity by Pericles,[121] forgetting that statesmen in all ages have glorified their State, always making out the best case, always shunning discouragement for their hearers, and making little account of evil. But Burckhardt, after his long survey, decides with Boeckh[Pg 47] that "the Hellenes were more unhappy than most men think;"[122] and the saying holds good of their political and intellectual life above all things.

Our more idealising scholars forget that the philosophy of the philosophers was a specialism, and that the chance of hearing a tragedy of Sophocles or a comedy of Aristophanes was no training in political conduct for a people whose greatest philosopher never learned to see the fatality of slavery. On the economic side, Periclean Athens was nearly as ill founded as aristocratic Rome. Citizens often with neither professions nor studies, with no ballasting occupation for head or hand; average men paid from the unearned tribute of allied States to attend to affairs without any fundamental study of political conditions; citizens whose work was paid for in the same fashion; citizens of merely empirical education, for whom politics was but an endless web of international intrigue, and who had no higher ideal than that of the supremacy of their own State in Hellenedom or their own faction in the State—such men, it is now easy to see, were incapable of saving Athens, much less of unifying Greece. They were politically raised to a situation which only wise and deeply instructed men could fill, and they were neither wise nor deeply instructed, however superior their experience might make them relatively to still worse trained contemporaries, or to populations living under a systematic despotism.

On some of the main problems of life the majority had thought no further than their ancestors of the days of the kings. The spell of religion had kept them ignorant and superstitious.[123] In applied ethics they had as a body made no progress: the extension of sympathy, which is moral advance, had gone no further than the extortion of civic status and power by some new classes, leaving a majority still enslaved. Above all, they could not learn the lesson of collective reciprocity; could not see the expediency of respecting in other communities the liberty they prized as their own chief good. Athens in her turn "became an imperial or despot city, governing an aggregate of dependent subjects all without their own active concurrence, and in many cases doubtless contrary to their own sense of political right.... But the Athenians committed the capital fault of taking the whole alliance into their own hands, and treating the allies purely as subjects, without seeking to attach them[Pg 48] by any form of political incorporation or collective meeting and discussion—without taking any pains to maintain community of feeling or idea of a joint interest—without admitting any control, real or even pretended, over themselves as managers. Had they attempted to do this, it might have proved difficult to accomplish—so powerful was the force of geographical dissemination, the tendency to isolated civic life, and the repugnance to any permanent extramural obligations, in every Grecian community. But they do not appear to have ever made the attempt. Finding Athens exalted by circumstances to empire, and the allies degraded into subjects, the Athenian statesmen grasped at the exaltation as a matter of pride as well as profit. Even Pericles, the most prudent and far-sighted of them, betrayed no consciousness that an empire without the cement of some all-pervading interest or attachment, although not practically oppressive, must nevertheless have a natural tendency to become more and more unpopular, and ultimately to crumble in pieces."[124]

In fine, a democracy, the breath of whose nostrils is justice, systematically refused to do as it would be done by; and as was Athens, so were the rest of the Greek States. When the Athenians told the protesting Melians, in effect, that might is right,[125] they did even as Sparta and Thebes had done before them.[126] Hence the instinct of justice was feeble for all purposes, and the domestic strife of factions was nearly as malignant and animalised as in Borgian Italy. Mother cities and their colonies fought more destructively with each other than with aliens; Athens and Syracuse, Corinth and Corcyra, strove more malignantly than did Greek with barbarian. It was their rule after a victory to slay their prisoners.[127] Such men had not learned the secret of stable civic evolution; animal instinct was still enthroned against law and prudence. Unearned income, private and public; blindly tyrannous political aggression; ferocious domestic calumny; civic and racial disruption—these were the due phases and fruits of the handling of a great political problem by men who in the mass had no ideals of increasing knowledge, of growing tolerance, of widening justice, of fraternity.[128] Stoic and Epicurean wisdom and righteousness came too late to save free Hellas: they were the fruits of retrospect in decadence. The very art and literature which glorified Athens were in large[Pg 49] part the economic products of impolicy and injustice, being fostered by the ill-gotten wealth accruing to the city from her tributary allies and subject States, somewhat as the art of the great period in Italy was fed by the wealth of the Church and of the merchant princes who grew by the great river of trade. In the one case as in the other, there was no polity, no science, equal to the maintenance of the result when the originating conditions disappeared. Greek art and letters passed away because they were ill rooted. Nobly incorrupt for himself, Pericles thus fatally fostered a civic corruption that no leader's virtues could countervail, and his policy in this regard was probably the great force of frustration to his scheme for a pan-Hellenic congress at Athens, to promote free trade and intercourse.[129]

For various views on this matter cp. Heeren, Eng. tr. of Researches on the Political History of Ancient Greece, pp. 129-34; Thirlwall, History of Greece, ch. xviii (1st ed. iii, 62-70); Grote, iv, 490-504; Abbott, History of Greece, i, 405-9; Holm, History of Greece, Eng. tr. ii, 268, note 8 to ch. xvii (a vindication). Grote, who vindicates the policy of Pericles with much care, endorses the statesman's own plea that his use of the confederate treasure in ennobling the city gave her a valuable prestige. But even to the Athenian opposition this answer was indecisive, for, as Grote records, the argument of Thucydides was that Athens was "disgraced in the eyes of the Greeks" by her use of the treasure. This meant that her prestige was fully balanced by hatred, so that the civic gain was a new danger.

Not that matters would have gone a whit better if, as our Tory historians used retrospectively to prescribe, democracy had been permanently subverted by aristocracy. No other ideal then in vogue would have produced even so much "good life" as was actually attained. We know that the rich and the great in the Greek cities were the worst citizens, in the sense of being the least law-abiding; and that the lower-class Athenians who served in the fleet were the best disciplined; the middle-class hoplites less so; and the rich men who formed the cavalry the least orderly of all.[130] Above all, the aristocrats were cruel and rapacious when in power as the demos never were, even when they had overthrown the guiltiest of their tyrants.[131] The leading aristocrats were simply[Pg 50] weaker versions of the demagogues, making up for their weakness by their cruelty; and nothing can be more misleading than to take the account given of Kleon by Aristophanes for even a semblance of the truth. The great humorist saw nothing as it really was: his very genius was as it were a many-faceted mirror that could reflect no whole, and left his practical judgment worth less than that of any of the men he ridiculed. Kleon is to be conceived as a powerful figure of the type of a New York Tammany "Boss," without culture or philosophy, but shrewd, executive, and abounding in energy. The aristocrats were but slighter egoists with a varnish of education, as far as he from a worthy philosophy. And the philosophers par excellence, Plato and Aristotle, were equally incapable of practical statesmanship. The central truth of the entire process is that free Greece fell because her children never transcended, in conception or in practice, that primary ethic of egoism in which even love for one's country is only a reflex of hate for another people. This is clear in the whole play of the astounding hatreds of Athenians for Athenians through every struggle of Athens for her life. The treasons of Alcibiades are evoked and amply balanced by the murderous plots of his fellows against him: every figure in the line of leaders, from Solon's self, is hated by some hetairia; the honest Anytus, the perfect type of brainless conservatism sitting in the chair of sociological judgment, can be appeased only by the slaying of Socrates; and to the end the egoisms of Demosthenes, Æschines, and Isocrates are at grapple, with the national assassin in sight.

And it is the prevailing consciencelessness, the universal lust to tyrannise, that really consummates the political dissolution. It was not the battle of Chæronea that made an end of Greek independence. That disaster would have been retrieved like others if only the Greeks had persistently cared to retrieve it. They fell because they took the bribe of empire. Philip held it out at once by his offer of facile terms to Athens: he was planning in his own way what the pragmatic Isocrates took for the ideal Hellenic course, a Hellenic war of conquest against Persia; and it was that very war, made by Alexander, that transformed the Greeks into a mere diluvium of fortune-hunters, turning away from every ideal of civic stability and dignity to the overrunning of alien populations and the getting of alien gold. Given the process of historic determination, moral bias becomes a fatality; and when it is fixed, "'tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus." Republican Greece passed away because there were no more republican Greeks, but only a rabble of imperialists. Here again appears the fatality of their past: it was the sombre[Pg 51] memory of unappeasable civil strife, of eternal inequality and envy and class attrition, that made the new promise so dazzling; any future seemed fairer than the recent past. But it was through the immediate bait to their cupidity that the Greeks were led out of their old man-making life of turbulent counterpoise, the sphere of free equals, into the new unmanning life of empire, the sphere of slaves. They were easy victims. The men of Aristotle's day had once more before their eyes, in the squalid drama of Philip's house—in the spectacle of alienated wife and son deriding and hating the laurelled conqueror and exulting in his murder—the old lesson of autocracy, its infallible dishonour, its depravation, its dissolution of the inmost ties of cordial life. But any countervailing ideal that still lived among them was overborne by the tide of triumphant conquest; and, with Aristotle and Plato in her hand, Greece turned back to the social ethic of the Heraclidæ.

And when once the Circean cup of empire had been drained by the race, there was no more returning to the status of republican manhood. The new self-governing combination of cities which arose in Achaia after the disintegration of Alexander's empire might indeed conceivably have reached a high civilisation in time; but the external conditions, as summed up in the existence of Rome, were now overwhelmingly unfavourable. The opportunity for successful federalism was past. As it was, the Achaian and Ætolian Leagues were but politic unions as much for aggression as for defence, even as the Spartan reformers, Agis and Cleomenes, could never rise above the ideal of Spartan self-assertion and domination. Thus we have on one hand the Spartan kings, concerned for the well-being of the mass of the people (always excepting the helots) as a means to restore Spartan pre-eminence; and on the other hand the Achaian federation of oligarchies, hating the doctrine of sympathy for the demos as much as they hated Sparta—the forces of union and strife always repelling the regimen of peace, to say nothing of fraternity. The spectacle of Cleomenes and Philopœmen at deadly odds is the dramatic summary of the situation; the ablest men of the later Greek age could not transcend their barbarian heredity.

The statement of Freeman (History of Federal Government in Greece and Italy, ed. 1893, p. 184) that a federal system in Greece was "utterly impossible," is true in the bare philosophic sense that that was impossible which did not happen; but such a proposition would hold equally true of anything else that did not happen at a given time; and it merely creates confusion to affirm it of one item in particular. Pericles schemed some[Pg 52]thing like a federal union;[132] and had his practice been in accord with his ideal, it might conceivably have been at least tried. M. Fustel de Coulanges well points out how the primary religious conception of the ancient City-State expelled and negatived that of a composite State (La Cité antique, l. iii, ch. xiv, p. 239); that is a process of rational explanation. But unless we conceive the "failures" of the past as lessons to be profited by, there can be neither a social nor a moral science. Freeman, however, actually proceeds to say that Greek federation was utterly undesirable—an extraordinary doctrine in a treatise devoted to studying and advocating federalism. On the principles thus laid down, Dr. Freeman's denunciation of Austria and France in modern times is irrational, since that which has happened in these countries is that which alone was possible; and the problem as to the desirable is hopelessly obscured.

To say that "Greece united in a federal bond could never have become the Greece" we admire (id. p. 184), is only to vary the verbalism. Granted that Hellenic greatness as we know it was "inseparably limited to the system of independent city commonwealths," it remains a rational proposition that had the Greek cities federated they could have developed their general culture further than they actually did, though the special splendour of Periclean Athens could not in that case have been so quickly attained. And as the fall of Greece is no less "inseparably linked" with the separateness of the States, Dr. Freeman's proposition suggests or implies an assertion of the desirableness of that fall. Mr. T. Whittaker, in his notable essay on The Liberal State (1907, pp. 70-72), rightly puts it as a fatality of the Greek State that it could neither enter into nor absorb a larger community, but recognises this as a failure to solve the great problem. When, however, he writes that "the free development of Athens as an autonomous State would have been restricted by a real federation in which other States had a voice of their own," he partly sets up the difficulty created by Freeman. Wherein would Athens have suffered as to freedom?

The lesson for modern democracies from the story of the ancient is thus clear enough. To flourish, they must have peace; they must sooner or later practise a scientific and humane restraint of population—the sooner the better, as destruction of surplus population is always going on, even with emigration; they must check inequality, which is the fountain of domestic dispeace; and they must maintain a progressive and scientific culture. And the lesson is one that may now be acted on as it never could have been before. There is no longer a reserve of fecund barbarism ready to overwhelm a civilisation[Pg 53] that ceases to be pugnacious; and the civilised States have it in their own power to submit their quarrels to bloodless arbitrament. The inveterate strifes of the Greeks belong to a past stage of civilisation, and were in any case the product of peculiar geographical conditions, Greece being physically divided, externally among islands, and internally into a multitude of glens, which in the days of City-State life and primitive means of communication preserved a state of cantonal separateness and feud, just as did the physical conditions of the Scottish Highlands in the days before effective monarchic rule.

This permanent dissociation of the City-States was only a more intractable form of the primary divisions of the districts. Thus in Attica itself the divisions of party largely followed the localities: "There were as many parties among them as there were different tracts of land in their country"—the mountain-dwellers being democratic, while the plain-dwellers were for an oligarchy, and the coast-dwellers sought a mixed government. (Plutarch, Solon, cc. 13, 29; Aristotle, Polity of Athens, c. 13.) See the question further discussed below, ch. iv, § 2 (c).

Indeed, the fulness of the autonomous life attained by the separate cities was a psychological hindrance to their political union, given the primary geographical sunderance. Thus we have in the old Amphictyonic councils the evidence of a measure of peaceful political attraction among the tribes before the cities were developed;[133] yet on those ancient beginnings there was no political advance till the rise of formal federalism in the Ætolian and Achaian Leagues after the death of Alexander. And that federalism was not ethically higher than the spirit of the ancient Amphictyonic oath, preserved by Æschines. The balance of the forces of separateness and political wisdom is to be conceived in terms of a given degree of culture relatively to a given set of physical conditions. Happily the deadlock in question no longer subsists for civilised States.

Again, there is now possible a scientific control of population, without infanticide, without vice, without abortion. There has been attained a degree of democratic stability and enlightenment which given peace, permits of a secure gradual extension of the principle of equality by sound machinery. And there is now accumulated a treasury of seminal knowledge which makes possible an endless intellectual progress, the great antiseptic of political decay, provided only that the foregoing conditions are secured. This is, in brief, the programme of progressive democracy.


[92] Cp. Mr. Godkin, Problems of Modern Democracy, 1896, pp. 327-28, as to the recent rise of class hatred in the United States.

[93] Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, 142.

[94] "Freedom flourishes in colonies. Ancient usages cannot be preserved ... as at home.... Where every man lives by the labour of his hands, equality arises, even where it did not originally exist" (Heeren, Pol. Hist. of Greece, Eng. tr. p. 88. Cp. Bagehot, Physics and Politics, p. 99). Note, in this connection, the whole development of Magna Græcia. Sybaris was "perhaps in 510 B.C. the greatest of all Grecian cities" (Grote, part ii, ch. 37). As to the early strifes in the colonies, cp. Meyer, ii, 681.

[95] Such was the legal course of things before Solon (Grote, ii, 465-66; Ingram, History of Slavery, p. 16; cp. Schömann, Griechische Alterthümer, 2te Aufl. i, 341; Aristotle, Polity of Athens, cc. 2, 4, 6; Wachsmuth, Histor. Antiq. of the Greeks, § 33, Eng. tr. 1837, i, 244).

[96] Cp. Schömann, i, 114; Burckhardt, Griechische Culturgeschichte, i, 159; Meyer, Gesch. des Alterthums, ii, 642. In the historic period the majority of slaves are said to have been of non-Greek race (Schömann, i, 112; Burckhardt, i, 158). But this is said without much evidence. The custom was to kill adult male captives and enslave the women and children. Men captives who were spared by the Athenians were put to slavery in the mines (Burckhardt, citing Polyaenus, II, i, 26).

[97] E.g. Telys at Sybaris, Theagenes at Megara, and Kypselus at Corinth, in the sixth century B.C.; and Klearchus at Herakleia in the fourth (Grote. ii, 414, 418; iv, 95; x, 394). Compare the appeals made to Solon by both parties to make himself despot (Plutarch, Solon, c. 14).

[98] As at Sparta under Agis IV (Plutarch, Agis, c. 13; Thirlwall, c. lxii, 1st ed. viii, 142). The claims were restored at Agis's death (id. p. 163).

[99] As by Cleomenes, soon after (id. p. 164).

[100] E.g. Agesilaus in the same crisis.

[101] As at Megara (Grote, ii, 418).

[102] See Grote, ii, 381, as to the general development.

[103] But cp. Grote, ii, 420, as to the case of Megara.

[104] Grote, ii, 490-94.

[105] Cp. Meyer, ii, 651.

[106] Bury, pp. 183-84.

[107] Eduard Meyer writes of Solon (ii, 649) that "aller Radicalismus liegt ihm fern"; and, two pages later, as to the freeing of the peasantry, that "Hier konnte nur ein radicales Mittel, ein Bruch des formellen Rechts, Hülfe bringen."

[108] Grote (ii, 471) finds this incredible; it is hard to see why. Plutarch (14, 16) is explicit on the point; so also the Athenian Polity, c. 11.

[109] Friends of Solon's in the upper classes took advantage of a disclosure of his plans to buy up land in advance, escaping full payment under his law cancelling debts (Plutarch, Solon, c. 15; Aristotle, Athenian Polity, c. 6). See Plutarch, c. 16, as to the moderation and popularity of Peisistratos.

[110] See below, pt. ii, ch. ii, § 1.

[111] Plutarch, Solon, 13, 29.

[112] As to his tactic in building up a party see Busolt, Griech. Gesch. 1885, i, 550-53. But the panegyric of Peisistratos as a ruler by Messrs. Mitchell and Caspari (abr. of Grote, p. 58) is extravagant. The tyrant is there extolled for the most primitive device of the ruler seeking popularity, the remission of taxes to individuals.

[113] Grote, ii, 468, 496.

[114] Herodotus, v, 66-69.

[115] Plutarch, Solon, c. 24.

[116] Bk. vii, c. 15.

[117] Plutarch, Alcibiades, c. 34.

[118] Grote, ch. 46.

[119] Cp. Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, iv, § 446.

[120] Rev. A.S. Way's translation of Euripides, Medea, 829-30.

[121] Thucydides, ii, 40.

[122] Griechische Culturgeschichte, i, 11; cp. ii, 386-88, 394, etc. And see Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, 727-29, 734, etc. For an able counter-pleading, see the essay of Mr. Benn, "The Ethical Value of Hellenism," in Intern. Jour. of Ethics, April, 1902, rep. in his Revaluations, Historical and Ideal, 1909.

[123] Cp. Fustel de Coulanges, La cité antique, ed. 1880, pp. 260-64; E. Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, 728.

[124] Grote, iv, 489-90.

[125] Thucydides, v, 85 sq.

[126] Cp. Maisch, Manual of Greek Antiquities, Eng. tr. § 66.

[127] Grote, iv, 539. Cp. Thirlwall, i, 181-83.

[128] The view here set forth is fully borne out by the posthumous Griechische Culturgeschichte of Burckhardt. Cp. i, 249-57.

[129] Plutarch, Pericles, c. 17.

[130] Xenophon, Memorabilia, iii, 5, 18. Cp. Grote, iv, 465. As Grote goes on to show, the same general statement holds good of Rome after her victory over Carthage, of the Italian Republics, and of the feudal baronage in England and elsewhere.

[131] Grote, vi, 315-17, 518, rightly insists on the moderation of the people after the expulsions of the Four Hundred and the Thirty Tyrants.

[132] Plutarch, Pericles, c. 17; Grote, iv, 510; T. Davidson, The Parthenon Frieze, 1882, pp. 82-128.

[133] Grote, pt. ii, ch. ii (ed. 1888, ii, 173-78); Freeman, History of Federal Government, ed. 1893, p. 103.

Chapter IV


§ 1

The word "progressive," however, raises one of the most complex issues in sociology. It would be needless to point out, were it not well to anticipate objection, that the foregoing summaries are not offered as a complete theory of progress even as commonly conceived, much less as sufficing to dismiss the dispute[134] as to what progress is, or what basis there is for the modern conceptions bound up with the word. Our generalisations proceed on the assumption—not of course that human affairs must constantly improve in virtue of some cosmic law, but—that by most men of any education a certain advance in range of knowledge, of reflection, of skill, of civic amenity, of general comfort, is held to be attainable and desirable; that such advances have clearly taken place in former periods; and that the due study of these periods and of present conditions may lead to a further and indefinitely prolonged advance. Conceiving progress broadly as occurring by way of rise in the quantity and the quality of pleasurable and intelligent life, we beg the question, for the purposes of this inquiry, as against those who may regard such a tendency with aversion, and those who may deny that such increase ever takes place. Taking as proved the evolution of mankind from lower forms of animal life, we conceive such evolution as immeasurably slow in the period before the attainment of agriculture, which may serve as the stage at which what we term "civilisation" begins. Only with agriculture begins the "civitas," as distinct from the horde or tribe. Thenceforth all advance in arts and ethics, no less than in political co-ordination, counts as "civilisation." The problem is, how to diagnose advance.

All of us, roughly speaking, understand by progress the moving of things in the way we want them to go; and the ideals underlying[Pg 55] the present treatise are easily seen, though it does not aim at an exhaustive survey of the conditions and causes of what it assumes to be progressive forms or phases of civilisation. To reach even a working theory, however, we have to make, as it were, cross-sections in our anatomy, and to view the movement of civilisation in terms of the conditions which increase men's stock of knowledge and extend their imaginative art. To lay a foundation, we have to subsume Buckle's all-important generalisation as to the effect of food and life conditions in differentiating what we may broadly term the primary from the secondary civilisation. Thus we think from "civilisation" to a civilisation.

Buckle drew his capital distinction, so constantly ignored by his critics, between "European" and "non-European" civilisations. This broadly holds good, but is a historical rather than a sociological proposition. The process of causation is one of life conditions; and the first great steps in the higher Greek civilisation were made in Asia Minor, in contact with Asiatic life, even as the earlier civilisations, such as the "Minoan" of Crete, now being traced through recovered remains, grew up in contact with both Egypt and the East. (Cp. Prof. Burrows, The Discoveries in Crete, 1907, chs. v, ix.) The distinction here made between "primary" and "secondary" civilisations is of course merely relative, applying as it does only to the historic period. We can but mark off the known civilisations as standing in certain relations one to another. Thus the Roman civilisation was in reality complex before the conquest of Greece, inasmuch as it had undergone Italo-Greek and Etruscan influences representing a then ancient culture. But the Roman militarist system left the Roman civilisation in itself unprogressive, and prevented it from being durably fertilised by the Greek.

Proceeding from general laws to particular cases, we may roughly say that:—

(1) Primary civilisations arise in regions specially favourable to the regular production of abundant food, and lying inland, so as not to offer constant temptation to piratical raids. (Fertile coast land is defensible only by a strong community.)

(2) Such food conditions tend to maintain an abundant population, readily lending itself to exploitation by rulers, and so involving despotism and subordination. They also imply, as a rule, level territories, which facilitate conquest and administration, and thus also involve military autocracy.

The general law that facile food conditions, supporting large populations in a primary civilisation, generate despotisms, was [Pg 56]explicitly put in the eighteenth century by Walckenaer (Essai sur l'histoire de l'espèce humaine, 1798, l. v, ch. iv, p. 198). Montesquieu, whose reasonings on climate and soil tend to be fanciful and non-economic (cp. Volney, Leçons d'Histoire, 6ième séance; and Buckle, Routledge's ed. pp. 24, 468-69), noted the fact that sterile Attica was relatively democratic, and fertile Lakedaimon aristocratic; and further (following Plutarch) decides that mountaineers tend to be democratic, plain-dwellers subject to rulers, and coast-dwellers something midway between (Esprit des Lois, l. xviii, ch. i). He is right in his facts, but misses the economic explanation. The fact that mountaineers as such are not easy to conquer, doubtless counts for a good deal. See it touched on in Gray's unfinished poem on the Alliance between Government and Education, written before the appearance of the Esprit des Lois, and stopped by Gray on the ground that "the Baron had forestalled some of his best thoughts" (Gray's Works, ed. 1821, p. 274). The point is discussed more fully in Dr. Dunbar's Essays on the History of Mankind, 1780, Essay vi.

(3) If the nation with such conditions is well aloof from other nations, in virtue of being much more civilised than its near neighbours, and of being self-sufficing as regards its produce, its civilisation (as in the cases of China and Incarial Peru and ancient Egypt) is likely to be extremely conservative. Above all, lack of racial interbreeding involves lack of due variation. No "pure" race ever evolved rapidly or highly. Even the conservative primary civilisations (as the Egyptian, Chinese, and Akkadian) rested on much race mixture.

As Dr. Draper has well pointed out (Intellect. Develop. of Europe, ed. 1875, i, 84-88), the peculiar regularity of Egyptian agriculture, depending as it did on the Nile overflow, which made known in advance the quantity of the crops, lent itself especially to a stable system of life and administration. The long-lasting exclusion of foreigners there, as in China and in Sparta, would further secure sameness of culture; and only by such causes can special unprogressiveness anywhere arise. Sir Henry Maine's formula, marking off progressive and unprogressive civilisations as different species, is merely verbal, and is not adhered to by himself. (The point is discussed at some length by the present writer in Buckle and his Critics, pp. 402-8.) Maine's distinction was drawn long ago by Eusèbe Salverte (De la Civilisation depuis les premiers temps, 1813, p. 22, seq.), who philosophically goes on to indicate the conditions which set up the differentiation; though in later references (Essai sur les noms d'hommes, 1824, préf. p. ii; Des Sciences occultes, 1829, préf. p. vi) he recurs to the [Pg 57]empirical form of his proposition, which is that adhered to by Maine.

(4) When an old civilisation comes in steady contact with that of a race of not greatly inferior but less ancient culture, physically so situated as to be much less amenable to despotism (that is, in a hilly or otherwise easily defensible region), it is likely so to fecundate the fresher civilisation that the latter, if not vitiated by a bad political system, will soon surpass it,[135] provided that the latter community in turn is duly crossed as regards its stock, and that the former has due resources.

(5) In other words, a primitive but not barbarous people, placed in a region not highly fruitful but not really unpropitious to human life, is the less likely to fall tamely under a despotism because its population is not so easily multiplied and maintained;[136] and such a people, when physiologically variated by a mixture of stocks, and when mentally fecundated by contact with older civilisations, tends to develop what we term a secondary civilisation, higher in all respects than those which have stimulated it.[137]

(6) A very great disparity in the culture-stages of meeting races, however, is as unfavourable to the issue of a higher civilisation from their union as to a useful blending of their stocks.[138] Thus it fares ill with the contact of higher and lower races even in a climate equally favourable to both; and where it is favourable to the latter only, there is likely to be no immediate progress in the lower race, while in the terms of the case the higher will deteriorate or disappear.[139]

(7) Where a vigorous but barbarian race overruns one much more civilised, there is similarly little prospect of immediate gain to progress, though after a period of independent growth the newer civilisation may be greatly fecundated by intelligent resort to the remains of the older.

The cases of China and the Roman Empire may serve as illustrations. They were, however, different in that the northern invasion of Rome was by relatively considerable [Pg 58]masses, while the Tartar conquerors of China were easily absorbed in the vast native population.

(8) Where, again, independent States at nearly the same stage of civilisation, whether speaking the same or different languages, stand in a position of commerce and rivalry, but without desperate warfare, the friction and cross-fertilisation of ideas, together with the mixture of stocks, will develop a greater and higher intellectual and artistic life than can conceivably arise in one great State without great or close rivals, since there one set of ideals or standards is likely to overbear all others, with the result of partly stereotyping taste and opinion.

This point is well put by Hume as to Greece, in his essay Of the Rise of the Arts and Sciences (1752); and after him by Gibbon, ch. 53, Bohn ed. vi, 233; Cp. Heeren, Pol. Hist. of Ancient Greece, Eng. tr. p. 42; Walckenaer, Essai cited, p. 338; Ferguson, Essay on the History of Civil Society, 1767, pp. 182, 183; Dunbar, Essays on the History of Mankind, 1780, pp. 257, 271; Goguet, De l'origine des lois, des arts, et des sciences, 1758, iii Epoque, L. ii, ch. 2; Salverte, De la Civilisation, 1813, pp. 83-88; Grote, History of Greece, pt. ii, ch. i, ed. 1888, ii, 156; Cunningham, Western Civilisation, i, 75. Grote brings out very clearly the "mutuality of action and reaction" in the case of the maritime Greeks as compared with the others and with other nations. See also Hegel, Philos. der Geschichte, Th. ii, Absch. i (ed. 1840, p. 275). Hegel, besides noting the abstract element of geographical variety, points to the highly mixed character of the Greek stocks, especially in Attica. So Salverte, as cited. The same principle is rightly put by Guizot (Hist. de la civilisation en France, i, leçon 2), and accepted by J.S. Mill (On Liberty, ch. iii, end), as a main explanation of the intellectual progress of modern Europe. It is therefore worth weighing as regards given peoples, by those who, like Mr. Bryce, see nothing but harm in the subdivision of Germany after the Thirty Years' War (Holy Roman Empire, 8th ed. p. 346). Against the undoubted evils connected with the partition system ought to be set the intellectual gains which latterly arose from it when the intellectual life of Germany had, as it were, recovered breath.

(9) Thus, while an empire with a developed civilisation may communicate it to uncivilised conquered peoples not too far below its own anthropological level, the secondary civilisation thus acquired is in its nature less "viable," less capable of independent evolution, than one set up by the free commerce of trading peoples. The most rapid growths of civilisation appear always to have[Pg 59] occurred by way of the multiplying of free contacts among trading communities, and among the free colonies of such.[140] The "money economy" they introduced was a great instrument of social and industrial evolution;[141] and on such city civilisations the ancient empires themselves seem always to have proceeded.[142]

(10) Every phase of civilisation has its special drawbacks, so that great retrogression may follow on great development, especially when adventitious sources of wealth are the foundation of a luxurious culture. In some cases a great development may be dependent on an exhaustible source of wealth, as in the case of Britain's coal supply, the empire of ancient Rome, the primacy of the Pope before the Reformation, or even the Periclean empire of Athens, and the trade monopolies of Venice, the Hansa Towns, and the Dutch Republic.

(11) The expression "decay" as applied to a people, however, has only a relative significance: used absolutely, it stands for a delusion. Economic conditions may worsen, and military power decline; but such processes imply no physiological degeneration. All the "dead" civilisations of the past were overthrown or absorbed by military violence; and there is no known case of a nation physically well placed dying out.

Professor W.D. Whitney, who is usually so well worth listening to, fails to recognise this fact in his interesting essay on "China and the Chinese" (Oriental and Linguistic Studies, 2nd series). He declares that "according to the ordinary march of events in human history, the Chinese empire should have perished from decay, and its culture either have become extinct or have passed into the keeping of another race, more than two thousand years ago. It had already reached the limit to its capacity of development" (p. 88). Similarly Ratzel pronounces (History of Mankind, Eng. tr. 1896, i, 26) that "Voltaire hits the point when he says Nature has given the Chinese the organ for discovering all that is useful to them, but not for going any further." Voltaire never penned such a "bull." He wrote (Essai sur les mœurs, Avant-Propos, ch. i), "Il semble que la Nature ait donné," and "nécessaire," not "useful." Even that has a touch of paralogism; but the great [Pg 60]essayist goes on to suggest two causes for Chinese conservatism—their ancestral piety and the nature of their method of writing. The first is a pseudo-explanation; the second is a vera causa, though only one of those involved. The German specialist of to-day is really further from the scientific point of view than the French wit of the middle of the eighteenth century, going on as he does to decide that "defect in their endowments" causes the mediocrity of the Chinese, and "also is the sole cause of the rigidity in their social system."

This is a vain saying; and it is no less vain to go on to ask, as Professor Whitney does, what has become of Egypt, of the Phœnicians and Hebrews, of the Persians, of Greece and Rome, and of Spain. The answer is easy. Egypt was conquered, and the old race still reproduces itself, in vassalage. The "Pelasgic" civilisation of ancient Greece was absorbed by the Greek invaders. The "Mycenæan" and "Minoan" civilisations, as seen in ancient Troy and "Minoan" Crete, were conquered and partly absorbed. The Phœnicians and Hebrews were destroyed or absorbed. The Persians are at present retrograde, but may rise again.[143] Rome and Greece were successively overrun by barbarism. Spain, like Italy, retrograded, but, like Italy, is on the path of regeneration. In all these cases the process of causation is obvious. No nation dies or disappears save by violence; and, given the proper conditions, all races are capable of progress indefinitely. China, though unprogressive in comparison with a European State, has changed in many respects within two thousand years—nay, within twenty.[144] Professor Whitney adopts an empirical convention, and accordingly misses any real elucidation of the problem of Chinese sociology, which he assumes to solve (p. 87) by saying we must look for our explanations "deep in the foundations of the national character itself." That is to say, the national character is determined by the national character.

It is surely time that this palæo-theological fashion of explaining human affairs were superseded by the more fruitful method of positive science, even as regards China, which is perhaps the worst explained of all sociological cases. Like others, it had been intelligently taken up by sociologists of the eighteenth century before the conservative reaction (see the Esprit des Lois, vii, 6; viii, 21; x, 15; xiv, 8; xviii, 6; xix, 13-20; Dunbar's Essays, as cited, pp. 257, 258, 262, 263, 321; and Walckenaer, Essai cited, pp. 175, 176); but that impetus seems to have been thus far almost entirely lost. Voltaire's fallacy is remembered and his truth ignored; and the methods of theology continue to be applied to many questions of moral science after they have been wholly cast out of physics and [Pg 61]biology. The old "falsisms" of empirical politics are repeated even by professed biologists when they enter on the field of social science. Thus we have seen them accepted by Dr. Draper, and we find Professor Huxley (Evolution and Ethics, Romanes Lecture for 1893, p. 4) rhetorically putting "that successive rise, apogee, and fall of dynasties and states which is the most prominent topic of civil history," as scientifically analogous to the process of growth and decay and death in the human organism. Any comparative study of history shows the analogy to be spurious. Professor Whitney was doubtless influenced, like Dr. Draper, by the American habit of regarding European and ancient civilisations as necessarily decrepit because "slow" and "old." Cp. Draper as cited, ii, 393-98.

In the cases above dealt with, however, and in many others, there is seen to have been intellectual decay, in the sense of, first, a cessation of forward movement, and, next, a loss of the power to appreciate ideas once current. A common cause of such paralysis of the higher life is the malignant action of dogmatic religious systems, as in the cases of Persia, Jewry, Byzantium, Islam, Spain under Catholicism, and Scotland for two centuries under Protestantism. Such paralysis by religion may arise alike in a highly-organised but isolated State like Byzantium, and in a semi-civilised country like Anglo-Saxon England.[145] The special malignity of dogma in these cases is itself of course a matter for analysis and explanation. Other cases are partly to be explained by (a) the substitution of systematic militarism, always fatal to progressive culture, for a life of only occasional warfare, favourable to study among the leisured class.[146] But (b) there is reason to surmise a further and profoundly important cause of intellectual retrogression in the usage which develops the culture of a people for the most part in one sex only. The thesis may be ventured that whereas vigorous and creative brains may arise in abundance in a young civilisation, where the sexes are physiologically not far removed from the approximate equality of the semi-barbarous stage, the psychological divergence set up by mentally and physically training the males and not the females is likely to be unfavourable to the breeding of mentally energetic types.

(12) Whether or not the last hypothesis be valid, it is clear that the co-efficient or constituent of intellectual progress in a people, given the necessary conditions of peace and sufficient food, is multiplication of ideas; and this primarily results from international[Pg 62] contact, or the contact of wholly or partly independent communities of one people. Multiplication of arts and crafts is of course included under the head of ideas. But unless the stock of ideas is not merely in constant process of being added to among the studious or leisured class, but disseminated among the other classes, stagnation will take place among these, and will inevitably infect the educated class.

De Tocqueville, balancing somewhat inconclusively, because always in vacuo, the forces affecting literature in aristocratic and democratic societies, says decisively enough (Démocratie en Amérique, ed. 1850, ii, 62-63) that "Toute aristocratie qui se met entièrement à part du peuple devient impuissante. Cela est vrai dans les lettres aussi bien qu'en politique." This holds clearly enough of Italian literature in the despotic period. Mr. Godkin's criticism (Problems of Modern Democracy, p. 56) that "M. de Tocqueville and all his followers take it for granted that the great incentive to excellence, in all countries in which excellence is found, is the patronage and encouragement of an aristocracy," is hardly accurate. De Tocqueville puts the case judicially enough, so far as he goes; and Mr. Godkin falls into strange extravagance in his counter statement that there is "hardly a single historical work composed prior to the end of the last [eighteenth] century, except perhaps Gibbon's, which, judged by the standard that the criticism of our day has set up, would not, though written for the 'few,' be pronounced careless, slipshod, or superficial." Tillemont, by the testimony of Professor Bury, was a more thorough worker in his special line than Gibbon. It would be easy to name scores of writers in various branches of history in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries whom no good critic to-day would call careless or slipshod; and if Hume and Robertson, Clarendon and Burnet, be termed superficial, the "standard" will involve a similar characterisation of most historical writers of our own day. As regards present-day literary productions, De Tocqueville and Mr. Godkin alike omit the necessary economic analysis.

(13) In the intellectual infectiousness of all class degradation, properly speaking, lies the final sociological (as apart from the primary ethical) condemnation of slavery. The familiar argument that slavery first secured the leisure necessary for culture, even were it wholly instead of being merely partially true, would not rebut the censure that falls to be passed on slavery in later stages of civilisation. All the ancient States, before Greece, stood on slavery: then it was not slavery that yielded her special culture. What she gained from older civilisations was the knowledge and the arts developed by specialisation of pursuits; and such specialisation was not necessarily dependent on slavery, which could abound without[Pg 63] it. It was in the special employment, finally, of the exceptionally large free population of Athens that the greatest artistic output was reached.[147] In later periods, the slave population was the great nucleus of superstition and anti-culture.

Inasmuch, then, as education is in only a small degree compatible with toilsome poverty, the betterment of the material conditions of the toiling class is essential to progress in ideas. That is to say, continual progress implies gradual elimination of class inequality, and cannot subsist otherwise. At the same time, a culture-class must be maintained by new machinery when leisured wealth is got rid of.[148]

(14) Again, it follows from the foregoing (4-10) that the highest civilisation will be that in which the greatest number of varying culture-influences meet,[149] in the most happily-crossed stock, under climatic conditions favourable to energy, on a basis of a civilisation sufficiently matured.[150] But in order to the effectual action of such various culture-influences through all classes of the nation in which they meet, there is needed a constant application of social or political regimen. In the lack of that, a great conflux of culture-forces may miss fruition. A mere fortuitous depression of the rich class, and elevation of the poor, will not suffice to place a society on a sound or even on an improved footing. Such a change occurred in ancient Athens after Salamis, when the poorer sort, who had constituted the navy, flourished[151] as against the richer, who had been the land soldiery, and whose lands had been ravaged. But the forces of disintegration played afresh. Yet again, transient financial conditions, such as those of Italy before the Reformation, of Holland until the decline of its fishing and trade, and of Venice until its final commercial decay, may sustain a great artistic life, art having always depended on private or public demand. Thus with a change in the geographical course of trade, a great phase of culture-life may dwindle. So many and so complex are the forces and conditions of progress in civilisation.

§ 2

It will readily be seen that most of the foregoing propositions[Pg 64] have direct reference to well-known facts of history. Thus (a) ancient Egypt represents a primary civilisation, marked indeed by some fluctuations connected with dynastic changes which involved mixture of stocks, but on the whole singularly fixed; while ancient Greek civilisation was emphatically a secondary one, the fruit of much race-mixture and many interacting culture-forces, all facilitated by the commercial position and coast-conformation of Hellas.

This view is partly rejected by Grote in two passages (pt. i, chs. xvi, xvii, ed. 1888, i, 326, 413) in which he gives to the "inherent and expansive force" of "the Greek mind" the main credit of Greek civilisation. But his words, to begin with, are confused and contradictory: "The transition of the Greek mind from its poetical to its comparatively positive stage was self-operated, accomplished by its own inherent and expansive force—aided indeed, but by no means either impressed or provoked from without." In the second place, there is no basis for the denial of "impression or provocation" from without. And finally, what is decisive, the historian himself has in other passages acknowledged that the Greeks received from Asia and Egypt just such "provocation" as is seen to take place in varying degrees in the culture-contacts of all nations (chs. xv, xvi, pp. 307, 329). Of the contact with Egypt he expressly says that it "enlarged the range of their thoughts and observations." His whole treatment of the rise of culture, however, is meagre and imperfect relatively to his ample study of the culture itself. Later students grow more and more unanimous as to the composite character of the Greek-speaking stock in the earliest traceable periods of Hellenic life (cp. Bury, History of Greece, ed. 1906, pp. 39-42, and Professor Burrows, The Discoveries in Crete, 1907, p. 144), and the consequent complexity of the entire Hellenic civilisation. The case is suggestively put by Eduard Meyer (Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, 155) in the observation that while the west coast of Greece had as many natural advantages as the eastern, it remained backward in civilisation when the other had progressed far. "Here there lacked the foreign stimulus: the west of Greece is away from the source of culture. Here, accordingly, primitive conditions continued to rule, while in the east a higher culture evolved itself.... Corinth in the older period played no part whatever, whether in story or in remains." The same proposition was put a generation ago by A. Bertrand, who pointed out that the coasts of Elis and Messenia are "incomparably more fertile" than those of Argolis and Attica (Études de mythologie et d'archéologie grecques, 1858, pp. 40-41); and again by Winwood Reade in The Martyrdom of Man (1872, p. 64): "A glance at the map is sufficient to explain why it was that Greece became civilised before the other European lands. It is [Pg 65]nearest to those countries in which civilisation first arose ... compelled to grow towards Asia as a tree grows towards the light." But to this generalisation should be put the qualifying clause (above, p. 55) that fertile coasts when developed are defensible only by a strongly organised community. Thus an early exploitation of Elis and Messenia would be checked by piracy.

The question as to the originality of Greek culture, it is interesting to note, was already discussed at the beginning of the eighteenth century. See Shaftesbury's Characteristics, Misc. iii, ch. i.

(b) The Greek land as a whole, especially the Attic, was only moderately fertile, and therefore not so cheaply and redundantly populated as Egypt.

The bracing effect of their relative poverty was fully recognised by the Greeks themselves. Cp. Herodotus, vii, 102, and Thucydides, i, 123. See on the same point Heeren, Political History of Ancient Greece, Eng. tr. pp. 24-33; Thirlwall, History of Greece, small ed. i, 12; Duncker, Gesch. des Alterthums, iii, ch. i, § 1; Wachsmuth, Hist. Antiq. of the Greeks, § 8; Duruy, Hist. Grecque, 1851, p. 7; Grote, part ii, ch. i (ed. 1888, ii, 160); Boeckh, Public Economy of Athens, B. i, c. 8; Niebuhr, Lectures, li (Eng. tr. 3rd ed. p. 265); Mahaffy, Rambles and Studies in Greece, 4th ed. pp. 137, 164-67. Dr. Grundy (Thucydides and the History of his Age, 1911, p. 58 sq.) lays stress on the fertility of the valleys, but recognises the smallness of the fertile areas.

(c) Hellas was further so decisively cut up into separate cantons by its mountain ranges, and again in respect of the multitude of the islands, that the Greek districts were largely foreign to each other,[152] and their cultures had thus the advantage of reacting and interacting, as against the disadvantage of their incurable political separateness—that disadvantage in turn being correlative with the advantage of insusceptibility to a despotism.

The effect of geographical conditions on Greek history is discussed at length in Conrad Bursian's essay, Ueber den Einfluss des griechischen Landes auf den Charakter seiner Bewohner, which I have been unable to procure or see; but I gather from his Geographie von Griechenlands that he takes the view here set forth. Cp. Senior's Journal kept in Turkey and Greece, 1859, p. 255, for a modern Greek's view of the state [Pg 66]of his nation, "divided into small districts by mountain ranges intersecting each other in all directions without a road or canal"; the deduction from the same perception made by the young Arthur Stanley (Prothero's Life of Dean Stanley, 1-vol. ed. p. 143); and the impression retained from his travels by M. Bertrand, Études de mythologie et d'archéologie grecques, 1858, p. 199.

The profound importance of the geographical fact has been recognised more or less clearly and fully by many writers—e.g., Hume, essay Of the Rise and Progress of the Arts and the Sciences (ed. 1825 of Essays, i, 115-16); Gillies, History of Greece, 1-vol. ed. p. 5; Heeren, as cited, pp. 35, 75; Duncker, as last cited, also ch. iii, § 12 (2te Aufl. 1860, p. 601); Duruy, ch. i; Cox, General History of Greece, bk. i, ch. i; Thirlwall, ch. x; Wachsmuth, Eng. tr. i, 87; Comte, Cours de Philosophie Positive, Leçon 53ième; Grote, pt. ii, ch. i (ii, 155); Finlay, History of Greece, Tozer's ed. i, 28; K.O. Müller, Introd. to Scientific Mythology, Eng. tr. p. 179; Hegel, as last cited; Hertzberg, Geschichte von Hellas und Rom, 1879 (in Oncken's series), i, 9; Winwood Reade, The Martyrdom of Man, 1872, p. 65 sq.; Bury, History of Greece, ed. 1906, pp. 2-4; Fyffe (very explicitly), Primer of Greek History, p. 8—but it is strangely overlooked by writers to whom one turns for a careful study of causes. Even Grote, after having clearly set forth (ii, 150) the predetermining influence of land-form, attributes Greek divisions to the "character of the race," which even in this connection, however, he describes as "splitting by natural fracture into a multitude of self-administering, indivisible cities" (pt. ii, ch. 28, beginning); and Sir George Cox, after specifying the geographical factor, speaks of it as merely "fostering" a love of isolation resulting from "political creed." Freeman (History of Federal Government) does not seem to apply the geographical fact to the explanation of any phase of Greek history, though he sees in Greece (ed. 1893, pp. 92, 554) "each valley and peninsula and island marked out by the hand of nature for an independent being," and quotes (p. 559) Cantù as to the effect of land-form on history in Italy. In so many words he pronounces (p. 101) that the love of town-autonomy was "inherent in the Greek mind." Mr. Warde Fowler (City-State of the Greeks and Romans) does not once give heed to the geographical conditions of causation, always speaking of the Greeks as lacking the "faculty" of union as compared with the Latins, though the Eastern Empire finally showed greater cohesive power than the Western. Even Mr. Fyffe (Primer cited, p. 127), despite his preliminary recognition of the facts, finally speaks of the Greeks as relatively lacking in the "gift for government."

The same assumption is made in Lord Morley's Compromise (ed. 1888, p. 108) in the allusion to "peoples so devoid of the sovereign faculty of political coherency as were the Greeks and [Pg 67]the Jews." Lord Morley's proposition is that such peoples may still evolve great civilising ideas; but though that is true, the implied thesis as to "faculty" weakens even the truth. The case of the Jews is to be explained in exactly the same way as that of the Greeks, the face of Palestine being disjunct and segregate in a peculiar degree. Other "Semites," living in great plains, were united in great monarchies. The sound view of the case as to Rome is put by Hertzberg: "Soll man im Gegensatze zu der hellenischen Geschichte es in kürzester Fassung bezeichnen, so kann man etwa sagen, die italische Landesnatur stellte der Ausbildung eines grossen einheitlich geordneten Staates durchaus nicht die gewaltigen Hindernisse entgegen, wie das in Griechenland der Fall war" (Gesch. von Hellas und Rom, ii, 7). Cp. Shuckburgh, History of Rome, 1894, p. 9, as to "the vast heights which effectually separate tribes." Dr. Cunningham puts it (Western Civilisation, i, 152, 160) that Roman expansion in Italy came of the need to reach a true frontier of defence, in the lack of physical barriers to the early States. (So Lord Cromer, Anc. and Mod. Imperialism, 1910, p. 19.) It seems more plausible to say that all of the States concerned were positively disposed to conquest, and that the physical conditions of Italy made possible an overrunning which in early Greece was impossible.

The theory of "faculty," consistently applied on Mr. Fowler's and Lord Morley's lines, would credit the French with an innate gift of union much superior to that of the Germans—at least in the modern period—and the Chinese with the greatest "faculty" of all. But the long maintenance of one rule over all China is clearly due in large part to the "great facility of internal intercourse" (Davis, The Chinese, Introd.) so long established. The Roman roads were half the secret of the cohesion of the Empire. Dr. Draper suggests, ingeniously but inaccurately, that Rome had strength and permanence because of lying east and west, and thus possessing greater racial homogeneity than it would have had if it lay north and south (Intel. Devel. of Europe, i, 11). On the other hand, mountainous Switzerland remains still cantonally separate, though the pressure of surrounding States, beginning with that of Austria, forced a political union. Compare the case of the clans of the Scottish Highlands down to the road-making period after the last Jacobite rising. See the principle discussed in Mr. Spencer's Principles of Sociology, i, § 17.

It may be well, before leaving the subject, to meet the important criticism of the geographical principle by Fustel de Coulanges (La Cité antique, liv. iii, ch. xiv, p. 238, édit. 1880). Noting that the incurable division of the Greeks has been attributed to the nature of their land, and that it has been said that the intersecting mountains established lines of natural demarcation among men, he goes on to argue: "But there are [Pg 68]no mountains between Thebes and Platæa, between Argos and Sparta, between Sybaris and Crotona. There were none between the towns of Latium, or between the twelve cities of Etruria. Physical nature has doubtless some influence on the history of peoples, but the beliefs of men have a much greater. Between two neighbouring cities there was something more impassable than a mountain—to wit, the series of sacred limits, the difference of cults, the barrier which each city set up between the stranger and its Gods."

All this, so far as it goes, is substantially true, but it does not at all conflict with the principle as above set forth. Certainly all cities, like all tribes, were primarily separatist; though even in religious matters there was some measure of early peaceful inter-influence, and a certain tendency to syncresis as well as to separateness. (Cp. K.O. Müller, Dorians, Eng. tr. i, 228.) But the principle is not special to the cities of Greece. Cities and tribes were primarily separatist in Babylonia and in Egypt. How, then, were these regions nevertheless monarchised at an early period? Clearly by reason of the greater invitingness and feasibility of conquest in such territories—for their unification was forcible. The conditions had thus both an objective and a subjective, a suggestive and a permissive force, both lacking in Greece. Again, the twelve cities of Etruria formed a league. If they did so more readily and effectually than the Greeks, is not the level character of their territory, which made them collectively open to attack, and facilitated intercourse, one of the obviously probable causes? No doubt the close presence of hostile and alien races was a further unifying force which did not arise in Greece. Etruria, finally, like Latium, was unified by conquest; the question is, Why was not Greece? There is no answer save one—that in the pre-Alexandrian period no Greek State had acquired the military and administrative skill and resources needed to conquer and hold such a divided territory. Certainly the conditions conserved the ideal of separateness and non-aggression or non-assimilation, so that cities which had easy access to each other respected each other's ideal. But here again it was known that an attempt at conquest would probably lead to alliances between the attacked State and others; and the physical conditions prevented any State save Macedonia from becoming overwhelmingly strong. To these conditions, then, we always return, not as to sole causes, but as to determinants.

(d) In Egypt, again, culture was never deeply disseminated, and before Alexander was hardly at all fecundated by outside contact. In Greece there was always the great uncultured slave substratum; and the arrest of freedom, to say nothing of social ignorance, female subjection, and sexual perversion, ultimately kept vital culture[Pg 69] stationary. In Rome, militarism and the multiplication of the slave class, along with the deletion of the independent and industrious middle class, made progressive culture impossible, as surely as it broke down self-government. In all cases alike, over-population, not being met by science, either bred poverty or was obviated by crime and vice.

The so-called regeneration of Europe by the barbarian conquest, finally, was simply the beginning of a long period of corrupted and internecine barbarism, the old culture remaining latent; and not till after many centuries did the maturing barbaric civilisation in times of compulsory peace reach the capacity of being fecundated by the intelligent assimilation of the old. But after the Renaissance, as before, the diseases of militarism and class privilege and the political subjection caused a backthrow and intellectual stagnation, which was assisted by the commercial decline brought upon Italy; so that in the feudal period, in one State after another, we have the symptoms of, as it were, senile "decay" and retrogression.[153] In all cases this is to be set down proximately to the deficit of new ideas, and in some to excess of strife, which exhausted spare energy among the leisured class, deepened the misery of the toilers, and normally prevented the intelligent intercourse of peoples. It is become a commonplace of historical philosophy that the Crusades wrought for good inasmuch as they meant fresh communication between East and West. Yet it may be doubted whether much more was not done through the quiet contacts of peace between Saracen and Christian in Western Europe, and by the commerce with the East which preceded the Crusades,[154] than by the forced intercourse following on religious war. In any case, the transition from quasi-decay to progress in Christendom is clearly due to the entrance of new ideas of many species from many directions into the common stock; Greek letters, Saracen physics, and new geographical discovery all combining to generate thought.

The case of Japan, again, compares with both that of ancient Greece and that of modern Europe. Its separate civilisation, advantageously placed in an archipelago, drew stimulus early in the historic period from that of China; and, while long showing the Chinese unprogressiveness in other respects, partly in virtue of the peculiar burdensomeness of the Chino-Japanese system of ideograms, it made remarkable progress on the side of art. The recent rapid industrial development (injurious to the artistic life) is plainly a result of the[Pg 70] European and American contact; and if only the mechanism of reading and writing be made manageable on the European lines, and the snare of militarism be escaped, the Japanese civilisation may develop mentally as much as it is doing industrially and in military organisation.

It suffices the practical political student, then, to note that progress is thus always a matter of intelligible causation; and, without concerning himself about predicting the future or estimating the sum of possibilities, to take up the tasks of contemporary politics as all other tasks are taken up by practical men, as a matter of adaptation of means to ends. The architect and engineer have nothing to do with calculating as to when the energy of the solar system will be wholly transmuted. As little has the politician to do with absolute estimates of the nature of progress. All alike have to do with the study of laws, forces, and economics.

§ 3

We may now, then, set forth the all-pervading biological forces or tendencies of attraction and repulsion in human affairs as the main primary factors in politics or corporate life, which it is the problem of human science to control by counteracting or guiding; and we may without further illustration set down the principal modes in which these instincts appear. They are, broadly speaking:—

(a) Animal pugnacities and antipathies of States or peoples, involving combinations, sanctified from the first by religion, and surviving as racial aspirations in subject peoples.

(b) Class divisions, economically produced, resulting in class combinations and hostilities within a State, and, in particular, popular desire for betterment.

(c) The tendency to despotism as a cure for class oppression or anarchy; and the spirit of conquest.

(d) The beneficent lure of commerce, promoting intercourse, countered by the commercial jealousies of States.

(e) Designs of rulers, giving rise to popular or aristocratic factions—complicated by questions of succession and loyalism.

(f) Religious combinations, antipathies, and ambitions, international or sectarian. In more educated communities, ideals of government and conduct.

[Pg 71]

In every one of these modes, be it observed, the instinct of repulsion correlates with the instinct of attraction. The strifes are the strifes of combinations, of groups or masses united in themselves by sympathy, in antipathy to other groups or masses. The esprit de corps arises alike in the species, the horde, the tribe, the community, the class, the faction, the nation, the trade or profession, the Church, the sect, the party. Always men unite to oppose; always they must love to hate, fraternise to struggle.

The analogies in physics are obvious, but need not here be dwelt upon. There is a risk of losing concrete impressions, which are here in view, in a highly generalised statement of cosmic analogies. But it may be well to point out that a general view will perfectly reconcile the superficially conflicting doctrines of recent biologists, as to "progress by struggle" and "progress by co-operation." Both statements hold good, the two phases being correlatives.

I have said that it is extremely difficult to imagine a state of society in which there shall be no public operation of any one of these forces. I am disposed to say it is impossible, but for scientific purposes prefer to put simply the difficulties of the conception. A cessation of war is not only easily conceivable, but likely; but a cessation of strife of aspiration would mean a state of biological equilibrium throughout the civilised world. Now, pure equilibrium is by general consent a state only momentarily possible; and the state of dissolution of unions, were that to follow, would involve strife of opinion at least up to a certain point. But just as evolution is now visibly towards an abandonment of brute strife among societies, so may it be reasonably expected that the strife of ideals and doctrines within societies, though now perhaps emotionally intense in proportion to the limitation of brute warfare, will gradually be freed of malevolent passion as organisms refine further. Passion, in any case, has hitherto been at once motive-power and hindrance—the omnipresent force, since all ideas have their correlative emotion. A perception of this has led to some needless dispute over what is called the "economic theory" of history; critics insisting that men are ruled by non-economic as well as economic motives.[155] The solution is perfectly simple. Men are proximately ruled by their passions or emotions; and the supremacy of the economic factor consists in its being, for the majority, the most permanent director[Pg 72] or stimulant of feeling. Therefore, the great social rectification, if it ever come, must needs be economic.

Certainly, on the principle laid down, there is a likelihood that strife of ideals and doctrines may be for a time intensified by the very process of social reform, should that go to lessen the stress of the industrial struggle for existence. It is easy to see that England has in the past hundred and twenty years escaped the stress of domestic strife which in France wrought successive revolutions, not so much by any virtue in its partially democratic constitution as by the fact that on the one hand a war was begun with France by the English ruling classes at an early stage of the first revolution, and that on the other hand the animal energies of the middle and lower classes were on the whole freer than those of the French to run in the channels of industrial competition. People peacefully fighting each other daily in trade, not to speak of sports, were thereby partly safeguarded from carrying the instincts of attraction and repulsion in politics to the length of insurrection and civil war. When the strife of trade became congested, the spirit of political strife, fed by hunger, broke out afresh, to be again eased off when the country had an exciting foreign war on hand. So obvious is this that it may be the last card of Conservatism to play off the war spirit against the reform spirit, as was done with some temporary success in England by Beaconsfield, and as is latterly being done by his successors.[156] The climaxing movement of political rationalism is evidently dependent on the limitation of the field of industrial growth and the absence of brute warfare. And if, as seems conceivable, political rationalism attains to a scientific provision for the well-being of the mass of the people, we shall have attained a condition in which the forces of attraction and repulsion, no longer flowing freely in the old social channels, may be expected to dig new ones or deepen those lately formed. The future channels, generally speaking, would tend to lie in the regions of political, ethical, and religious opinion; and the partial disuse of any one of these will tend to bring about the deepening of the others.

But this is going far ahead; and it is our business rather to make clear, with the help of an analysis of analogous types of civilisation, what has happened in the modern past of our country. The simple general laws under notice are universal, and will be found to apply in all stages of history, though the interpretation of many phases of life by their means may be a somewhat complex matter.[Pg 73]

For instance, the life of China[157] (above discussed) and that of India may at first sight seem to give little colour to the assumption of a constant play of social attraction and repulsion. The "unprogressiveness of Asia" is dwelt on alike by many who know Asia and many who do not. But this relative unprogressiveness is to be explained, like European progress, in terms of the conditions. China is simply a case of comparative culture-stability and culture-isolation. The capital condition of progress in civilisation has always been, as aforesaid, the contact of divergent races whose independent culture-elements, though different, are not greatly different in grade and prestige. Now, the outside contacts of China, down till the eighteenth century, had been either with races which had few elements of civilisation to give her, like the Mongols, or with a civilisation little different from or less vigorous than her own, like that of India. Even these contacts counted for much, and Chinese history has been full of political convulsions, despite—or in keeping with—the comparative stagnation of Chinese culture. (On this see Peschel, Races of Men, Eng. tr. pp. 361-74. Cp. Huc, Chinese Empire, Eng. tr. ed. 1859, p. xvii; Walckenaer, Essai sur l'histoire de l'espèce humaine, 1798, pp. 175, 176; and Maine, Early History of Institutions, pp. 226, 227). The very pigtail which for Europe is the symbol of Chinese civilisation is only two hundred years old, having come in with the Mantchoo dynasty; and the policy of systematically excluding foreigners dates from the same period (Huc, p. 236). "No one," writes Professor Flint, "who has felt interest enough in that singular nation to study the researches and translations of Remusat, Pauthier, Julien, Legge, Plath, Faber, Eitel, and others, will hesitate to dismiss as erroneous the commonplace that it has been an unprogressive nation" (History of the Philosophy of History, vol. i, 1893, p. 88).

China was in fact progressive while the variety of stocks scattered over her vast area reacted on each other in virtue of variety of government and way of life:[158] it was when they were reduced under one imperial government that unity of state-system, coupled with the exclusion of foreign contacts, imposed stagnation. But the stagnation was real, and other factors contributed to its continuance. The fecundity of the soil has always maintained a redundant and therefore a poor and ignorant population—a condition which we have described as fatal to progress in culture if not counteracted, and which further favours the utter subjection of women and the consequent arrest of half the sources of variation. Mencius, speaking to the rulers of his day (3rd c. B.C.), declared with simple[Pg 74] profundity that "They are only men of education who, without a certain livelihood, are able to maintain a fixed heart. As to the people, if they have not a certain livelihood it follows that they will not have a fixed heart. And if they have not a fixed heart there is nothing they will not do in the way of self-abandonment, of moral deflection, of depravity, and of wild license" (Legge, Life and Works of Mencius, 1875, p. 49). That lesson the rulers of China could not learn, any more than their European congeners.

We cannot, therefore, accede to Professor Flint's further remark that "The development and filiation of thought is scarcely less traceable in the history and literature of China than of Greece"—that is, if it be meant that Chinese history down till our own day may be so compared with the history of pagan Greece. The forces of fixation in China have been too strong to admit of this. The same factors have been at work in India, where, further, successive conquests, down till our own, had results very similar to those of the barbarian conquest of the Roman Empire. Yet at length, next door to China, in Japan, there has rapidly taken place a national transformation that is not to be paralleled in the world's history; and in India the Congress movement has developed in a way that twenty years ago was thought impossible.[159] And while these things are actually happening before the world's eyes, certain Englishmen vociferate more loudly than ever the formula of the "unchangeableness of Asia." A saner, though still a speculative view, is put forth by Mr. C.H. Pearson in his work on National Character. It was anticipated by—among others—M. Philarète Chasles. See his L'Angleterre politique, édit. 1878, pp. 250, 251. And Walckenaer, over a hundred years ago (Essai cited, p. 368), predicted the future civilisation of the vast plains of Tartary.


[134] On this may be consulted a suggestive paper by Mr. Lowes Dickinson in the Free Review, April, 1894, and an instructive study by Mr. T. Whittaker, "A Critical Essay on the Philosophy of History," in his Essays and Notices, 1895. Cp. Spencer, "Progress: Its Law and Cause," in Essays, vol. i.

[135] This also is posited by Dunbar, Essays cited, pp. 230, 233.

[136] This again, as well as the general importance of culture-contacts, is noted by Walckenaer, Essai cited, pp. 202-3.

[137] This was seen in antiquity. Julian, at least, pointed to the fashion in which the Greeks had perfected studies the rudiments of which they had received from other peoples (apud Cyrill, v. 8); and Celsus had said it before him (Origen, Contra Celsum, i. 2).

[138] See some just remarks by Bagehot in Physics and Politics, pp. 67-69, proceeding on Quatrefages, as to the varying success of given race-mixtures in different regions, in terms of the difference of the physical environment. Compare Schäffle, Bau und Körper de Socialen Lebens, 1875-8, ii, 468.

[139] Cp. Dunbar, as cited, p. 211, and Bagehot, as cited, p. 71. In such cases as those of British India and French Algiers the exception is only apparent, the European control being kept up by annual drafts of new men.

[140] E.g. the ancient Ægean civilisation, as seen in "Minoan" Crete; the colonies of the Phœnicians; those of the Greeks in Asia Minor, Italy, and Sicily; the medieval Italian Republics; the Hansa towns; those of the Netherlands; and the United States.

[141] See Dr. Cunningham, Western Civilisation, pp. 73, 74, 83-86, 94-97, etc., for an interesting development of this principle. Cp. Prof. Ashley, Introduction to Economic History, 1888-93, i, 43, and Hildebrand, as there cited. The originality of Hildebrand's ideas on this point has perhaps been overrated by Ochenkowski and others. Smith recognised the main facts (Wealth of Nations, bk. i, c. iv). See also the passage from Torrens cited by M'Culloch in his essay on "Money," Treatises, ed. 1859, pp. 9, 10.

[142] E.g. Babylonia, Egypt, Alexander's empire, and Rome.

[143] This was written before the recent revolution.

[144] Since this was written China has undergone her new birth.

[145] Cp. Pearson's History of England during the Early and Middle Ages, i, 312, and H.W. C. Davis, England under the Normans and Angevins, 1905, pp. 1, 2, 47.

[146] Japan now runs a grave risk of such retrogression.

[147] Cp. Cunningham's Western Civilisation, i, 109.

[148] The point is argued at greater length by the author in an article on "The Economics of Genius" in the Forum, April, 1898 (rep. in Essays in Sociology, vol. ii).

[149] Cp. Tiele, Outlines of the History of Religion, Eng. tr. pp. 205, 207, and the present writer's Short History of Freethought, 2nd ed. i, 122-24.

[150] The civilisations of North America and the English "dominions," while showing much diffusion of average culture, produce thus far relatively few of the highest fruits because of social immaturity and the smallness of their culture class.

[151] Aristotle, Politics, ii, 12; v, 4.

[152] Grote (ii, 150) argues that the need to move the cattle between high and low grounds promoted communication between "otherwise disunited villages." But that would be a small matter. The essential point is that, whatever the contacts, the communities remained alien to each other.

[153] See Stubbs, Const. Hist. of England, 4th ed. iii, 632-33, as to England in the fifteenth century; and Michelet, Introd. to Renaissance (vol. vii of Hist. de France).

[154] See below, pt. vi, ch. i, § 2.

[155] This discussion also goes back for at least two centuries. See Shaftesbury's Characteristics, Misc. iii, ch. i (vol. iii, pp. 137, 152).

[156] Note, in this connection, the tactic of Mr. Balfour in the election struggle of 1909-10.

[157] This was written, of course, before the recent uprising.

[158] Cp. Professor Giles, The Civilisation of China, pp. 1-19, as to the little-recognised diversity of Chinese speech, stock, and climate.

[159] Since these words were written China in turn has had her new birth, vindicating the doctrine above set forth.



Chapter I


By singling out one set of the forces of aggregation and disintegration touched on in the foregoing general view, it is possible to get a more concrete idea of what actually went on in the Roman body politic. It is always useful in economic science, despite protests to the contrary, to consider bare processes irrespectively of ethical feeling; and the advantage accrues similarly in the "economic interpretation of history."[160] We have sufficiently for our purpose considered Roman history under the aspects of militarism and class egoism: it remains to consider it as a series of economic phenomena.

This has been facilitated by many special studies. Gibbon covers much of the ground in chapters 6, 14, 17, 18, 29, 35, 36 and 41; and Professor Guglielmo Ferrero sheds new light at some points in his great work, The Greatness and Decline of Rome (Eng. trans. 5 vols. 1907-1911), though his economics at times calls for revision. Cp. Alison on "The Fall of Rome," in Essays, 1850, vol. iii (a useful conspectus, though flawed by some economic errors); Spalding's Italy and the Italian Islands, 3rd ed. 1845, i, 371-400; Dureau de la Malle, Économie politique des Romains, 1840, t. ii; Robiou et Delaunay, Les Institutions de l'ancienne Rome, 1888, vol. iii, ch. 1; Fustel de Coulanges, Le Colonat romain, etc.; Finlay, History of Greece from its Conquest by the Romans, ed. 1877, ch. i, §§ 5-8; Long, Decline of the Roman Republic, vol. i, 1864, chs. xi, xii, xx (a work full of sound criticism of testimonies); W.T. Arnold, Roman Provincial Administration, 1879; Brooks Adams, The Law of Civilisation and Decay, 1897, ch. i; and Dr. Cunningham's Western Civilisation, vol. i, 1899. Among many learned and instructive German treatises may be noted the Preisschrift of [Pg 76]R. Pöhlmann, Die Uebervölkerung der antiken Grossstädte, Leipzig, 1884. Special notice is due to the recent work of W.R. Patterson, The Nemesis of Nations, 1907—a valuable study of slavery.

As we have first traced them, the Romans are a cluster of agricultural and pastoral tribes, chronically at war with their neighbours, and centring round certain refuge-fortresses on one or two of the "Seven Hills." Whether before or after conquest by monarchic Etruscans, these tribes tended normally to fall into social grades in which relative wealth and power tended to go together. The first source of subsistence for all was cattle-breeding and agriculture, and that of the richer was primarily slave labour, a secondary source being usury. Slaves there were in the earliest historic times. But from the earliest stages wealth was in some degree procured through war, which yielded plunder in the form of cattle,[161] the principal species of riches in the ages before the precious metals stood for the command of all forms of wealth. Thus the rich tended to grow richer even in that primitive community, their riches enabling them specially to qualify themselves for war, so getting more slaves and cattle, and to acquire fresh slave labour in time of peace, while in time of war the poor cultivator ran a special risk of being himself reduced to slavery at home, in that his farm was untilled, while that of the slave-owner went on as usual.[162] Long before the ages described as decadent, the lapse of the poor into slavery was a frequent event. "The law of debt, framed by creditors, and for the protection of creditors, was the most horrible that has ever been known among men."[163] When the poorer cultivator borrowed stock or seed from the richer, he had first to pay a heavy interest; and when in bad years he failed to meet that liability he could be at once sold up and finally enslaved with his family, so making competition all the harder for the other small cultivators. As against the plainly disintegrating action of such a system, however, wars of conquest and plunder became to some extent a means of popular salvation, the poorer having ultimately their necessary share in the booty, and, as the State grew, in the conquered lands. Military expansion was thus an economic need.

In such an inland community, commerce could grow but slowly, the products being little adapted for distant exchange. The primitive[Pg 77] prejudice of landholders against trade, common to Greece and Rome, left both handicraft and commerce largely to aliens and pariahs.[164] The traders, as apart from the agriculturists and vine-and olive-growers, would as a rule be foreigners, "non-citizens," having no political rights; and their calling was from the first held in low esteem by the richer natives, were it only because in comparison it was always apt to involve some overreaching of the agriculturist,[165] which as between man and man could be seen to be a bad thing by moralists who had no scruples about usury and enslavement for debt. And as the scope of the State increased from age to age, the patrician class found ready to its hand means of enrichment which yielded more return with much less trouble than was involved in commerce. The prejudice against trade was no bar to brigandage.

On the other hand, the first practical problem of all communities, taxation, was intelligently faced by the Roman aristocracy from the outset. The payment of the tributum or occasional special tax for military purposes was a condition of the citizen franchise, and so far the patricians were all burdened where the unenfranchised plebeians were not. But this contribution "was looked upon as a forced loan, and was repaid when the times improved."[166] And there were other compensations. The use of the public pastures (which seem at one time to have been the sole source of the State's revenue[167]), and the cultivation of public land, were operations which could be so conducted as to pay the individual without paying the State. It is clear that frauds in this connection were at all times common: the tithes and rents due on the ager publicus were evaded, and the land itself appropriated wherever possible by the more powerful, though still called public property.[168] "The poorer plebeian, therefore, always strove to have conquered lands divided, and not kept as ager publicus; while the landless men who got allotments at a distance were inclined to regard their migration as an almost equal grievance. If the rich men, they argued, had not monopolised the public pastures with their herds, and treated the lands which they leased at a nominal rental as their own, there would have been enough land at home to divide among those who had been ruined while serving their country in arms."[Pg 78][169]

But as the sphere of conquest widened, another economic phase supervened. Where newly conquered territory was too distant to tempt any save the poorest citizens, or to be directly utilised by the rich, it could still be made ager publicus and rented to its own inhabitants; and the collection of this and other exactions from subject provinces gradually grew to be a main source of Roman wealth. For the mere cattle-looting of the early days there was substituted the systematic extortion of tribute. "In antiquity conquest meant essentially the power to impose a tribute upon the conquered";[170] and "until the time of Augustus the Romans had maintained their armies by seizing and squandering the accumulated [bullion] capital hoarded by all the nations of the world."[171] Meanwhile the upper classes were directly or indirectly supported by the annual tribute which from the time of the conquest of Greece was drawn solely from the provinces. Paulus Emilius brought from the sack of Hellas so enormous a treasure in bullion, as well as in objects of art, that the exaction of the tributum from Roman citizens, however rich, was felt to have become irrational; and henceforth, until Augustus re-imposed taxation to pay his troops, Italy sponged undisguisedly on the rest of the Empire.[172] Cæsar's expeditions were simply quests for plunder and revenue; and the reason for his speedy retreat from Britain, for which there have been framed so many superfluous explanations, is plainly given in the letter of Cicero in which he tells of the news sent him from Britain by his brother—"no hope of plunder."[173] But the supreme need was a regular annual tribute, preferably in bullion, but welcome as corn. On the one hand the exacted revenue supported the military and the bureaucracy; on the other hand, the business of collecting taxes and tribute was farmed out in the hands of companies of publicani, mainly formed of the so-called knights, the equites of the early days; in whose hands rich senators, in defiance of legal prohibition, placed capital sums for investment,[174] as they had previously used foreigners, who were free to take usury where a Roman was not. Of such money-makers Gallia Provincia was already full in the days of Cicero.[175] Roman administration was thus a matter of financially exploiting the Empire in the interest of the Roman moneyed classes;[Pg 79][176] and the ruthless skill with which the possibilities of the situation were developed is perhaps even now not fully realised. The Roman financier could secure a tribute upon tribute by lending to a subject city or State the money demanded of it by the government, and charge as much interest on the loan as the borrowers could well pay. We know that the notoriously conscientious Brutus, of sacred memory, thus lent, or backed a friend who lent, money to tribute-payers at 48 per cent., or at least demanded 48 per cent. on his loans, and sought to use the power of the executive to extort the usury.[177]

All this, we are to remember, went on without any furtherance of total domestic wealth-production. When corn-growing fell off, irrecoverably depressed by the unearned import from the richer soils of tributary provinces, there was a transference, partly economic, partly luxurious, of agricultural labour to vine-and olive-culture, and a wholesale turning of arable land to pasture. Some export of wine and olives followed, though the rich Romans tended to drink the wines of Greece. But Italy had ceased to be self-supporting. The produce she imported was far in excess of her power of export;[178] so that in sheer factitiousness the revenue of Rome is without parallel in history. Modern England, which has grown rich by burning up its coal in manufacture or selling it outright, but in the process has acquired a share in the national and municipal debts of all other countries—England is stable in comparison. While it lasts, the coal educes manufactures, which also earn imports and constitute loans. So with the recent exploitation of German iron; though in that case there has been much of sheer national waste in the wholesale export of iron at "dumping" prices in times of trade depression. But the history of Rome was a progressive paralysis of Italian production; and the one way in which the administration[Pg 80] can be said to have counteracted the process—as apart from the spontaneous resort to vine-and olive-culture and to slave manufactures—was by forcing more-or-less unprofitable mining for gold and silver wherever any could be got, thus giving what stimulus can be given to demand by the mere placing of fresh bullion on the market. Roman civilisation was thus irrevocably directed to an illusory end, with inevitably fatal results. Bullion had come to standfor public wealth, and wars were made for mines as well as for tribute, Spain in particular being prized for her mining resources. As a necessary sequence, therefore, copper money was ousted by silver (B.C. 269), and silver finally, after a long transition period, by gold, about the time of Severus.[179] The silver had been repeatedly debased when the treasury was in difficulties;[180] and in the later days of the Empire it seems to have been base beyond all historic parallel,[181] though a large revenue was extorted till the end. Between revenue and tax-farming profits and the yield of the mines, the Roman moneyed class must indeed have spent a good deal, so long as the tributaries were not exhausted. But their economic demand was mainly for—(a) foods, spices, wines, cloths, gems, marbles, and wares produced by the more prosperous provinces; (b) expensive forms of food, fish, and fowl, raised chiefly on the estates run by their own class; (c) some wares of home production; and (d) services[182] from artists, architects, master craftsmen, slaves, mimes, parasites, and meretrices, whose economic demand in turn would as far as possible go in the same directions.

As for the mass of the town people, slave or free, which ought on common-sense principles to have been employed either in industry or on the land, it was by a series of hand-to-mouth measures on the part of the government, and by the operation of ordinary self-interest on the part of the rich class, made age by age more unproductive industrially and more worthless politically. Despite such a reform as the Licinian law of 367 B.C.,[183] which for a time seems to have restored a yeoman class to the State and greatly developed its fighting power, the forces of outside competition and of capitalism gradually ousted the yeomen cultivators all over Italy, leaving the land mainly in the hands of the patricians and financiers of the city, who exploited it either by slave labour or by grinding[Pg 81] down the former cultivators as tenants. Even on this footing, a certain amount of industry would be forced on the towns. But not only was that also largely in the hands of slave-masters, with the result that demotic life everywhere was kept on the lowest possible plane: the emperors gradually adopted on humane grounds a policy which demoralised nearly all that was left of sound citizenship.

As of old, monarchy in the hands of the more rational and conscientious men tended to seek for the mass of the people some protection as against the upper class; and the taxes and customs laid on by Augustus, to the disgust of the Senate, were an effort in this direction. But this was rather negative than positive protection, and the effort inevitably went further. In the last rally of what may be termed conscientious aristocratic republicanism, such as it was, we find Caius Gracchus, as tribune, helping the plebs by causing grain to be sold at a half or a fourth of its market value—an expedient pathetically expressive of the hopeless distance that then lay between public spirit and social science. Both of the Gracchi sought by violent legal measures to wring the appropriated public lands from the hands of the rich, with the inevitable result of raising against themselves a host of powerful enemies. The needed change could not be so effected. But even if it had been, it could not have endured. The Greek advisers of Tiberius Gracchus, Blossius of Cumæ and Diophanes of Mitylene,[184] looked solely to redistribution, taking for granted the permanence of slavery, the deadliest of all inequalities. The one way, if there were any, in which the people could be saved was by a raising of their social status; and that was impossible without an arrest of slavery and a cessation of extorted tribute. But no Roman thinker save the Gracchi and their predecessors and imitators seems ever to have dreamt of the former, and no one contemplated the latter remedy. Least of all were the Roman ruling class likely to think of either; and though Tiberius Gracchus did avowedly seek to substitute free for slave labour,[185] and wrought to that end; and though Caius Gracchus did in his time of power employ a large amount of free labour on public works, one such effort counted for nothing against the normal attitude of the patriciate. In order to fight the Senate he had to conciliate the publicani and money-lenders as well as the populace, and the reforms of the two brothers came to nothing.[Pg 82][186]

There is no record that in the contracts between the treasury and the companies of publicani any stipulation was ever made as to their employing free labour, or in any way considering the special needs of the populations among whom they acted.[187] Thus a mere cheapening of bread could do nothing to aid free labour as against capitalism using slaves. On the contrary, such aids would tend irresistibly to multiply the host of idlers and broken men who flocked to Rome from all its provinces, on the trail of the plunder. Industrial life in Rome was for most of them impossible, even were they that way inclined;[188] and the unceasing inward flow would have been a constant source of public danger had the multitude not been somehow pacified. The method of free or subsidised distribution of grain,[189] however, was so easy a way of keeping Rome quiet, in the period of rapidly spreading conquest and mounting tribute, that in spite of the resistance of the moneyed classes[190] it was adhered to. Sulla naturally checked the practice, but still it was revived; and Cæsar, after his triumph in Africa, found the incredible number of 320,000 citizens in receipt of regular doles of cheapened or gratis corn. He in turn, though he had been concerned in extending it,[191] took strong measures to check the corrosion, reducing the roll to 150,000;[192] but even that was in effect a confession that the problem was past solution by the policy, so energetically followed by him, of re-colonising in Italy, Corinth, Carthage, Spain, and Gaul. And if Cæsar sought to limit the gifts of bread, he seems to have outgone his predecessors in his provision of the other element in the popular ideal—the circus; his shows being bloodier as well as vaster than those of earlier days.[193] A public thus treated to sport must needs have cheap food as well.

Of this policy, the economic result was to carry still further the depression of Italian agriculture. The corn supplied at low rates or given away by the administration was of course bought or taken in the cheapest markets—those of Sardinia and Sicily, Egypt, Africa, and Gaul—and importation once begun would be carried to the utmost lengths of commercialism. Italian farms, especially those at[Pg 83] a distance from the capital,[194] could not compete with the provinces save by still further substituting large slave-tilled farms for small holdings, and grinding still harder the face of the slave. When finally Augustus,[195] definitely establishing the system of lowered prices and doles, subsidised the trade in the produce of conquered Egypt to feed his populace, and thus still further promoted the importation of the cheapest foreign grain, the agriculture of a large part of Italy, and even of parts of some provinces, was practically destroyed.

It has been argued by M'Culloch (Treatises and Essays: History of Commerce, 2nd ed. p. 287, note) that it is impossible that the mere importation of the corn required to feed the populace—say a million quarters or more—could have ruined the agriculture of Italy. This expresses a misconception of what took place. The doles were not universal, and the emperors naturally preferred to limit themselves as far as possible to paying premiums for the importation and cheap sale of corn. (Cp. Suetonius, Claudius, c. 19, and the Digest, iii, 4, 1; xiv, i, 1, 20; xlvii, ix, 3, 8; l, v, 3, etc.) All of the conquered provinces, practically, had to pay a tithe of their produce; and where corn was specially cheap it would be likely to come to Rome in that form. (Cp. Dureau de la Malle, Écon. polit. des Romains, ii, 424 sq.) Many of the patrician families, besides, owned great estates in Africa, and they would receive their revenues in produce. Egyptian, Sardinian, Sicilian, and African corn could thus easily undersell Italian for ordinary consumption. For the rest, the produce of Egypt would be a means of special revenue to the emperor. Cp. M'Culloch's own statement, p. 291.

Prof. Ferrero (Greatness and Decline of Rome, Eng. trans. ii, App. A) has independently (but in agreement with Weber and Salvioli) carried M'Culloch's thesis further, and has opposed the view that the "competition" of Sicilian and African wheat "was the cause of the agricultural depression from which Italy began to suffer in 150 B.C." His own theory is the singular one that the "depression" was caused by "the increased cost of living" arising out of luxurious habits! This untenable and indeed unintelligible conclusion he ostensibly reaches by a series of arguments that are alternately incoherent and rotatory, of propositions some of which are rebutted by himself, and of assumptions that are plainly astray. The dispute may be condensed thus:—

(1) "In antiquity," the Professor begins, "each district consumed its own wheat"; yet he goes on to mention that in [Pg 84]the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. Attica was "obliged to import, even in good seasons, between 12,000,000 and 15,000,000 bushels." This contradiction he appears to think is saved by the addendum that "the amount in question is a very small one, compared with the figures of modern commerce." Naturally it is, Athens being a small State compared with those of to-day. But the contradiction stands unresolved. And it follows that larger towns, not placed in fruitful "districts," would have proportionally larger imports.

(2) "Moreover," writes the Professor, "while the industrial countries of to-day seek so far as possible to check the import of cereals by protective duties, Athens used every expedient of war and diplomacy to render the supply of imported corn both regular and abundant." It is startling to find a professor of history, a sociological historian, unaware that Britain, Belgium, and Holland have no import duties on corn. (The most exclusive State in that matter is Portugal, which, with no pretensions to be an industrial State, prohibits corn imports altogether.)

(3) More plausibly, Prof. Ferrero argues that the policy of Athens proves that "corn was not easily transported for sale beyond the local market." But the efforts of the Athenians "to obtain the mastery of the Black Sea, and especially of the Bosphorus, in order to capture the corn trade for themselves, or to entrust it, on their own conditions, to whom they pleased," proves that the difficulties of transport were mainly those set up by hostile States or pirates, and that—as the Professor admits—the fertile Crimea, with its sparse population, yielded an easy surplus for export.

(4) All this, however, is only partially relevant to the question of the supplies of Rome from Sicily, Sardinia, Africa, and Spain in the second century B.C. Did such supplies come, or did they not? As the Professor admits, they were "vital" to the Roman military policy; and "she had immense granaries at her disposal whenever she required them." But such sources of supply meant a certain large normal production; and this would enter Italy in time of peace. If it was purposely maintained in view of the needs of war-time, so much the more surely would it undersell Italian wheat, raised on a less fruitful soil. In no other way could Sicily and Africa yield either annual tribute to Rome or rents to Roman owners of land in those countries. The first effect of the importation would be to add the pressure of lowered prices to the discouragement already offered to private cultivators by the inducements of loot in war, fleecings in administration of newly conquered countries, commerce, and usury. Of this discouragement the sequel would be the attempt to run by slave labour the large estates in which the old farms were merged. But slave labour is apt to be bad labour, and agriculture could not thereby be restored.[Pg 85]

(5) The thesis that agriculture was depressed by high cost of living (= high prices for agricultural products) it is not easy to treat with seriousness. The simple fact is that sea-carriage to Rome from Sicily, Spain, and Africa must have been cheaper than land carriage from most parts of Italy to the capital. As Prof. Ferrero notes, food prices in the valley of the Po were very low—obviously because cost of carriage either to Rome or to the southern seaports deterred export.

(6) Prof. Ferrero's fallacy is capped by his proposition that "the economic crisis from which Italy has been suffering during the last twenty years is due to the increased cost of living occasioned by the introduction, from 1848 onwards, of the industrial civilisation of England and France into an old agricultural society." The confusion here defies analysis. Suffice it to say that the high cost of living in modern Italy is due to tariffs and high taxation. Sugar is dear there not because Italians consume it luxuriously—they do not and cannot—but because a particularly unintelligent policy of Protection causes them to pay for beetroot sugar produced in a country ill-suited to the growth of beetroot. Living costs more in Germany, France, and the United States than in Britain, not because those countries have only recently become "luxurious," but because they heavily tax imports. Costs of living in Rome certainly rose as Romans raised their standards of consumption; but their importation of corn from conquered provinces kept food prices lower than they would have been otherwise; and Italian agriculture was largely abandoned in favour of easier ways of making money.

Prof. Ferrero supplies a partial confutation of his economic theory by his own account (i, 311) of how, in the time of Pompey, "once more the precious metals were cheap and abundant" after a time of scarcity, and the decadent slave system of agriculture was superseded by new forms of production. (See above, p. 79, note.) But abundant bullion means high prices for produce, which the Professor has declared to be a cause of depression! As to the new production, the process certainly cannot have taken place with the rapidity which his description suggests. "The hideous slave-shelters or compounds [ergastula], with their gangs of forced labourers, vanished from the scene, together with the huge desolate tracts of pasture where they had spent their days [?], to be replaced by vineyards, olive-groves, and orchards, now planted in all parts of the peninsula, ... estates on which the new slave immigrants contentedly cultivated the vine or the olive, or bred animals for the stable or transport, under the direction of a Greek or Oriental bailiff; ... pleasant cottages of landlords, who farmed their own holdings with the help of a few slaves." All this cannot have happened in the time of Pompey. But in any [Pg 86]case, inasmuch as bullion was rife, prices in general must have been high, yet without "depression"; and the new demand for wine and olives, in the terms of the case, made their cultivation remunerative. But "huge pastures" cannot have been "replaced" by vineyards and olive-groves; and Italian agriculture did not in imperial times become again the thing it had been.

It was not that, as Pliny put it in the perpetually quoted phrase,[196] the latifundia, the great estates, had ruined Italy and began to ruin the provinces; it was that, first, the fertile conquered provinces, notably Sicily, undersold Italy; whereafter the economically advantaged competition of Egypt, as imperially exploited, and of the African provinces, undersold the produce of most of the other regions, and would have done so equally had their agriculture remained in the hands of small farmers. The latifundia were themselves effects of the policy of conquest and annexation. The theory that "those large pastoral estates, and that slave-cultivation, which had so powerful and so deleterious an influence over Italian husbandry and population, may be principally ascribed to the confiscations and the military colonies of Sulla and his successors," is clearly wide of the mark.

So M'Culloch, Treatises and Essays: Colonial System of the Ancients, p. 426. No doubt agriculture went rapidly from bad to worse in the convulsions of Sulla's rule, when whole territories passed into the hands of his partisans. These would be bent on the use of slave labour, and would take to the forms of production which gave them the best money return. On the other hand, in an age of chronic confiscation of whole areas, steady men were not likely to be attracted to the land. See Prof. Pelham's Outlines, p. 213; Dureau de la Malle, Écon. polit. des Romains, vol. ii, liv. iii, ch. 22.

Large capitalistic estates were beginning to arise in Attica in the time of Solon, and were normal in the time of Xenophon.[197] In Carthage, where they likewise arose in due economic course, they do not seem to have hurt agriculture, though worked by slave labour;[198] and, on the other hand, the Roman military colonies were an attempt, albeit vain, to restore a free farming population. In Italy the disease was older than Sulla. When Tiberius Gracchus was passing through Etruria on his way from Spain, fifty years before the rule of[Pg 87] Sulla, he saw no free labourers, but only slaves in chains.[199] The true account of the matter is this: that if Italy had not conquered Sicily, North Africa, Egypt, and the other fertile provinces, their competition could not have come to pass as it did; for any imports in that case would have had to be paid for by exports, and Italy had nothing adequate to export. It was the power to exact tribute, or otherwise the appropriation of conquered territory as estates by the nobles,[200] that upset the economic balance. Not merely in order to support the policy of cheap or free food—which was extended to other large Italian cities—but because corn was the staple product of Sicily and Egypt and North Africa, the tribute came in large measure in the form of foods; and in so far as it came in bullion, the coin had to be speedily re-exported to pay for further food and for the manufactures turned out by the provinces, and bought by the Italian rich. Save in so far as rich amateurs of agriculture went on farming at small profit or at a loss,[201] Italy produced little beyond olives and wine and cattle,[202] and ordinary wares for home consumption. Industrially considered, the society of the whole peninsula was thus finally a mere shell, doing its exchanges mainly in virtue of the annual income it extorted from provincial labour, and growing more and more worthless in point of character as its vital basis grew more and more strictly factitious. It would be accurate to say of the Empire, as represented by part of Italy and the capital, that it was a vast economic simulacrum. The paternal policy of the emperors,[203] good and bad, wrought to pretty much the same kind of result as the egoism of the upper classes had done; and though their popular measures must have exasperated the Senate, that body had in general to tolerate their well-meaning deeds as it did their crimes.[204]

We may perhaps better understand the case by supposing a certain economic development to take place in England in the distant future. At present we remain, as we are likely long to remain, economically advantaged or beneficed for manufacture by our[Pg 88] coalfields, which are unequalled in Europe, though Germany, through the invention which made her phosphoric iron workable, has a larger store of the chief industrial metal. In return for our coal and manufactures and our shipping services, we import foods and goods that otherwise we could not pay for; and the additional revenue from British investments in foreign debts and enterprises further swells the food and raw material import, thus depressing to a considerable extent our agriculture under a system of large farms. When in the course of centuries the coalfields are exhausted, unless it should be found that the winds and tides can be made to yield electric power cheaply enough, our manufacturing population will probably dwindle. Either the United States will supersede us with their stores of coal, or—if, as may well be, their stores are already exhausted by a vaster exploitation—China may take the lead. The chief advantage left us would be the skill and efficiency of our industrial population—an important but incalculable factor.[205] A "return to the land," if not achieved beforehand, might in that case be assumed to be inevitable; but should Australian, Indian, and North and South American wheat-production continue (as it may or may not) to have the same relative advantages of soil, our remaining city populations would continue to buy foreign corn; and the land might still be largely turned to pasture. That remaining city population, roughly speaking, would in the terms of the case consist of (a) those persons drawing incomes from foreign investments; (b) those workmen, tradesmen, and professional people who could still be successfully employed in manufactures, or whom the interest-drawing classes employed to do their necessary home-work, as the Romans perforce employed to the last many workmen and doctors and scribes, slave or free; (c) those who might earn incomes by seafaring; and (d) the official class—necessarily reduced, like every other. Until the incomes from foreign investments had in some measure disappeared, the country could not gravitate down to an economically stable recommencement in agriculture.

We need not consider curiously whether things would or will happen in exactly this way: the actual presumption is that before coal is exhausted the whole social structure will be modified; and it is conceivable that the idle class may have been eliminated. But we are supposing a less progressive evolution for illustration's sake. Suffice it that such a development would be in a measure[Pg 89] economically analogous to what took place in ancient Rome. If the upper-class population of such a hypothetical future in England, instead of receiving only dividends from foreign stocks and pensions from the revenue of India, were able to extort an absolute tribute from India and other dominions, the parallel would be so much the closer. What held together the Roman Empire so long was, on the one hand, the developed military and juridical organisation with its maintaining revenue, and on the other hand the absence of any competent antagonist. Could a Mithridates or an Alexander have arisen during the reign of one of the worse emperors, he might more easily have overrun the Roman world than Rome did Carthage. As it was, all the civilised parts of the Empire shared its political anæmia; and indeed the comparative comfort of the Roman peace, with all its burden of taxation, was in many of the provinces a sufficient though precarious ground for not returning to the old life of chronic warfare, at least for men who had lost the spirit of reasoned political self-assertion.

Under good emperors, the system worked imposingly enough; and Mommsen, echoing Gibbon, not unwarrantably bids us ask ourselves whether the south of Europe has ever since been better governed than it was under the Antonines.[206] The purely piratical plunder carried on by governors under the Republic was now, no doubt, in large measure restricted. But, to say nothing of the state of character and intellect, the economic evisceration was proceeding steadily alike under good emperors and bad, and the Stoic jurists did but frame good laws for a worm-eaten society. So long as the seat of empire remained at Rome, drawing the tribute thither, the imperial system would give an air of solidity to Italian life; but when the Roman population itself grew cosmopolitanised in all its classes, taking in all the races of the Empire, the provinces were in the terms of the case as Roman as the capital; and there was no special reason, save the principle of concentration, why the later emperors should reside there. Where of old the provincial governors had extorted from their subjects fortunes for themselves, to be spent in Rome like the public tribute, they would now tend to act as permanent dwellers in their districts.[207] Once the palace was set up elsewhere, the accessories of administration inevitably followed; and[Pg 90] the transference of official and other population would partly balance the restriction of food supply caused by the deflection of Egyptian corn-tribute to Constantinople—a loss that had to be made good by a drain on Libya and Carthage.[208] But when under Valentinian and Valens the Empire came to be definitely divided, the western section, whose main source of revenue was the African province, speedily fell into financial straits. Valentinian had on his hands in the ten years of his reign three costly wars—one to recover Britain, one to repel the Alemanni from Gaul, one to recover Africa from Firmus; and it was apparently the drain on revenue thus set up, aggravated by an African famine,[209] that drove Gratian on his accession to the step of confiscating the revenues of the pagan cults.[210] So great was the State's need that even the pagan Eugenius could not restore the pagan revenues. Thenceforth the financial decay headed the military; and we shall perhaps not be wrong in saying that the growth of medieval Italy, the new and better-rooted life which was to make possible the Renaissance, obscurely began when Italy, stripped of Gaul and Spain and Africa, and cut off from the East, which held Egypt, was deprived of its unearned income, and the populace had in part to turn for fresh life to agriculture and industry. The flight of the propertied families at each successive sack of Rome by Goth and Vandal must have left freedom to many, and room for new enterprise to the more capable, though in some districts there seems to have been absolute depopulation. And while Italy thus fell upon a wholesomer poverty,[211] the provinces would be less impoverished.

Some of the ruin, indeed, has not been remedied to this day. Part of the curse of conquest was the extension of the malarious area of Italian soil, always considerable. The three temples to the Goddess Fever in Rome were the recognition of a standing scourge, made active by every overflow of the Tiber; and pestilent areas were common throughout the land. But when the great plain of Latium was well peopled, the feverous area was in constant process of reduction by agriculture and drainage; and the inhabitants had[Pg 91] become in large part immune to infection.[212] In the early, the "Social" and the later civil wars it was devastated and depopulated to such an extent that Pliny[213] could enumerate fifty-three utterly eliminated stocks or "peoples," and could cite the record of thirty-three towns which had stood where now were the Pontine marshes.[214] As early as 340 B.C. the land round Rome was counted unhealthy, so that veterans were loth to settle on it;[215] but population went back instead of forward. It is thus true that the malaria of the Campagna and other districts was an ancient trouble;[216] but it was the perpetual march of conquest, for ever sending forth to more attractive soils the stocks who might have re-peopled and recovered it, that made that and so much more of Italy fixedly pestilential down to modern times. Thus the paralysis of Italian production by conquest was a twofold process, direct and indirect.

In ancient as in later times, doubtless, attempts were made to bring back to human habitation the stricken deserts that stained Italy like a leprosy. Thus Cæsar sought early to repeople Campania from the idle populace of Rome.[217] But to maintain steady cultivation in unhealthy regions there was needed an immune stock, and that was reproducible only by the old way of savage, self-preserving persistence on the part of hardy and primitive rustics working their own land. The new imported stocks, slave or free, wilted away before the scourge of fever; and the "principle of population," weakened in the spring, failed to surmount the resistance of Nature. Under the early Empire the labour needed for the culture of the Campagna had to be brought in annually from distant districts; and when the invading Goths in the fifth century devastated the whole area there was no energy left to recover it.

[The theories once current as to ancient knowledge of prophylactics in the shape of perfumes and the habitual use of woollen clothing may be dismissed as fanciful. The rational conclusion is that the early races developed a relative immunity, which was possessed neither by the eastern stocks imported in the period of conquest nor by the later invading Teutons. It is noteworthy, however, that at all times the dwellers in the tainted areas learned something of the necessary hygiene. See Dureau de la Malle, as cited. His investigation is interesting as showing how, in the early decades of the nineteenth century, long before Pasteur, biology had reached the perception that [Pg 92]fevers come of an organic infection. It was doubtless such knowledge that led the Romans to burn their dead.]

There remains the question, What is the precise economic statement of the final collapse? It is easy to figure that in terms of (a) increasing barbarian enterprise, stimulated by the personal experience of the many barbarians who served the Empire, and of (b) increasing moral weakness on the part of the whole administrative system. And doubtless this change in the balance of military energy was decisive. When utter weaklings sat by heredity in the imperial chair, at best contemptuously tolerated by their alien officers, the end was necessarily near. The most incurable disease of empire was just empire; ages of parasitism had made the Roman ruling class incapable of energetic action; and the autocracy had long withheld from citizens the use of arms. But the long subsistence of the Eastern Empire as contrasted with the Western proves that not only had the barbarians an easier task against Italy in terms of its easiness of invasion, but the defence was there relatively weaker in terms of lack of resources. This lack has been wholly or partly explained by quite a number of writers[218] as a result of a failure in the whole supply of the precious metals—a proposition which may be understood of either a falling-off in the yield of the mines or a general withdrawal of bullion from the Empire. It is difficult to see how either explanation can stand. There was already an immense amount of bullion in the Empire, and a general withdrawal could take place only by way of export to the barbarian east in return for commodities.[219] But the eastern provinces of the Empire were still in themselves abundantly productive, and after the fall of Rome they continued to exhibit industrial solvency. No doubt the plunder of Rome by Alaric (409-10) greatly crippled the west, and the loss of Gaul and Spain was worse; but while the Empire retained Africa it had a source of real revenue. The beginning of the end, or rather the virtual end, came with the conquest of the African province by the Vandals (430-40). In 455 came the sack of Rome by the Vandals, whereafter there remains only a shadow of the Roman Empire, till Odoaker, dismissing Augustulus, makes himself king of Italy.

As for the falling-off in the yield of the Spanish mines, to which some writers seem to attribute the whole collapse, it could only mean that the Roman Government at length realised what had been[Pg 93] as true before and has been as true since, that all gold-mining, save in the case of the richest and easiest mines, separately considered, or of groups of mines which have been acquired at less cost than went to find and open them, is carried on at a loss as against the standing competition of the great mass of precious metal above-ground at any moment, the output of unknown barbarian toil and infinite slave labour, begun long before the age of written history.[220] When it was reluctantly realised that the cost of working either the gold or the silver mines was greater to the State than their product,[221] they would be abandoned; though under a free government private speculators would have been found ready to risk more money in reopening them immediately. As a matter of fact, the Spanish mines were actually worked by the Saracens in the Middle Ages, and have been since. The Romans had made the natural blunder of greed in taking all gold and silver mines into the hands of the State,[222] where speculative private enterprise would have gone on working them at a loss, and so adding—vainly enough—to the total bullion in circulation, on which the State could levy its taxes. Even as it was, when they were losing nothing, but rather checking loss, by abandoning the mines, a falling-off in revenue from one source could have been made good by taxation if the fiscal system had remained unimpaired, and if the former income of Italy had not been affected by other causes than a stoppage of mining output.

If the mere cessation of public gold-mining were the cause of a general weakening of the imperial power, and by consequence the cause of the collapse in Italy, it ought equally to have affected the Eastern Empire, which we know to have possessed a normal sufficiency of bullion all through the Dark and Middle Ages, though it had no mines left.[223] The fact is that, when Valentinian and Valens divided the Empire between them, the former chose the western half because he shared the delusion that the Spanish mines were a greater source of real wealth than the fruitful provinces of the east. Those could always procure the bullion they required, because they had produce to exchange for it. Gold mines even of average fertility could have availed no more; and if Italy had remained agriculturally productive she could have sustained herself without any mines.

Dr. Cunningham, in his study of the economic conditions of the declining Empire, appears to lay undue stress on the factor [Pg 94]of scarcity of bullion, and does not duly recognise the difference of progression between the case of Italy and that of the east. "The Roman Empire," he writes (p. 187, note), lacked both treasure and capital, "and it perished." When? The eastern seat of the Empire survived the western by a thousand years. "It seems highly improbable," he argues again (p. 185), "that the drain of silver to the east, which continued during the Middle Ages, was suspended at any period of the history of the Empire." But such a drain (which means a depletion) cannot go on for twelve hundred years; and it was certainly not a drain of silver to the east that ruined the Byzantine Empire. Finlay's dictum (i, 52) that the debasement of the currency between Caracalla and Gallienus "annihilated a great part of the trading capital in the Roman Empire and rendered it impossible to carry on commercial transactions, not only with foreign countries but even with distant provinces," is another erroneous theorem.

It seems clear that the Italian collapse occurred as it did because, after the fall of the three great possessions, Gaul, Spain, and Africa, there was left only the central State, made impotent by long parasitism to meet the growing barbarian pressure. Italy in the transition period can have yielded very little revenue, though Rome had for the barbarians plenty of hoarded plunder; and the country had long ceased to yield good troops. Gaul itself had been monstrously taxed; and it must have been no less a prudent than a benevolent motive that led Julian to reduce to £2,000,000 the revenue of £7,000,000 extorted by Constantine and Constantius.[224] The greater the depression in the sources of income, and the greater the costs of the frontier wars, the harder became the pressure of the fiscal system, till the burdens laid on the upper citizens who formed the curia[225] put them out of all heart for patriotic action, and drove many to flight, to slavery, or the cloister. Towards the end, indeed, there was set up a rapid process of economic change which substituted for slaves a class of serfs, coloni, adscriptitii, and so on, who though tied to the land paid a rent for it and could keep any surplus; but under this system agriculture was thus far no more a source of revenue than before. Latterly the very wine of Italy grew worthless, and its olives decayed;[226] so that in once fruitful Campania, "the orchard of the south," Honorius in the year 395 had to strike from the fiscal registers, as worthless, more than three hundred[Pg 95] thousand acres of land[227]—an eighth of the whole province. After the ruinous invasions of Rhadagast and Alaric, fresh remissions of taxation had to be given, so that as the danger neared the defence weakened.[228] In the east, again, there was no impulse to succour the falling west; and indeed there was not the ability. The fiscal power of the Emperor was inelastic; his revenues, extorted by cruel pressure, needed careful husbanding; his own world needed all his attention; and the eastern upper class of clerics and officials were not the people to strain themselves for the mere military retention of Britain or Gaul or Italy, as Rome would have done in the republican period, or as the emperors would have done before the period of decentralisation. For the rich agricultural provinces of Africa they did strive with success when Belisarius overthrew the Vandals; and in that age, when Italy had once more become revenue-yielding through the revival of her agriculture, it was worth the while of the east to reconquer Italy also; but the old spirit of resolute dominion and aggression was gone. Armies could still be enrolled and generalled if there was pay for them; but the pay failed, not because bullion was lacking, but because the will and power to supply and apply it in the old fashion was lacking. The new age, after Theodosius, looked at these matters in a different light—the light of commercial self-interest and Christian or eastern disregard for Roman tradition and prestige. The new religion, Christianity, was a direct solvent of imperial patriotism in the old sense, transferring as it did the concern of serious men from this world to the next, and from political theory to theological. In Italy, besides, the priesthood could count on making rather more docile Christians of the invaders than it had done of the previous inhabitants; so that Christian Rome, once overrun, must needs remain so.

[Finlay (ed. cited i, 294) suggests that "probably the knowledge which the Emperor Justin and his cabinet must have possessed of the impossibility of deriving any revenue from the agricultural districts of Italy offers the simplest explanation of the indifference manifested at Constantinople to the Lombard invasion." But he had already noted (p. 236, note) that a great revival of agriculture took place in the reign of Theodoric. Then it could only be through the exhaustion of the subsequent wars that Italy was incapable of yielding a revenue. The true explanation of Justin's inaction is probably not indifference but impotence, the Empire's resources being then drained.[Pg 96]

After the invasion of the Lombards the clergy and Senate of Rome had to send a large sum in bullion to induce the Emperor Maurice to listen to their prayers for help. Still the help could not be given, though, save in the case of the coast towns (see below, p. 188), tribute was paid to Byzantium till the final breach between Rome and Leo the Iconoclast. (Gibbon, Bohn ed. v, 114.)

Guizot (Histoire de la Civilisation en France, 13e éd. i, 75, 76) notes the fundamental difference in the attitude of the Church under the old and eastern emperors and under the Teutonic rule. Symonds (Renaissance in Italy, 2nd ed. i, 43) thinks this was a result of Theodoric's not having made Rome his headquarters, and his having treated it with special respect. But the clergy of Gaul at once gained an ascendency over the Frankish kings, and the popes would probably have done as well with resident emperors as with absentees. Their great resource was that of playing one Christian monarch against another—a plan not open to the patriarch of Constantinople.]

That the Empire could still at a push raise armies and find for them generals who could beat back the barbarians was sufficiently shown in the careers of Stilicho and Aetius and Belisarius; but the extreme parsimony with which Justinian supported his great commander in Italy is some proof of the economic difficulty of keeping up, even in a period of prudent administration,[229] a paid force along the vast frontiers of what had been Hadrian's realm. Only as ruled by one central system, inspired by an ideal of European empire, and using the finance and force of the whole for the defence of any part, could that realm have been preserved; and when Diocletian, while holding mechanically by the ideal of empire, began the disintegration of its executive, he began the ending of the ideal. The creation of an eastern capital was now inevitable; and when once the halving of the Empire had become a matter of course, the west, hollow at the core, was fated to fall. We should thus not be finally wrong in saying that "the Roman idea" died out before the Western Empire could fall; provided only that we recognise the economic and other sociological causation of the process.

It remains to note, finally, that the process cannot possibly be explained by the theory that the Eastern Empire was successfully unified by Christianity, and that the Western remained divided by[Pg 97] reason of the obstinate adherence of the Roman aristocracy to Paganism. The framer of this theory confutes it by affirming that in Greece "the popular element ... by its alliance with Christianity, infused into society the energy which saved the Eastern Empire," while admitting that in Italy also the "great body of the [city] population" had embraced Christianity. Surely the popular Christian element ought to have saved Italy also if it were the saving force. Italy was essentially Christian in the age of Belisarius: if there was any special element of disunion it was the mutual hatred of Arians and Athanasians and other sects, which had abundantly existed also in the east, where it finally furthered the Saracen conquest of the Asiatic provinces and Egypt,[230] but as regarded the central part of the Empire was periodically got rid of by the suppression of all heresy.[231] Eastern unification, such as it was, had thus been the work, not of "Christianity," or of any sudden spirit of unity among the Greeks, but of the Imperial Government, which in the East had sufficient command of, and needed for its own sake to use, the resources that we have seen lost to Italy.[232] As for the established religion, it was the insoluble conflict of doctrine as to images that finally, in the reign of Leo the Iconoclast, arrayed the Papacy against the Christian Emperor, and completed the sunderance of Greek and Latin Christendom; while in the East the patriarch of Jerusalem became the minister of the Moslem conquerors in the seventh century, as did the patriarch of Constantinople in the fifteenth.


[160] The phrase of Professor Thorold Rogers, whose application of the principle, however, does not carry us far.

[161] Dr. Cunningham overlooks this form of gain-getting by war, when he says that the early Romans had no direct profit from it (Western Civilisation, i, 154), but mentions it later (p. 157). Prof. Ferrero likewise overlooks it when (Eng. tr. i, 4) he specifies "timber for shipbuilding and salt" as practically the whole of the exportable products of the early Romans. Once more, who consumed their cattle?

[162] Cp. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire, i, 26, following Von Ihering.

[163] Macaulay, Lays of Ancient Rome, pref. to Virginia. Cp. Gibbon, Bohn ed. v, 80-81.

[164] Cp. Dureau de la Malle, Écon. polit. des Romains, vol. ii, liv. iv, ch. 9.

[165] Cp. Cicero, De Officiis, i, 42.

[166] Mommsen, B. i, ch. v. Eng. tr. i, 80.

[167] Pliny, Hist. Nat. xviii, 3

[168] E. Meyer (Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, 518), alleges a common misconception as to the ager publicus being made a subject of class strife; but does not make the matter at all clearer. Cp. Niebuhr, Lectures on the History of Rome, Eng. tr. 1-vol. ed. pp. 153-54, 407, 503.

[169] Shuckburgh, History of Rome, pp. 93, 94. Cp. Long, Decline of the Roman Republic, ch. xii, and Pelham, pp. 187-89, as to the frauds of the rich in the matter of the public lands.

[170] W.T. Arnold, Roman Provincial Administration, 1879, p. 26.

[171] Finlay, History of Greece, Tozer's ed. i, 39.

[172] When Julius Cæsar abolished the public revenue from the lands of Campania by dividing them among 20,000 colonists, the only Italian revenue left was the small duty on the sale of slaves (Cicero, Ep. ad Atticum, ii, 16).

[173] Ep. ad Atticum, iv, 15 (16).

[174] Cp. Niebuhr, Lectures on Roman History, Eng. tr. 1-vol. ed. pp. 227, 449; Gibbon, Bohn ed. iii, 404; v, 74-75.

[175] Orat. pro M. Fonteio, v. Cp. Long, in loc. (Orationes, 1855, ii, 167).

[176] Dr. Cunningham, preserving the conception of Rome as an entity with choice and volition, inclines to see a necessary self-protection in most Roman wars; yet his pages show clearly enough that the moneyed classes were the active power. He distinguishes (p. 161) "public neglect" (of conquered peoples) from "public oppression." But the public neglect was simply a matter of the control of the exploiting class, who were the effective "public" for foreign affairs. Compare his admissions as to their forcing of wars and their control of justice, pp. 163, 164.

[177] The fullest English account of the matter is given by Long, Decline of the Roman Republic, iv, 423-27, following Savigny. Cp. Plutarch's account of the doings of the publicani in Asia (Lucullus, cc. 7, 20). Lucullus gave deadly offence at Rome by his check on their extortions, as P. Rutilius Rufus had done before him (Pelham, Outlines of Roman History, 1893, pp. 198, 283; Ferrero, i, 183). The lowest rate of interest charged by the publicani seems to have been 12 per cent. (Niebuhr, Lectures, 1-vol. ed. p. 449). We shall find the same rates current in Renaissance Italy.

[178] Cp. R. Pöhlmann, Die Uebervölkerung der antiken Grossstädte, 1884, pp. 14-15, 29-30. Prof. Ferrero (Greatness and Decline of Rome, Eng. tr. i, 123-27; ii, 131-36) affirms a restoration of Italian "prosperity" from 80 B.C. onwards, by way first of a general cultivation of the vine and the olive by means of Oriental slaves used to such culture, and later of slave manufactures in the towns. But the evidence falls far short of the proposition. The main items are that about 52 B.C. Italy began to export olive oil, and that certain towns later won repute for pottery, textiles, arms, and so on. On the new agriculture cp. Dureau de la Malle, i, 426-27.

[179] W.W. Carlile, The Evolution of Modern Money, 1901, pp. 46, 48.

[180] Cp. M'Culloch, Essays and Treatises, 2nd ed. pp. 58-64, and refs.

[181] Cp. Hodgkin, The Dynasty of Theodosius, 1889, pp. 19-20. From Severus onwards the silver coinage had in fact become "mere billon money," mostly copper. Carlile, as cited.

[182] On this cp. Pöhlmann, Die Uebervölkerung der antiken Grossstädte, p.37, and Engel, as there cited.

[183] As to the probable nature of this much-discussed law see Long, Decline of the Roman Republic, i, chs. xi and xii. Cp. Niebuhr, Lect. 89.

[184] Plutarch, Tiberius Gracchus, c. 8.

[185] As Long remarks (i, 171), it does not appear what Tiberius Gracchus proposed to do with the slaves when he had put freemen in their place. Cp. Cunningham, p. 150.

[186] Cp. Pelham, Outlines, pp. 191-92; Ferrero, ch. iii.

[187] Robiou et Delaunay, Les institutions de l'ancienne Rome, 1888, iii, 18.

[188] Cp. Juvenal, iii, 21 sq.; 162 sq.

[189] For the history of the practice, see the article "Frumentariae Leges," in Smith's Dictionary of Antiquities.

[190] The first step by Gracchus does not seem to have been much resisted (Merivale, Fall of the Roman Republic, p. 22; but cp. Long, Decline of the Roman Republic, i, 262), such measures having been for various reasons resorted to at times in the past (Pliny, Hist. Nat. xviii, 1; Livy, ii, 34); but in the reaction which followed, the process was for a time restricted (Merivale, p. 34).

[191] It seems to have been he who, as consul, first caused the distribution to be made gratuitous. See Cicero, ad Attic. ii, 19, and De Domo Sua, cc. 10, 15. The Clodian law, making the distribution gratuitous, was passed next year.

[192] Suetonius, Julius, c. 41.

[193] Dio Cassius, xliii, 24.

[194] It must have been the relative dearness of land transport that kept the price of corn so low in Cisalpine Gaul in the time of Polybius, who describes a remarkable abundance (ii, 15).

[195] Suetonius, Aug. cc. 40, 41.

[196] Hist. Nat. xviii, 7 (6).

[197] Cp. his Economicus, chs. 5, 9, 11, 20, etc.

[198] Meyer, Gesch. des Alterthums, iii, 682 (§ 379).

[199] Plutarch, Tiberius Gracchus, c. 8.

[200] E.g., in the provinces of Africa (Gibbon, Bohn ed. iii, 445) and Sicily (Pelham, Outlines, p. 121).

[201] Cp. Pliny, as last cited.

[202] The Italians consumed large quantities of pork, mainly raised in the north (Polybius ii, 15; xii. fr. 1). Aurelian began a pork as well as a wine and oil ration for the Romans (Vopiscus, Aurelianus, 35, 47); and under Valentinian III the annual consumption in the city of Rome was 3,628,000 lbs., there being then a free distribution to the poor during five months of the year. Gibbon calculates that it sold at less than 2d. per lb. (Bohn ed. iii, 417-18.)

[203] Cp. Spalding, Italy and the Italian Islands, i, 372-75, 392, 398; Merivale, History, c. 32; ed. 1873, iv, 42; M'Culloch, as cited, pp. 286-92; Finlay, History of Greece, i, 43; Gibbon, Bohn ed. iii, 418; Dill, Roman Society in the Last Years of the Roman Empire, 2nd ed. p. 122 and refs.; and Blanqui, Histoire de l'économie politique, 2e éd. i, 123, as to the progression of the policy of feeding the populace. Cp. also Suetonius, in Aug. c. 42.

[204] There is, however, reason to surmise that the murder of Pertinax was planned, not by the prætorians who did the deed, but by the official and moneyed class who detested his reforms. See them specified by Gibbon, ch. iv, end.

[205] It is noteworthy that in the United States the New England region, producing neither coal nor iron, neither cotton nor (latterly) wheat, continues to retain a manufacturing primacy as against the South, in virtue of the (in part climatic) industry and skill of its population.

[206] Mommsen, History of Rome, Eng. tr. large ed. v, 5 (Provinces, vol. i); Gibbon, ch. iii, near end (Bohn ed. i, 104); cp. Mahaffy, The Greek World under Roman Sway, p. 397; Milman, History of Christianity, Bk. I, ch. vi; Renan, Les Apôtres, ed. 1866, p. 312; and Hegewisch, as cited by Finlay (i, 80, note), who protests that the favourable view cannot be taken of the state of Greece and Egypt. Mr. Balfour (Decadence, 1908, p. 18) chimes in with Mommsen and the rest.

[207] Cp. Pelham, Outlines, p. 473.

[208] Gibbon, ch. xvii; Bohn ed. ii, 194, and notes.

[209] Symmachus speaks of a famine about the time of the confiscation of the temple revenues. Ep. x, 54.

[210] Valentinian had resumed those temple revenues which had been restored by Julian, but went no further, though he vetoed the acquisition of legacies by his own church. That Gratian's step was rather financial than fanatical is proved by his having at the same time endowed the pagan rhetors and grammarians as a small religious quid pro quo. Beugnot, Hist. de la destr. du paganisme en occident, 1835, i, 478.

[211] There was a fresh relapse after Theodoric, in the ruinous wars between Justinian and the Goths and Franks. Revival began in the north under the Lombards, and was stimulated in the south after the revolt of Gregory II against Leo the Iconoclast, which made an end of the payment of Italian tribute to Byzantium. (Gibbon, Bohn ed. v, 127, 372, 377.)

[212] Cp. Dureau de la Malle, Écon. polit. des Romains, ii, 24 sq.

[213] Hist. Nat. iii, ix, 16.

[214] Id. ib. 6.

[215] Livy, vii, 38.

[216] Mommsen, i, 36. Mommsen does not deny the deterioration.

[217] Sueton. Julius, c. 20.

[218] E.g. Jacob, Hist. Inq. into the Prod. and Consump. of the Precious Metals, 1831, i, 221 sq.

[219] Cp. Pliny, Hist. Nat. xii, 18 (41).

[220] Cp. Del Mar, History of the Precious Metals, 1880, pref. p. vi; Money and Civilisation, 1886, introd. p. ix.

[221] Cp. Polybius, cited by Strabo, iii, ii, § 10; Jacob, Hist. of the Precious Metals, i, 176.

[222] Cp. Dureau de la Malle, Econ. pol. des Romains, ii, 441; Merivale, History, iv, 44.

[223] Jacob, as cited, i, 179.

[224] Gibbon, ch. xvii, Bohn ed. ii, 237. Cp. Prof. Bury's note in his ed., and Dureau de la Malle, Econ. polit. des Romains, i, 301 sq.

[225] On this form of oppression cp. Guizot, Essais sur l'histoire de France, i; his note on Gibbon, Bohn ed. ii, 234; Dill, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire, B. iii, ch. 2; and Cunningham, Western Civilisation, pp. 188, 189.

[226] Spalding, Italy, i, 398, following Symmachus.

[227] Gibbon, ch. xvii, Bohn ed. ii, 237, citing Cod. Theodos. xi, 28, 2. Cp. Dill, pp. 259-60.

[228] Cp. Dill, as cited, p. 260.

[229] Anastasius in his reign of twenty-seven years had saved an enormous treasure, whence it is arguable that Justinian's straits were due to bad management. But while he enlarged the expenditure, chiefly for military purposes, he also enlarged the revenue by very oppressive means, and practised some new economies. The fact remains that where Anastasius could hoard with a non-imperialist policy, Justinian, re-expanding the Empire, could not. See Gibbon, ch. 40, passim. Non-military expenditure could not account for the final deficit in Justinian's treasury. Even the great church of San Sofia does not seem to have cost above £1,000,000. Id. Bohn ed. iv, 335.

[230] "Here [in Egypt], as in Palestine, as in Syria, as in the country about the Euphrates, the efforts of the Persians could never have been attended with such immediate and easy success but for the disaffection of large masses of the population. This disaffection rested chiefly on the religious differences" (Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire, ii, 214). Compare Gibbon, ch. 47, Bohn ed. v, 275; and Mosheim, Eccles. Hist., 5 Cent, pt. ii, ch. ii, §§ 2, 4, 5 (Reid's ed. pp. 179-81). As to the welcoming of the Saracens in Egypt by the Monophysites, see Gibbon, ch. 51, Bohn ed. vi, 59-60. Cp. Sharpe, Hist. of Egypt, 6th ed. ii, 371; Milman, Latin Christianity, 4th ed. ii, 213; Finlay, i, 370-71.

[231] E.g. the tome of St. Leo, the Laws of Marcian, the Henoticon of Zeno, and the laws of Justinian; and the ecthesis and typus of Heraclius and Constans II—all retailed by Gibbon, ch. 47.

[232] Finlay immediately afterwards (p. 139) declares of the choice of Byzantium by Constantine as his capital that "its first effect was to preserve the unity of the Eastern Empire." The admission is repeated on p. 140, where the whole credit of the stand made by the East is given to the administration. Cp. also the explanations as to Italy on p. 235, and as to Byzantium on p. 184. The theory of p. 138 is utterly unsupported, and on p. 289 it is practically repudiated once for all. Cp. finally, pp. 217, 276, 298, 309, 328, 329, 347, 348, and pp. 361 and 371. On p. 276 we have the explicit admission that the hostility to the Roman Government throughout the East [in the sixth century] was everywhere connected with an opposition to the Greek "clergy."

Chapter II


§ 1

In republican Greece, as in republican Rome, we have already seen the tendency to the accumulation of wealth in few hands, as proved by the strifes between rich and poor in most of the States. A world in which aristocrats were finally wont to take an oath to hate and injure the demos[233] was on no very hopeful economic footing, whatever its glory in literature and art. Nor did the most comprehensive mind of all the ancient world see in slavery anything but an institution to be defended against ethical attack as a naturally right arrangement.[234] In view of all this, we may reasonably hold that even if there had been no Macedonian dominance and no Roman conquest, Greek civilisation would not have gone on progressing indefinitely after the period which we now mark as its zenith—that the evil lot of the lower strata must in time have infected the upper. What we have here briefly to consider, however, is the actual economic course of affairs.

For the purposes of such a generalisation, we may rank the Greek communities under two classes: (1) those whose incomes, down through the historic period, continued to come from land-owning, whether with slave or free labour, as Sparta; and (2) those which latterly flourished chiefly by commerce, whether with or without military domination, as Athens and Corinth. In both species alike, in all ages, though in different degrees as regards both time and place, there were steep divisions of lot between rich and poor, even among the free. Nowhere, not even in early "Lycurgean" Sparta, was there any system aiming at the methodical prevention of large estates, or the prevention of poverty, though the primitive basis was one of military communism, and though certain sumptuary laws and a common discipline were long maintained.

Grote's examination (pt. ii, ch. vi; ed. cited, ii, 308-30) of Thirlwall's hypothesis (ch. viii; 1st ed. i, 301, 326) as to an [Pg 99]equal division of lands by Lycurgus, seems to prove that, as regards rich and poor, the legendary legislator "took no pains either to restrain the enrichment of the former or to prevent the impoverishment of the latter"—this even as regards born Spartans. As to the early military communism of Sparta and Crete, see Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, § 210; and as to the economic process see Fustel de Coulanges, Nouvelles recherches sur quelques problèmes d'histoire, 1891, pp. 99-118.

Athens, on the other hand, was so situated as to become a place of industry and commerce; and from about the time of her great land-crisis, solved by Solon, her industrial and commercial interests determined her economic development. It follows from the success of Peisistratos that the mass of the people, blind to the importance of the political rights conferred upon them, were conscious of no such betterment from Solon's "shaking-off-of-burdens" as could make them averse to the rule of a "tyrant" who even laid upon them a new tax. The solution may perhaps lie in points of fiscal policy to which we have now no clear clue. Of Solon it is recorded[235] that he made a law against the export of any food produce of Attica save oil—the yield of the olive. This implied that of that product only was there in his opinion a redundancy; and we have it from the same source that he "saw that the soil was so poor that it could only suffice for the farmers," and so "gave great honour to trade," and "made a law that a son was not obliged to support his father if his father had not taught him a trade."[236] Himself a travelled merchant, he further recognised that "merchants are unwilling to despatch cargoes to a country which has nothing to export"; and we are led to infer that he encouraged on the one hand the export of manufactures, plus oil, and on the other the importation of corn and other food. In point of fact, grain was already being imported in increasing quantity from the recently colonised lands of Sicily and the Crimea;[237] and if the imports were free or lightly taxed the inland cultivators would have a local grievance in the depression of the prices of their produce.

The town and coast-dwellers, on the other hand, found their account in the carriage and development of manufactures—vases, weapons, objects of art—which, with the oil, and latterly the wine export, bought them their food from afar. Athens could thus go on growing in a fashion impossible to an agricultural community on the[Pg 100] same soil; and could so escape that fate of shrinkage in the free class which ultimately fell upon purely agricultural Sparta. The upshot was that, after as before Solon, Athens had commercial interests among her pretexts for war, and so widened the sphere of her hostilities, escaping the worst forms of "stasis" in virtue of the expansibility of commerce and the openings for new colonisation which commerce provided and widened. But colonisation there had to be. Precisely by reason of her progressiveness, her openness to the alien, her trade and her enterprise, Attica increased in population at a rate which enforced emigration, while the lot of the rural population did not economically improve, and the probable change from corn-growing to olive-culture[238] would lessen the number of people employed on the land. Even apart from the fact of the popular discontent which welcomed the tyrannis of Peisistratos, we cannot doubt that Solon's plans had soon failed to exclude the old phenomena of poverty. The very encouragement he gave to artisans to immigrate,[239] while it made for the democratic development and naval strength of Athens, was a means of quickening the approach of a new economic crisis. And yet he seems to have recognised the crux of population. The traditional permission given by the sage to parents to expose infants, implicitly avows the insoluble problem—the "cursed fraction" in the equation, which will not disappear; and in the years of the approach of Peisistratos to power we find Athens sending to Salamis (about 570) its first kleruchie, or civic colony-settlement on subject territory—this by way of providing for landless and needy citizens.[240] It was the easiest compromise; and nothing beyond compromise was dreamt of.

[The statement that Solon by law permitted the exposure of infants is made by Malthus, who gives no authority, but is followed by Lecky. The law in question is not mentioned by Plutarch, and I do not find it noticed by any of the historians. It is stated, however, by Sextus Empiricus (Hypotyp. iii, 24) that Solon made a law by which a parent could put his child to death; and this passage, which is cited by Hume in his Essay on the Populousness of Ancient Nations, is doubtless Malthus's authority. Nothing nearer to the purpose is cited by Meursius in his monograph on Solon; but this could very well stand as a permission of infanticide, especially seeing that the practice is [Pg 101]presumptively prehistoric. Petit writes: "Quemadmodum liberos tollere in patris erat positum potestate, ita etiam necare et exponere, idque, meo judicio, non tam moribus quam lege receptum fuit Athenis" (Leges Atticæ, fol. 219, ed. Wesseling, 1742). Grote (ii, 470, note) pronounces that the statement of Sextus "cannot be true, and must be copied from some untrustworthy authority," seeing that Dionysius the Halicarnassian (ii, 26) contrasts the large scope of the patria potestas among the Romans with the restrictions which all the Greek legislators, Solon included, either found or introduced. Dr. Mahaffy (Social Life in Greece, 3rd ed. p. 165) believes "the notion of exposing infants from economical motives not to have prevailed till later times" than the seventh century B.C., but he gives no reason for fixing any date. We may take it as certain that while the laws of Lycurgus, like the Roman Twelve Tables, enjoined or permitted the destruction of sickly or deformed infants, the general Greek usage allowed exposure. The express prohibition of it at Thebes (Ælian, Var. Hist. ii, 7) implies its previous normality there and elsewhere (cp. however, Aristotle, Pol. vii, 16); and the sale of children by their (free) parents was further permitted, except in Attica (Ingram, History of Slavery, p. 16); while even there a freeman's children by a slave concubine were slaves.]

On the other hand, the laws even of Sparta, framed with a view to the military strength of the State considered as the small free population, were ultimately evaded in the interests of property-holding, till the number of "pure Spartans" dwindled to a handful.[241] Under a system of primogeniture, with a rigid severance between the upper class and the lower, there could in fact be no other outcome. Here, apart from the revolts of the helots and the chronic massacres of these by their lords, which put such a stamp of atrocity on Spartan history,[242] the stress of class strife seems to have been limited among the aristocracy, not only by systematic infanticide, but by the survival of polyandry, several brothers often having one wife in common.[243] Whether owing to infanticide, or to in-breeding, or to preventives, families of three and four were uncommon and considered large, and special privileges offered to the fathers.[244] As[Pg 102] always, such devices failed against the pressures of the main social conditions. All the while, of course, the perioikoi and the enslaved helots multiplied freely; hence the policy of specially thinning down the latter by over-toil[245] as well as massacre. In other States, where the polity was more civilised, many observers perceived that the two essential conditions of stability were (a) absolute or approximate equality of property, and (b) restraint of population, the latter principle being a notable reaction of reason against the normal practice of encouraging or compelling marriage.[246] Aristotle said in so many words that to let procreation go unchecked "is to bring certain poverty on the citizens; and poverty is the cause of sedition and evil";[247] and he cites previous publicists who had sought to solve the problem. Socrates and Plato had partly contemplated it; and the idealist, as usual, had proposed the more brutal methods;[248] but Aristotle, seeing more clearly the population difficulty, perhaps on that account is the less disposed towards communism.

As medical knowledge advanced, it seems certain, the practice of abortion must have been generally added to that of infanticide in Greece, as later in Rome. See Aristotle, Politics, vii, 16; Plutarch, Lycurgus, c. 3; and Plato, Theætetus, p. 149 (Jowett's trans. iv, 202), as to the normal resort to abortion. The Greeks must have communicated to the Romans the knowledge of the arts of abortion, as they did those of medicine generally. But it does not appear that with all these checks population really fell off in Greece until after the time of Alexander. Before that time it may very well have fallen off in Athens when she lost her position as sovereign and tribute-drawing State. The tribute would tend to maintain a population in excess of the natural amount. Dr. Mahaffy (Rambles and Studies in Greece, 4th ed. p. 11—a passage not squared with the data in Greek Life and Thought, pp. 328, 558) accepts the old view of a general and inexplicable depopulation. One of the loci classici on that head, in the treatise On the Cessation of Oracles (viii) attributed to Plutarch but probably not by him, is searchingly examined by Hume at the close of his essay Of the Populousness of Ancient Nations, and the critic comes to the conclusion that the extreme decay there asserted cannot have taken place. He was in all probability right in arguing that the number of slaves in Attica [Pg 103]had been enormously exaggerated in the figures of Athenæus (cp. Cunningham, Western Civilisation, i, 109, note). There is reason to conclude, however, that Hume was unduly incredulous on some points. Strabo (refs. in Thirlwall, viii, 460) had found an immense decay of population in Greece more than a century before Plutarch; and his details prove a process of shrinkage which must have lasted long. In any case, a relative depopulation took place after the conquests of Alexander, from the operation of socio-economic causes, which are indicated by Finlay (History of Greece, Tozer's ed. i, 15; cp. Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, p. 328, and The Greek World under Roman Sway, 1890, p. 218). Broadly speaking, the Greeks went to lands where wealth was more easily acquired than in their own. Further depopulation took place under the Romans, partly from direct violence and deportation, partly from fiscal pressure, partly from the economic causes already noted.

Thirlwall, in his closing survey, proceeding on Polybius,[249] confidently decides that the main cause of depopulation was domestic and moral. Such a theory cannot be sustained. Polybius evidently had no clear idea of the facts, since he asserts that "in our time" and "rapidly" there took place in Greece a "failure of offspring" (or "dearth of children"), which left cities desolate and land waste; and goes on to ascribe it to habits of luxury, which either kept men from marrying or made them refuse to rear more than a few of their children. The whole theorem is haphazard. Cities and lands could not have been so depopulated.[250] There must have been, in addition to slaughter, a drain of population to lands where the conditions were more advantageous. Nor is there any good reason for believing that child-exposure had suddenly and immensely increased. Thirlwall says that marriages were "unfruitful"; but this is not the statement of Polybius. It is true that pæderasty would count for much in lowering character; but it had been common in Greece centuries before the time of Polybius, and had not affected fecundity. As we have seen,[251] fecundity fell in Sparta for other reasons.

As between Sparta and Athens, the main difference was that Athenian life was for a long period more or less expansive, while that of Sparta, even in the period of special vigour, was steadily contractive, as regarded quantity and quality of "good life." At Sparta, as above noted, the normal play of self-interest in the governing class brought about a continuous shrinkage in the number of enfranchised[Pg 104] citizens and of those holding land, till there were only 700 of the former and 100 of the latter—this when there were still 4,500 adult Spartans of "pure" descent, and 15,000 Laconians capable of military service. Even of the hundred landowners many were women, the estates having thus evidently aggregated by descent through heiresses.[252] It mattered little that this inner ring of rich became, after the triumph over Athens and in the post-Alexandrian period, as luxurious as the rest of Greece:[253] the evil lay not in the mode of their expenditure, but in the mode of their revenue. Agis IV and his successor Cleomenes thought to put the community on a sound footing by abolition of debts and forcible division of the land; but even had Agis triumphed at home or Cleomenes maintained himself abroad, the expedient could have availed only for a time. Accumulation would instantly recommence in the absence of a scientific and permanent system.

Schemes for promoting equality had been mooted in Greece from an early period (see Aristotle, Politics, ii, 6, 7, 8). Thus, "Pheidon the Corinthian, one of the oldest of legislators, thought that the families and number of citizens ought to continue the same." Phaleas of Chalcedon proposed to keep fortunes and culture equal; and Hippodamus the Milesian had a system of equality for a State of 10,000 persons. Some States, too, put restraints on the accumulation of land. But, save for transient successes, such as that of Solon at Athens, and of the compromise at Tarentum (see Aristotle, v, 5; and Müller, Dorians, Eng. tr. ii, 184-86), there was no adequate adjustment of means to ends, as indeed there could not be. Aristotle's own practical suggestions show the hopelessness of the problem.

In the commercial cities, where industry was encouraged and wealth tended to take the form of invested capital, it could not readily get into so few hands; and as commerce developed and the investments were more and more in that direction, there would arise an idle rich class which could be best got at by way of taxation. In such communities, though the division and hostility of rich and poor were as unalterable as in Sparta, there was more elasticity of adjustment; so that we see maritime and trading communities like Heracleia and Rhodes maintaining their oligarchic government, with vicissitudes, down into the Roman period,[254] somewhat as Venice in a[Pg 105] later age outlasted the other chief republics of Italy. The ruin of Corinth, though indirectly promoted by class strifes,[255] need not have occurred but for the Roman overthrow.[256]

As regards Athens, it is necessary to guard against some misconceptions concerning the life conditions even of the Periclean period. Public buildings apart, it was not a rich or rich-looking city; on the contrary, partly by reason of the force of democratic sentiment, its houses were mostly mean, the well-to-do people presumably having their better houses in the country, where the land was now mostly owned by them. After the destruction of the city by Xerxes (480 B.C.), the first need was felt to be its refortification on a larger scale, even sepulchres as well as the remains of private houses being made to yield materials for the walls.[257] At the same time the Piræus and Munychia were walled on a still greater scale—the whole constituting a public work of extraordinary scope, rapidly carried through by the co-operation of the whole of the citizens. The further gradual rebuilding of the city, as well as the fresh flocking of the foreign trading population to the now safe Piræus, would help, with the public works of Pericles, to set up the conditions of general prosperity which prevailed before the Peloponnesian war.[258] According to Demosthenes, the public men of the generation of Salamis had houses indistinguishable from those of ordinary people, whereas in the orator's own day the statesmen had houses actually finer than the public buildings.[259] This would be the natural result of the control of the confederate treasure resulting from the Athenian supremacy. But Dicæarchus belongs to the same period, and his account represents the mass of the city as poor in appearance, the houses small and with projecting stairways, and the streets crooked.[260] We know further from Xenophon that there were many empty spaces, some of them doubtless made by the customary destruction of the houses of those ostracised. There was thus a considerable approach to a rather straitened equality among the mass of the town-dwelling free citizens, who, despite the meanness of their houses, had luxuries in the form of the public baths and gymnasia.

Before Salamis, again, the revenue drawn from the leases of the silver mines of Laurium had been equally divided among the enfranchised citizens—an arrangement which had yielded only a[Pg 106] small sum to each, but which represented a notable adumbration of a communal system, with the fatal implication of a basis in slavery.[261] The devotion of this fund[262] to the building of a navy was the making of the Athenian maritime power; whence in turn came the ability of Athens to extort tribute from the allied States, and therewith to achieve relatively the greatest and most effective expenditure on public works[263] ever attempted by any government. It was this specially created demand for and endowment of the arts and the drama that raised Athens to the artistic and literary supremacy of the ancient world, and, by so creating a special intellectual soil, prepared the ensuing supremacy of Athenian philosophy.[264] But the Periclean policy of endowment went far beyond even the employment of labour by the State on the largest scale; it set up the principle of supplying something like an income to multitudes of poorer free citizens—an experiment unique in history. The main features of the system were: (1) Payments for service to the members of the Council of Five Hundred; (2) payments to all jurors, an order numbering some six thousand; (3) the theorikon or allowance of theatre money to all the poorer citizens; (4) regular payments to the soldiers and sailors; (5) largesses of corn, or sales at reduced prices; (6) sacrificial banquets, shared in by the common people; (7) the sending out of "kleruchies," or bodies of quasi-colonists, who were billeted on the confederate cities, to the number of five or six thousand in ten years. Without taking the a priori hostile view of the aristocratic faction, who bitterly opposed all this—a view endorsed later by Plato and Socrates—the common-sense politician must note the utter insecurity of the whole development, depending as it did absolutely on military predominance.[265] The mere cessation of the expenditure on public works at the fall of Athens in the Peloponnesian war was bound to affect class[Pg 107] relations seriously; and parties, already bitter, were henceforth more decisively so divided.[266]

In the second period of Athenian ascendency, after the fall of the Thirty Tyrants and of Sparta, when the virtual pensioning of citizens begun by Pericles had been carried to still further lengths,[267] we find Xenophon, the typical Greek of culture and military experience, proposing a financial plan[268] whereby Athens, instead of keeping up the renewed practice of oppressing the confederate cities in order to pay pensions to its own poorer citizens, should derive a sufficient revenue from other sources. In particular he proposed (1) the encouraging of foreigners to settle in the city in larger numbers, by exempting them from military service and from all forms of public stigma, and by giving them the waste grounds to build on. The taxes they would have to pay as aliens would serve as revenue to maintain the citizens proper. (2) A fund should be established for the encouragement of trade which in some unexplained way should yield a high interest, paid by the State, to all investors. (3) The State should build inns, shops, warehouses, and exchanges, chiefly for the use of the foreigners, and so further increase its revenue. (4) It should build ships for the merchant trade, and charter them out upon good security. (5) Above all, it should develop by slave labour the silver mines of Laurium, to the yield of which there was no limit. The public, in fact, might there employ thrice as many slaves as the number of citizens; and it should further set about finding new mines.

We have here the measure of the Athenian faculty to solve the democratic problem as then recognised. The polity of Pericles was bound to perish, alike because it negated international ethics and because it had no true economic basis. The comparatively well-meaning plan of Xenophon could not even be set in motion, so purely fanciful is its structure. The income of the poorer citizens is to come from the taxes and rents paid by foreigners, and from mines worked by slave labour; the necessary army of slaves has to be bought as a State investment. It is as if the Boers of the Transvaal had proposed to live idly in perpetuity on the dues paid by the immigrants, all the while owning all the mines and drawing all the profits. It is hardly necessary to say, with Boeckh,[269] that the thesis as to the yield of the mines was a pure delusion; and that the idea of living on the taxation of foreigners was suicidal.[270] The old method,[Pg 108] supplemented perforce by some regular taxation of the taxable citizens, and by the special exaction of "liturgies" or payments for the religious festival drama and other public services from the rich, was maintained as long as might be; industry tending gradually to decay, though the carrying trade and the resumed concourse of foreigners for a time kept Athens a leading city. Never very rich agriculturally, the middle and upper classes had for the rest only their manufactures and their commerce as sources of income; and as the manufactures were mostly carried on by slave labour, and were largely dependent on the State's control of the confederate treasure, the case of the poorer free citizens must necessarily worsen when that control ceased. About 400 B.C. the Athenians had still a virtual monopoly of the corn trade of Bosporus, on which basis they could develop an extensive shipping, which was a source of many incomes; but even these would necessarily be affected by the new regimen which began with the Macedonian conquest.

The attempt of Boeckh (bk. i, ch. viii) to confute the ordinary view as to the poverty of the Attic soil cannot be maintained. (See above, p. 99.) Niebuhr (Lectures on Roman History, Eng. tr. 3rd ed. p. 264) doubtless goes to the other extreme in calling the Greeks bad husbandmen. Compare the contrary view of Cox, General History, 2nd ed. p. 4. But even good husbandry on a poor soil could not compete with the output of Bosporus and Egypt. And in the Peloponnesian war Attic agriculture sank to a low level (Curtius' History, Eng. tr. iv, 71; bk. v, ch. ii).

As to the incomes made in the Bosporus corn-trade, cp. Grote, x, 410, 412, 413. When it became possible thus to draw a revenue from investment, the Athenian publicists rapidly developed the capitalist view that the lending of money capital is the support of trade. See Demosthenes, as cited by Boeckh, bk. i, ch. ix.

§ 2

In the economic readjustments, finally, which followed on the rise and subdivision of the empire of Alexander, Greece as a whole took a secondary place in the Hellenistic world, though Macedonia kept much of its newly acquired wealth. While commerce passed with industry and population to the new eastern cities, the remaining wealth of Greece proper would tend to pass into fewer hands,[Pg 109][271] thus pro tanto narrowing more than ever the free and cultured class, and relatively enlarging that of the slaves.

[Boeckh (bk. i, ch. viii) dwells on the variety of manufactures, and here gives a juster view than does Dr. Mahaffy, who (Social Life in Greece, 3rd ed. p. 406) oddly speaks of the lack of machinery as making "any large employment of hands in manufacture impossible." But the main manufacture, that of arms, was peculiarly dependent on the Athenian command of the confederate treasure; and it does not appear that the other manufactures were a source of much revenue till just before the period of political decline, when other causes combined to check Athenian trade. By that time the aristocratic class had weakened in their old prejudice against all forms of commerce (Mahaffy, as cited; Boeckh, as cited), which had hitherto kept it largely in the hands of aliens, this long after the time when, at Corinth and other ports, the ruling class had been constituted of the rich traders; and after the special efforts of Solon to encourage and enforce industry. Apart from this prejudice, which in many States put a political disability on traders, commerce had always been hampered by war and bad policy. Dr. Mahaffy (Social Life, p. 405) somewhat over-confidently follows Heeren and Boeckh in deciding that none of the Greek trade laws were in the interests of particular trades or traders; but even if they were not, they none the less hampered all commerce. Cp. Boeckh, bk. i, ch. ix. As Hume observed, the high rates of profit and interest prevailing in Greece show an early stage of commerce. Cp. Boeckh, bk. i, chs. ix, xxii.]

Those who had not shared in the plunder of Asia, to begin with, would find themselves badly impoverished, for the new influx of bullion would raise all prices. It is notable, on the other hand, that philosophy, formerly the study of men with, for the most part, good incomes, and thence always associated more or less with the spirit of aristocracy,[272] was now often cultivated by men of humble status.[273] The new rich then appear to have already fallen away somewhat from the old Athenian standards; while the attraction of poorer men was presumably caused in part by the process of endowment of the philosophic schools begun by Plato in his will—an example soon followed by others.[274] It is probable that as much weight is due to this economic cause as to that of political restraint in the explanation of the prosperity of philosophy at Athens at a time when literature was relatively decaying.[Pg 110]

The Roman conquest, again, further depressed Greek fortunes by absolute violence, hurling whole armies of the conquered into slavery,[275] and later setting up a new foreign attraction to the Greeks of ready wit and small means. They presumably began to flock to Rome or Egypt or Asia Minor as the conditions in Greece worsened; and that process in turn would be promoted by the gradual worsening of the Roman financial pressure. It is notable that a rebellion of Attic slaves occurred in 133 B.C., synchronously with the first slave-rising in Sicily—a proof of fresh oppression all round.[276] The Romans had retained the Greek systems of municipal government, and had begun by putting on light taxes.[277] But these surely increased;[278] and the Mithridatic war, in which Athens had taken the anti-Roman side, changed all for the worse. Sulla took the city after a difficult siege, massacred most of the citizens, and entirely destroyed the Piræus; whereafter Athens practically ceased for centuries to be a commercial centre. Corinth, which had been razed to the ground by Mummius, was ultimately reconstructed by Cæsar as a Roman colony, and secured most of what commerce Greece retained. Twenty years before, Pompey had put down the Cilician pirates, a powerful community of organised freebooters that had arisen out of the disbanding of the hired forces of Mithridates and other Eastern monarchs on the triumph of the Romans, and was further swelled by a large inflow of poverty-stricken Greeks. While it lasted, it greatly multiplied the number of slaves for the Roman market by simple kidnapping.

[The great mart for such sales was Delos, which was practically a Roman emporium (Strabo, bk. xiv, c. v, § 1). Mahaffy (Greek World under Roman Sway, p. 154) regards the pirates as largely anti-Roman, especially in respect of their sacking of Delos. But previously they sold their captives there; and Dr. Mahaffy (p. 7) recognises the connection. The pirates, in short, became anti-Roman when the Romans, who had so long tolerated them as slave-traders (as the rulers of Cyprus and Egypt had done before), were driven to keep them in check as pirates.]

Thus all the conditions deteriorated together; and the suppression of the pirate state found Greece substantially demoralised, the prey of greedy proconsuls, poor in men, rich only in ancient art and in[Pg 111] wistful memories. In the civil wars before and after Cæsar's fall, Greece was harried by both sides in turn; and down to the time of Augustus depopulation and impoverishment seem to have steadily proceeded under Roman rule.[279] Every special contribution laid on the provinces by the rulers was made an engine of confiscation; citizens unable to pay their taxes were sold as slaves; property owners were forced to borrow at usurious rates in the old Roman fashion; and the parasitic class of so-called Roman citizens, as such free of taxation, tended to absorb the remaining wealth.[280] This wealth in turn tended to take the shape of luxuries bought from the really productive provinces; and the fatality of the unproductive communities, lack of the bullion which they in a double degree required, for the time overtook Greece very much as it overtook Italy. Both must have presented a spectacle of exterior splendour as regarded their monuments and public buildings, and as regarded the luxury that was always tending to concentrate in fewer hands, usurers plundering citizens and proconsuls plundering usurers; but the lot of the mass of the people must have been depressed to the verge of endurance if depopulation had not spontaneously yielded relief. As it was, the Greek populations would tend to consist more and more of the capitalistic, official, and parasitic classes on the one hand, and of slaves and poor on the other.[281]

The general depopulation of subject Greece is thus perfectly intelligible. The "race" had not lost reproductive power; and even its newer artificial methods of checking numbers were not immeasurably more active than simple infanticide or exposure had been in the palmy days. In the ages of expansion the whole Hellenic world in nearly all its cities and all its islands swarmed with a relatively energetic population, who won from conditions often in large part unpropitious a sufficiency of subsistence on which to build by the hands of slaves a wonderful world of art. To these conditions they were limited by racial hostilities; everywhere there was substantial though convulsive equipoise among their own warring forces, and between those of their frontier communities and the surrounding "barbarians." The conquest of Alexander (heralded and invited by the campaign of the Ten Thousand) at one blow broke up this equipoise: organised Greek capacity, once forcibly unified, triumphed over the now lower civilisations of Egypt and the East, and Greek[Pg 112] population at once began to find its economic level in the easier conditions of some of the conquered lands. They flocked to Egypt and elsewhere in the Mediterranean basin as they do at the present time, for similar economic reasons. Nothing could now restore the old conditions; but the Roman conquest and tyranny forced on the disintegration till Greece proper was but the glorious shell of the life of the past, inhabited by handfuls of a semi-alien population, grown in a sense psychically degenerate under evil psychic conditions. In the lower strata of this population began the spread of Christianity, passing sporadically from Syria to the Greek cities, as at the same time to Egypt and Rome. A new conception of life was generated on the plane that typified it.

§ 3

It is a great testimony to the value of sheer peace that in the Roman Empire of the second century, with an incurable economic malady, as it were, eating into its nerve centres, and with no better provision for the higher life than the schools of rhetoric and the endowments of the Greek philosophic chairs, there was yet evolved a system of law and administration which, even under the frightful chances of imperial succession, sustained for centuries a vast empire, and imposed itself as a model on the very barbarism that overthrew it. And it is this system which connects for us the life conditions of Greece as the Romans held it, with its artistic shell almost intact despite all the Roman plunder,[282] and those of the strangely un-Hellenic Greek-speaking world which we know as Byzantium, with its capital at Constantinople.

The economic changes in this period can be traced only with difficulty and uncertainty; but they must have been important. The multiplication of slaves, which was a feature of the ages of the post-Alexandrian empires, the Roman conquest, and the Cilician pirate state, would necessarily be checked at a certain stage, both in town and country, by the continued shrinkage of the rich class. Agriculture in Greece, as in Italy, could not compete with that of Egypt; and slave-farming, save in special cultures, would not be worth carrying on. In the towns, again, the manufactures carried on by means of slaves had also dwindled greatly; and the small wealthy class could not and would not maintain more than a certain number of slaves for household purposes. The records of the[Pg 113] religious associations, too, as we shall see, seem to prove that men who were slaves in status had practical freedom of life, and the power of disposing of part of their earnings; whence it may be inferred that many owners virtually liberated their slaves, though retaining a legal claim over them. In this state of things population would gradually recover ground, albeit on a low plane. The type of poor semi-Greek now produced would live at a lower standard of comfort than had latterly been set for themselves by the more educated, who would largely drift elsewhere; and a home-staying population living mainly on olives and fish could relatively flourish, both in town and country. On that basis, in turn, commerce could to some extent revive, especially when Nero granted to the Greeks immunity from taxation.[283] We are prepared then, in the second century, under propitious rulers like Hadrian and the Antonines, to find Greek life materially improved.[284] The expenditure of Hadrian on public works, and the new endowments of the philosophic schools at Athens by the Antonines, would stimulate such a revival; and the Greek cities would further regain ground as Italy lost it, with the growth of cosmopolitanism throughout the Empire. While domestic slavery would still abound, the industries in Athens under the imperial rule would tend to be carried on by freedmen.

A further stimulus would come from the overthrow of the Parthian empire of the Arsacidæ by Artaxerxes, 226 A.C. The Arsacidæ, though often at war with the Romans, still represented the Hellenistic civilisation, whereas the Sassanidæ zealously returned to the ancient Persian religion, the exclusiveness of which would serve as a barrier to Western commerce,[285] even while the cult of Mithra, Hellenised to the extent of being specially associated with image-worship, was spreading widely in the West. Commerce would now tend afresh to concentrate in Greece, the Indian and Chinese trade passing north and south of Persia.[286] The removal of the seat of government from Rome by Diocletian, greatly lessening the Italian drain on the provinces, would still further assist the Greek revival after the Gothic invasion had come and gone. Thus we find the[Pg 114] larger Greek world in the time of Constantine grown once more so important that in the struggle between him and Licinius his great naval armament, composed chiefly of European Greeks, was massed in the restored Piræus. The fleet of Licinius, made up chiefly by Asiatic and Egyptian Greeks, already showed a relative decline on that side of the Empire's resources.[287] When, finally, Constantine established the new seat of empire at Byzantium, he tended to draw thither all the streams of Greek commerce, and to establish there, as the centre of the revenues of the Eastern Empire, some such population as had once flourished in Rome; with, however, a definite tendency to commerce and industry in the lower class population as well as in the middle class. To the government of this population was brought the highly developed organisation of the later Pagan Empire, joined with an ecclesiastical system from which heresy was periodically eliminated by the imperial policy, aided by the positive intellectual inferiority of the new Greek-speaking species. There was prosperity enough for material life; and the political and religious system was such as to prevent the normal result of prosperity, culture, from developing independently. The much-divided Greek world had at last, after countless convulsions, been brought to a possibility of quasi-inert equilibrium, an equilibrium which enabled it to sustain and repel repeated and destructive irruptions of northern barbarism,[288] and on the whole to hold at bay, with a shrunken territory, its neighbouring enemies for a thousand years.

§ 4

We have passed, then, through a twilight age, to find a new civilised empire ruled on the lines of the old, but with a single, albeit much-divided religion, and that the Christian, all others having been extirpated not by persuasion but by governmental force, after the new creed, adapting itself to its economic conditions, had secured for itself and its poor adherents, mainly from superstitious rich women, an amount of endowment such as no cult or priesthood possessed in the days of democracy. This process of endowment itself originated, however, in pagan practice; for in the days of substitution of emotional Eastern cults for the simpler worships of[Pg 115] early Hellas, there had grown up a multitude of voluntary societies for special semi-religious, semi-festival purposes—thiasoi, eranoi, and orgeones, all cultivating certain alien sacrifices and mysteries, as those of Dionysos, Adonis, Sabazios, Sarapis, Cotytto, or any other God called "Saviour."[289] These societies, unlike the older Hellenic associations of the same names[290] for the promotion of native worships, were freely open to women, to foreigners, and even to slaves;[291] they were absolutely self-governing; the members subscribed according to their means; and we find them flourishing in large numbers in the age of the Antonines,[292] when the old state cults were already deserted, though still endowed. They represent, as has been said, the reappearance of the democratic spirit and the gregarious instinct in new fields and in lower strata when general and practical democracy has been suppressed. In some such fashion did the Christian Church begin, employing the attractions and the machinery of many rival cults. Its final selection and establishment by the Empire represented in things religious a process analogous to that which had forcibly unified the competing republics of Greece in one inflexible and unprogressive organisation. Nothing but governmental force could have imposed doctrinal unity on the chaos of sects into which Christianity was naturally subdividing; but the power of conferring on the State Church special revenues was an effective means of keeping it practically subordinate.

The historian who has laid down the proposition that religious unity was the cause of the survival of the Eastern Empire when the Western fell,[293] has made the countervailing admission that between Justinian and Heraclius there was an almost universal centrifugal tendency in the Byzantine State, which was finally overcome only by "the inexorable principle of Roman centralisation,"[294] at a time when it was nearly destroyed by its enemies and its own dissentient forces.[295] Province after province had been taken by the Persians in the East; Slavs and Avars were driving back the population from the northern frontiers, even harrying the Peloponnesus; discontent enabled Phocas to dethrone and execute Maurice (602 A.C.); and Phocas in turn was utterly defeated by the Persian foe; when Heraclius appeared, to check the continuity of disaster, and to place the now circumscribed Empire on a footing of possible permanence. But it is important to realise how far the economic and external[Pg 116] conditions conduced to his success, such as it was. Hitherto the populace of Constantinople had been supported, like that of imperial Rome, by regular allowances of bread to every householder, provided from the tributary grain supplies of Egypt. The Persian conquest of Egypt in the year 616 stopped that revenue; and the emperor's inability to feed the huge semi-idle populace became a cause of regeneration, inasmuch as the State was forcibly relieved of the burden, and many of the idlers became available for the army about to be led by the emperor against the menacing Persians. He was reduced, however, to the expedient of offering to continue the supply on a payment of three pieces of gold from each claimant, and finally to breaking that contract; whereafter, on his proposing to transfer his capital to Carthage to escape the discontent, the populace and the clergy implored him to remain, and thus enabled him to exact a large loan from the latter,[296] and to dominate the nobility who had hitherto hampered his action. The victories of Heraclius over the Persians, however, only left the eastern and Egyptian provinces to fall under the Arabs; the first financial result of his successes having been to tax to exasperation the recovered lands in order to repay the ecclesiastical loan with usury; and the circumscribed Empire under his successors could not, even if the emperors wished, resume the feeding of the mass of the citizens. Constantinople, though still drawing some tribute from the remaining provinces in Italy, was thus perforce reduced to a safe economic basis, even as the people in general had been coerced into united effort by the imminent danger from Persia.

From this time forward, with many vicissitudes of military fortune, the contracted Byzantine State endured in virtue of its industrial and commercial basis and its consequent maritime and military strength, managed with ancient military science against enemies less skilled. The new invention of "Greek fire," like all advances in the use of missiles in warfare, counted for much; but the decisive condition of success was the possession of continuous resources. Justinian, among many measures of mere oppression and restriction, had contrived to introduce from the far East the silk manufacture, which for the ancient and medieval European world was of enormous mercantile importance. Such a staple, and[Pg 117] the virtual control of the whole commerce between northern and western Europe and the East, kept Byzantium the greatest trading power in Christendom until the triumph of the Italian republics. Even the Saracen conquests in Asia and Africa did not seriously affect this source of strength; for the Saracen administration, though often wise and energetic, was in Egypt too often convulsed by civil wars to permit of trade flourishing there in any superlative degree. The Byzantines continued to trade with India by the Black Sea and Central Asian route; and their monopolies and imposts, however grievous, were relatively bearable compared with the afflictions of commerce under other powers. As of old, the Greeks or Greek-speaking folk were the traders of the Mediterranean, the Saracen navy never reaching sufficient power to check them; and when finally its remnants took to piracy, they served rather to cut off all weaker competition than to affect the preponderating naval power of the Empire.

In this period of prevailing commercial vigour, from the sixth to the eleventh century, the life of the Greek Empire was substantially civic, the rural districts remaining desolate, and agriculture extremely feeble,[297] though the Sclavonian immigrants who now inhabited the Peloponnesus[298] must have lived by that means. Under such circumstances the towns would be fed by imported grain, presumably that of the Crimea; but as they did not grow in size, at least in the case of the capital, their industrial prosperity must have largely depended on the restriction of population, whether by vice, preventive checks, misery, or the sheer unhealthiness of city life, which at the present day prevents so many Eastern cities from maintaining themselves save by influx from the country.[299] It is misleading to point to the legal veto on infanticide as a great Christian reform without taking these things into account. The presumption is that misery, vice, child-exposure, and abortion, rather than prudence, kept the poor population within the limits of subsistence.

Mr. Oman (Byzantine Empire, p. 145) takes the popular view as to the reformative effect of Christianity. He goes on to describe Constantine as providing for the children of the destitute to prevent their exposure, but does not mention that the same thing had been done under the Antonines, and that Constantine permitted the finder of an exposed child to enslave it. The punishment of all exposure as infanticide, under Valentinian, was only an adoption of the pagan practice at Thebes (Ælian, Var. Hist. ii, 7). But in spite of all enactments, [Pg 118]under Christian as under pagan rule, exposure and positive infanticide continued, though Christian sentiment never gave it the toleration exhibited in the drama of Menander. As to the historic facts, cp. Lecky, Hist. of European Morals, 6th ed. ii, 24-33.

Broadly speaking, it was inevitable that in such a population as is pictured for us by Chrysostom—a multitude profoundly ignorant, superstitious, excitable, sensuous—all the vices of the Græco-Roman period should habitually flourish, while poverty must have been normally acute after the stoppage of regular free bread. On the general moral environment, cp. the author's Short History of Freethought, 2nd ed. i, 249-50.

It is necessary, in the same way, to substitute an accurate for a conventional view as to the treatment of slaves under the Christian Empire. We are still told[300] that the Christian doctrine or implication of religious equality had the effect first of greatly modifying the evils of slavery and finally of abolishing it. Research proves that the facts were otherwise. We have already seen how economic causes partially limited slavery before Christianity was heard of; and in so far as the limitation was maintained,[301] the efficient causes remain demonstrably economic.[302] Indeed, no other causes can be shown to have existed. Not only is slavery endorsed in the Gospels,[303] and treated by Paul as not merely compatible with but favourable to Christian freedom on the part of the slave,[304] but the early Christians, commonly supposed to have been the most incorrupt, held slaves as a matter of course.[305] In the laws of Justinian not a word is said as to slavery being opposed to either the spirit or the letter of Christianity; and the only expressions that in any degree deprecate it are in terms of the Stoic doctrine of the "law of nature,"[306] which we know to have been already current in the time of Aristotle,[307] and to[Pg 119] have become widespread in the age of the Antonines, under Stoic auspices. That "law of nature," however, was never allowed to override a definite law of society; and the Christian influence on the other hand set up a new set of arguments for slavery.[308] Among the Christian Visigoths, slaves who married without authority from their masters were forcibly separated; and the slave who dared to marry a free-woman was burnt alive with his wife; while "the bishops were among the largest slave-holders in the realm; and baptised Christians were bought and sold without a blush by the successors of St. Paul and Santiago."[309] It cannot even be said of the Byzantines, any more than of the Protestants of the southern United States of fifty years ago, that they were more humane to their slaves than the earlier pagans had been; for we find Christian Byzantine matrons causing their slave-girls to be tied up and brutally flogged;[310] even as we have the testimony of Salvian to the atrocities committed by Christian slave-owners in Gaul.[311] The admission that the Church, even when encouraging laymen to free their slaves, insisted on retaining its own,[312] is the proof that the urging force was not even then doctrinal, but the perception that the Church's secular interests were served by the growth of an independent population outside its own lands.[313] The spirit of the Justinian code, despite its allusion to the law of nature, and the spirit of the enactments of the early Councils of the Church, are alike opposed to any idea of spiritual equality between bond and free.

On the other hand, the simple restriction of conquest limited the possibilities of slavery for Byzantium. Captives were enslaved to the last,[314] but of these there was no steady supply. In the rural districts, again, the fiscal conditions made for at least nominal freedom, as is shown by the historian who has most closely analysed the conditions:—

"The Roman financial administration, by depressing the higher classes and impoverishing the rich, at last burdened the small proprietors and cultivators of the soil with the whole weight of the land-tax. The labourer of the soil then became an object of great interest to the treasury, and ... obtained almost as important a position in the eyes of the fisc as the landed [Pg 120]proprietor himself. The first laws which conferred any rights on the slave are those which the Roman government enacted to prevent the landed proprietors from transferring their slaves, engaged in the cultivation of lands assessed for the land-tax, to other employments which, though more profitable to the proprietor of the slave, would have yielded a smaller or less permanent return to the imperial treasury.[315] The avarice of the imperial treasury, by reducing the mass of the free population to the same degree of poverty as the slaves, had removed one cause of the separation of the two classes. The position of the slave had lost most of its moral degradation, and [he] occupied precisely the same political position in society as the poor labourer from the moment that the Roman fiscal laws compelled any freeman who had cultivated lands for the space of thirty years to remain for ever attached, with his descendants, to the same estate.[316] The lower orders were from that period blended into one class; the slave rose to be a member of this body; the freeman descended, but his descent was necessary for the improvement of the great bulk of the human race, and for the extinction of slavery. Such was the progress of civilisation in the Eastern Empire. The measures of Justinian which, by their fiscal rapacity, tended to sink the free population to the same state of poverty as the slaves, really prepared the way for the rise of the slaves as soon as any general improvement took place in the condition of the human race."[317]

For the rest, it cannot be supposed that the "freedom" thus constituted had much actuality. Sons of soldiers and artisans were held bound to follow their father's profession, as in the hereditary castes of the East,[318] and none of the fruits of freedom are to be traced in Byzantine life. Still, the fact remains that the commercial and industrial life sustained the political, and that the political began definitely to fail when the commercial did. Constantinople could hardly have collapsed as it did before the Crusaders if its commerce had not already begun to dwindle through interception by Venice and the Italian trading cities. As soon as these were able to trade directly with the East they did so, thus withdrawing a large part of the stream of commerce from Byzantium; and when, finally, they acquired the secret of her silk manufacture, her industrial revenue was in turn undermined. On the economic weakening, the political followed; and the Eastern Empire finally fell before the Turks, very much as the Western had fallen before the Goths.


[233] Aristotle, Politics, v, 9.

[234] Id. i, 2.

[235] Plutarch, Solon, c. 24.

[236] Id. c. 22. Cp. Dr. Grundy, Thucydides and the History of his Age, 1911, p. 66, as to Solon's evident purpose of promoting manufactures.

[237] Maisch, Manual of Greek Antiquities, Eng. tr. p. 38. Cp. Meyer, ii, 644.

[238] Cp. Cunningham, Western Civilisation, i (1898), 100-2.

[239] Grote, ii, 504. Hitherto Athens was far behind other cities, as Corinth, in trade. The industrial expansion seems to begin in Solon's time (Plutarch, Solon, c. 22; Busolt, Griechische Geschichte, i, 501).

[240] Busolt, as cited, i, 549-50. The details, many of them from lately recovered inscriptions, are full of interest. Cp. Grote, ii, 462.

[241] Plutarch, Agis. c. 5; Aristotle, Politics, ii, 9; Thirlwall, viii, 133.

[242] The arguments of K.O. Müller (Dorians, Eng. tr. b. iii, c. 3, §§ 3-5) in discredit of the received view, though not without weight, have never carried general conviction. Cp. Maisch, Manual of Greek Antiquities, Eng. tr. p. 17.

[243] See the recovered passage of Polybius (xii, 6, ed. Hultsch) cited (from Mai, Nov. Collect. Vet. Scriptor. ii, 384) by Müller (Dorians, Eng. tr. ii, 205). Cp. M'Lennan, Kinship in Ancient Greece, § 2.

[244] Aristotle, Politics, ii, c. 9. On Aristotle's unhesitating assumption (ii, 10) as to the normality and the effects of pæderasty, cp. the refutation of Müller, Dorians, Eng. tr. b. iv, c. 4, §§ 6-8; and as to the real causes of decline of population, see b. iii, c. 10, § 2. Primogeniture was a main factor. As the propertied class, of whom Aristotle speaks, became small through accumulations, which often went to heiresses, the whole statistic as to births is narrow and dubious. But it is safe to decide that the decline of the pure Spartan population was not a result of vice, any more than the normal dwindling of the numbers of modern aristocracies. It should be remembered that younger sons would be likely to have illegitimate offspring among the helots, if not among the perioikoi. The selfish aristocracy thus wrought for its own class extinction.

[245] Plutarch, Solon, c. 22.

[246] See refs. in Fustel de Coulanges, La cité antique, 1. iii, ch. xviii, p. 265.

[247] Aristotle, Politics, ii, 6.

[248] Cp. the Republic, v, and the Laws (bks. v, xi; Jowett's tr. 3rd ed. v, pp. 122, 313) with the Politics, vii, 16.

[249] Fr. Vat. xxxvii, 9.

[250] Cp. Hume, essay cited, as to the slight effect of the exposure check in China.

[251] Above, p. 101.

[252] Aristotle, Politics, ii, 9; Plutarch, Agis, c. 7.

[253] Athenæus, citing Phylarchus, iv, 20.

[254] Grote, x, 402; Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, p. 457; Greek World under Roman Sway, p. 237; M'Culloch, Treatises and Essays, ed. 1859, pp. 276-78.

[255] Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, p. 452.

[256] M'Culloch, as cited, p. 275.

[257] Thucydides, i, 93.

[258] Grote, iv, 341, 342.

[259] Citations in Boeckh, bk. i, ch. 12.

[260] Boeckh, bk. i, ch. 12. Cp. De Pauw, Recherches philosophiques sur les Grecs, 1787, i, 55-60.

[261] See E. Ardaillon, Les mines du Laurion dans l'antiquité, 1897, ch. v.

[262] The mines of Laurium, though anciently worked by the "Pelasgi," do not figure in Athenian history till the beginning of the fifth century B.C. Ardaillon, pp. 126-27.

[263] As to the enormous cost in labour and money of such buildings as the Propylæa and the Parthenon, cp. Mahaffy, Survey of Greek Civilisation, p. 143, and M'Cullagh, Industrial History of the Free Nations, 1846, i, 166, 167.

[264] "Before the Persian war Athens had contributed less than many other cities, her inferiors in magnitude and in political importance, to the intellectual progress of Greece. She had produced no artists to be compared with those of Argos, Corinth, Sicyon, Ægina, Laconia, and of many cities both in the eastern and western colonies. She could boast of no poets so celebrated as those of the Ionian and Æolian Schools. But ... in the period between the Persian and the Peloponnesian wars both literature and the fine arts began to tend towards Athens as their most favoured seat" (Thirlwall, vol. iii, ch. xviii, pp. 70, 71). "Never before or since has life developed so richly" (Abbott, ii, 415). Cp. Holm, Eng. tr. ii, 156, 157.

[265] This view appears to be substantially at one with the reasoning of Dr. Cunningham (Western Civilisation, pp. 112-23). I must dissent, however, from his apparent position (pp. 119-21) that it was the mode of the expenditure that was wrong, and that Athens might have employed her ill-gotten capital "productively" in the modern economic sense. The cases of Miletus and Tyre, cited by him, seem to be beside the argument.

[266] Plutarch, Pericles, c. 11.

[267] Cp. Thirlwall, small ed. iii, 67.

[268] On the Revenues.

[269] As cited, bk. iv, ch. xxi.

[270] Boeckh's arguments, denounced by Lewis, need not be adhered to; but the whole theorem is so fantastic that Lewis's general vindication of it is puzzling (Trans. pref. xv, note).

[271] See Hertzberg, Geschichte Griechenlands unter der Herrschaft der Römer, Theil ii, Kap. 2, p. 200, as to the vast estates now acquired by a few.

[272] In Magna Graecia, in particular, the whole Pythagorean movement had such associations in a high degree. Note the frequency of names beginning αναξ (= king or chief) in the history of early Greek philosophy.

[273] Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, p. 136.

[274] Idem, pp. 145-49; Gibbon, Bohn ed. iv, 352.

[275] E.g., the whole population of Corinth; and 150,000 inhabitants of Epirus.

[276] Cp. Finlay, i, 23.

[277] They exacted from Macedonia only half the tribute it had paid to its kings; but there is a strong presumption that it was too impoverished after the war to pay more.

[278] "The extraordinary payments levied on the provinces soon equalled, and sometimes exceeded, the regular taxes" (Finlay, i, 39). Cp. Mahaffy, Greek World under Roman Sway, pp. 145, 156, 159, 161, 162.

[279] Cp. Hertzberg, Gesch. Griechenlands unter der Herrsch. der Römer, Th. i, Kap. 5, pp. 486-91.

[280] Finlay, i, 45, 46, 74.

[281] "We stand [1st c. A.C.] before a decayed society of very rich men and slaves" (Mahaffy, Greek World, p. 268).

[282] Finlay, i, 73. But cp. Frazer, Pausanias, 1900, p. 4, as to the decay in the second century.

[283] This was soon withdrawn by Vespasian, but apparently with circumspection. In the first century A.C. the administration seems to have been unoppressive (Mahaffy, Greek World, pp. 233, 237).

[284] Hertzberg (Gesch. Griechenlands unter der Herrschaft der Römer, Th. ii, Kap. 2, p. 189) rejects the statement of Finlay that Greece reached the lowest degree of misery and depopulation under the Flavian emperors ("about the time of Vespasian" is the first expression in the revised ed. i, 80). But Finlay contradicts himself: cp. p. 66. Hertzberg again (iii, 116) speaks of a "furchtbar zunehmende sociale Noth des dritten Jahrhunderts" at Athens, without making the fact clear. See below.

[285] This is noted by Finlay (i, 143) in regard to the later surrender of a large Mesopotamian territory by Jovian to Shapur II, when the whole Greek population of the ceded districts was forced to emigrate.

[286] Cp. Finlay, i, 264, 267-69.

[287] Finlay, i, 141. See p. 142 as to the recognition of the military importance of Greece by Julian.

[288] Cp. Finlay, i, 161. as to the ruin wrought at the end of the fourth century by Alaric; and pp. 253, 297, 303, 316, as to that wrought in the sixth century by Huns, Sclavonians, and Avars.

[289] Σωτηριαοταἱ is one of the group-names preserved.

[290] They are already seen established in the laws of Solon.

[291] Foucart, Des associations religieuses chez les Grecs, 1873, pp. 5-10.

[292] They may have begun as early as the Peloponnesian war (Foucart, p. 66).

[293] Finlay, i, 85-86, notes.

[294] Id. i, 289.

[295] Id. p. 309; cp. pp. 328, 329.

[296] A fair idea of the facts may be had by combining the narratives of Gibbon, Finlay, and Mr. Oman (The Byzantine Empire, ch. x). Gibbon and Mr. Oman ignore the threat to make Carthage the capital; Gibbon ignores the point as to the stoppage of the grain supply; Finlay ignores the Church loan; Mr. Oman (p. 133) represents it as voluntary, whereas Gibbon shows it to have been compulsory (ch. 46. Bohn ed. v, 179, note). Mr. Bury alone (History of the Later Roman Empire, 1889, ii, 217-21) gives a fairly complete view of the situation. He specifies a famine and a pestilence as following on the stoppage of the grain supply.

[297] Finlay, i, 425.

[298] Id. ii, 37.

[299] Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 12.

[300] Oman, as cited, pp. 147, 148. The conventional claim, as made by Robertson and echoed by Guizot, was partly disallowed even by Milman, and countered by the clerical editor of the Bohn ed. of Gibbon (ii, 50-54). But such conventional formulas are always subject to resuscitation.

[301] Finlay (i, 81) writes that "at this favourable conjuncture Christianity stepped in to prevent avarice from ever recovering the ground which humanity had gained." This clearly did not happen, and his later chapters supply the true explanation.

[302] Finlay later says so in so many words (ii, 23, 220), explicitly rejecting the Christian theory (see also p. 321). This historian's views seem to have modified as his studies proceeded, but without leading him to recast his earlier text.

[303] Luke xvii, 7-10, Gr. The translation "servant" is, of course, an entire perversion.

[304] 1 Cor. vii, 21-24. The phrase unintelligibly garbled as "use it rather" clearly means "rather remain a slave." "even" being understood in the previous clause. This was the interpretation of Chrysostom and most of the Fathers. See the Variorum Teacher's Bible, ad loc. Cp. the whole first chapter of Larroque, De l'esclavage chez les nations chrétiennes, 2nd édit. 1864; and the forcible passage of Frédéric Morin, Origines de la Démocratie, 3e édit. 1865, pp. 384-86. As Morin points out, the Church has never passed a theological condemnation of slavery. On the other hand, it was expressly justified by Augustine (De Civ. Dei, 1. xix, c. 15) as a divinely ordained punishment for sin; and by Thomas Aquinas (De regimine principum, ii, 10) as being further a stimulus to bravery in soldiers. He cannot have seen the Histories of Tacitus, where (ii, 4) civil wars are declared to have been the most bloody, because prisoners were not to be enslaved.

[305] Athenagoras, Apology for Christianity, c. 35; Chrysostom, passim.

[306] Instit. Justin. I, iii, § 2, 4; v.

[307] Politics, i, 3.

[308] Cp. Michelet, Hist. de France, vol. vii, Renaissance, note du § v. Introd. (ed. 1857, pp. 155-57). Michelet argues that the Christian influence was substantially anti-liberationist.

[309] U.R. Burke, History of Spain, Hume's ed. i, 116, 407.

[310] Chrysostom. 15th Hom. in Eph. (iv, 31); cp. 11th Hom. in 1 Thess. (v. 28).

[311] "Cum occidunt servos suos, jus putant esse, non crimen. Non solum hoc, sed eodem privilegio etiam in execrando impudicitiæ cæno abutuntur" (De gubernatione Dei, iv).

[312] See below, pt. iv, ch. ii.

[313] Cp. the whole of Larroque's second chapter.

[314] So Mr. Oman admits, p. 148.

[315] Cod. Theod. xi, 3. 1, 2; Cod. Justin. xi, 47.

[316] Cod. Justin. xi, 47, 13 and 23. [A clear retrogression to quasi-slavery for the freemen.]

[317] Finlay, i, 200, 201. Cp. p. 153.

[318] Id. ii, 27, and note. Cp. Dill, as cited, p. 233.



Chapter I


§ 1

It is still common, among men who professedly accept the theory of evolution, to speak of special culture developments, notably those of sculpture and literature in Greece, art in medieval Italy, and theocratic religion in Judea, as mysteries beyond solution. It may be well, then, to consider some of these developments as processes of social causation, in terms of the general principles above outlined.

[A rational view was reached by the sociologists of the eighteenth century, by whom the question of culture beginnings was much discussed—e.g., Goguet's De l'origine des lois, des arts, et des sciences, 1758; Ferguson's Essay on the History of Civil Society, 1767; and Hume's essay on the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences. At the end of the century we find the solution scientifically put by Walckenaer: "Ainsi le germe de génie et des talens existe dans tous les tems, mais tous les tems ne sont pas propres à le faire éclore" (Essai sur l'histoire de l'espèce humaine, 1798, 1. vi, ch. xx, Des siècles les plus favorables aux productions de génie, pp. 348, 349). In England forty years later we find Hallam thus exemplifying the obscurantist reaction: "There is only one cause for the want of great men in any period—nature does not think fit to produce them. They are no creatures of education and circumstances" (Literature of Europe, pt. i, ch. iii, § 35). A kindred though much less crude view underlies Sir Francis Galton's argument in Hereditary Genius. Cp. the present writer's paper on "The Economics of Genius," in The Forum, April, 1898 (rep. in Essays in Sociology, vol. ii), and the able essay of Mr. Cooley, there cited. My esteemed friend, Mr. Lester Ward (Dynamic Sociology, ii, 600, 601), seems to me, as does Mill (System of [Pg 122]Logic, bk. vi, ch. iv, § 4; cp. Bain, J.S. Mill, p. 146), to err somewhat on the opposite side to that of Hallam and Galton, in assuming that faculty is nearly equal in all, given only opportunity.]

And first as to Greece. As against the common conception of the Hellenic people as "innately" artistic, it may be well to cite the judgment of an artist who, if not more scientific in his method of reaching his opinion, has on the whole a better right to it in this case than has the average man to his. It is a man of genius who writes[319]: "A favourite faith, dear to those who teach, is that certain periods were especially artistic, and that nations, readily named, were notably lovers of art. So we are told that the Greeks were, as a people, worshippers of the beautiful, and that in the fifteenth century art was ingrained in the multitude....Listen! There never was an artistic period. There never was an Art-loving nation." This, which was sometime a paradox, is when interpreted one of the primary truths of sociology.

Our theorist goes on to describe the doings of the first artist, and the slow contagion of his example among men similarly gifted, till the artistic species had filled the land with beautiful things, which were uncritically used by the non-artistic; "and the Amateur was unknown—and the Dilettante undreamed of." Such is the artist's fairy tale of explanation. The probable fact is that the "first artists" in historic Greece were moved to imitative construction by samples of the work of foreigners. If, on the other hand, we decide that the "race" had evolved relatively high artistic capacities before it reached its Greek or Asian home,[320] it will still hold good that the early Ægean evolution owed much to ancient Oriental and Egyptian example. The Greeks as we know them visibly passed from primitive to high art in all things. Having first had fetish Gods of unshapen stone, they made Gods in crudely human shape, at first probably of wood, later of stone. So with vases, goblets, tables, furniture, and ware of all sorts, all gradually developing in felicity of form up to a certain point, whereafter art worsened. What we require to know is the why of both processes.

Pace the artist, it is clear that artistic objects were multiplied mainly because they were in steady economic demand. The shaping impulse is doubtless special, and in its highest grades rare; but there must also have been special conditions to develop it in one country[Pg 123] in the special degree. That is to say, the faculty for shaping, for design, was oftener appealed to in Greece than elsewhere, and was allowed more freedom in the response, thus reaching new excellence. The early Greeks can have had no very delicate taste, satisfied as they were with statues as primitive as the conventional Assyrian types they copied.

Prof. Burrows, in his valuable work on The Discoveries in Crete (1907), somewhat confuses one of his problems by assuming that, on a given chronological view, the creators of the early Ægean civilisation were "the most progressive and artistic part of the race" (p. 193). No such assumption can be valid on any chronology. Every "part" of a race, broadly speaking, has the same total potentialities. The determinants are the special evocative conditions, which may be either culture contacts or economic fostering. A rational view of the growth of Greek art is put by Dr. Mahaffy, despite his endorsement of Mr. Freeman's extravagant estimate of Athenian intelligence:—"However national and diffused it [art] became, this was due to careful study, and training, and legislation, and not to a sort of natural compulsion.... As natural beauty was always the exception among Greek men, so artistic talent was also rare and special" (Social Life in Greece, 3rd ed. p. 430). All the remains, as well as every principle of sociological science, go to support this view of the case. When Reber asserts (Hist. of Ancient Art, Eng. tr. 1883, p. 264) that "the very first carvings of Greece had a power of development which was wanting in all the other nations of that period," he is setting up an occult principle and obscuring the problem. The other nations of that period were not in progressive stages; but some of them had progressed in art in their time. And many of the "very first" Greek works—that is, of the "historic" period, as distinguished from the "Minoan"—are enormously inferior to some very ancient Egyptian work.

The development of taste was itself the outcome of a thousand steps of comparison and specialisation, art growing "artistic" as children grow in reasonableness and in nervous co-ordination. And the special conditions of historic Greece were roughly these:—

(1) The great primary stimulus to Greek art, science, and thought, through the contact of the early settlers in Asia Minor with the remains of the older Semitic civilisation,[321] and the further stimuli from Egypt.[Pg 124]

(2) Multitude of autonomous communities, of which the members had intercourse as kindred yet critical strangers, emulous of each other, but mixing their stocks, and so developing the potentialities of the species.

(3) Multitude of religious cults, each having its local temples, its local statues, and its local ritual practices.

(4) The concourse in Athens, and some other cities, of alert and capable men from all parts of the Greek-speaking world,[322] and of men of other speech who came thither to learn.

(5) The special growth of civic and peaceful population in Attica by the free incorporation of the smaller towns in the franchise of Athens. Athens had thus the largest number of free citizens of all the Greek cities to start with,[323] and the maximum of domestic peace.

(6) The maintenance of an ideal of cultured life as the outcome of these conditions, which were not speedily overridden either by (a) systematic militarism, or (b) industrialism, or (c) by great accumulation of wealth.

(7) The special public expenditure of the State, particularly in the age of Pericles, on art, architecture, and the drama, and in stipends to the poorer of the free citizens.

Thus the culture history of Greece, like the political, connects vitally from the first with the physical conditions. The disrupted character of the mainland; the diffusion of the people through the Ægean Isles; the spreading of colonies on east and west, set up a multitude of separate City-States, no one of which could decisively or long dominate the rest. These democratic and equal communities reacted on each other, especially those so placed as to be seafaring. Their separateness developed a multitudinous mythology; even the Gods generally recognised being worshipped with endless local particularities, while most districts had their special deities. For each and all of these were required temples, altars, statues, sacred vessels, which would be paid for by the public[324] or the temple revenues, or by rich devotees; and the countless myths, multiplied on all hands because of the absence of anything like a general priestly organisation, were an endless appeal to the imitative arts.[Pg 125] Nature, too, had freely supplied the ideal medium for sculpture and for the finest architecture—pure marble. And as the political dividedness of Hellenedom prevented even an approach to organisation among the scattered and independent priests, so the priesthood had no power and no thought of imposing artistic limitations on the shapers of the art objects given to their temples. In addition to all this, the local patriotism of the countless communities was constantly expressed in statues to their own heroes, statesmen, and athletes. And in such a world of sculpture, formative art must needs flourish wherever it could ornament life.

We have only to compare the conditions in Judea, Persia, Egypt, and early Rome to see the enormous differentiation herein implied. In Mazdean Persia and Yahwistic Judea there was a tabu on all divine images, and by consequence on all sculpture that could lend itself to idolatry.[325] (This tabu, like the monotheistic idea, was itself the outcome of political and social causation, which is in large part traceable and readily intelligible.) In Italy, in the early historic period, outside of Etruria, there had been no process of culture-contact sufficient to develop any of the arts in a high degree; and the relation of the Romans to the other Italian communities in terms of situation and institutions[326] was fatally one of progressive conquest. Their specialisation was thus military or predaceous; and the formal acceptance of the deities of the conquered communities could not prevent the partial uniformation of worship. Thus Rome had nearly everything to learn from Greece in art as in literature. In Egypt, again, where sculpture had at more than one time, in more than one locality, reached an astonishing excellence,[327] the easily maintained political centralisation[328] and the commercial isolation made fatally for uniformity of ideal; and the secure dominion of the organised priesthood, cultured only sacerdotally, always strove to impose one stolid conventional form on all sacred and ritual sculpture,[329] which was copied in the secular, in order that kings should as much as possible resemble Gods. Where the bulk of Greece was "servile to all the skyey influences," physically as well as mentally, open on all sides to all cultures, all pressures, all stimuli, Egypt and Judea and Persia were relatively iron-bound, and early Rome relatively inaccessible.[Pg 126]

Finally, as militarism never spread Spartan-wise over pre-Alexandrian Greece, and her natural limitations prevented any such exploitation of labour as took place in Egypt, the prevailing ideal in times of peace, at least in Attica, was that of the cultured man, καλοκἁγαθὁς, supported by slave labour but not enormously rich, who stimulated art as he was stimulated by it. Assuredly he was in many cases a dilettante, if not an amateur, else had art been in a worse case.

It is to be remembered that in later Greece, from about the time of Apelles, all free children were taught to draw (Pliny, Hist. Nat. xxxv, 36, 15); and long before, the same authority tells us, art was taken up by men of rank. The introduction of painting into the schools at Sicyon took place about 350 B.C., and thence the practice spread all over Hellas. Aristotle, too (Politics, v [viii], 3), commends the teaching of drawing to children, noting that it enables men to judge of the arts and avoid blunders in picture-buying—though he puts this as an inferior and incidental gain. Thus the educated Greeks were in a fairly good sense all dilettanti and amateurs. On the whole subject see K.J. Freeman, Schools of Hellas, 1908, pp. 114-17.

§ 2

In literature Greek development is as clearly consequent as in art. The Homeric poems are the outcome of a social state in which a class of bards could find a living by chanting heroic tales to aristocratic households. Lyric genius is indeed something specially incalculable; and it is startling to realise that about the time of the rude rule of Peisistratos at Athens, Sappho in Lesbos was not merely producing the perfect lyrics which to this day men reckon unmatched, but was the centre of a kind of school of song. But Lesbos was really the home of an ancient culture—"the earliest of all the Æolic settlements, anterior even to Kymê"[330]—and Sappho followed closely upon the lyrists Pittakos and Alkaios. So that here too there is intelligible causation in environment as well as genius. In other directions it is patent. The drama, tragic and comic alike, was unquestionably the outcome of the public worship of the Gods, first provided for by the community, later often exacted by it from rich aspirants to political power. Greek drama is a clear evolution, on the tragic side, from the primitive ritual of Dionysos, Beer-God or Wine-God; individual genius and communal fostering combining to develop a primitive rite into a literary florescence.[Pg 127][331] For all such developments special genius is as a matter of course required, but potential genius occurs in all communities in given forms at a given culture stage; and what happened in Athens was that the special genius for drama was specially appealed to, evoked, and maintained. Æschylus in Egypt and Aristophanes in Persia must have died with all their drama in them. Further, as Grote has so luminously shown,[332] the juridical life of Athens, with its perpetual play of special pleading in the dikasteries, was signally propitious to the spirit of drama. The constant clashing and contrast of ethical points of view, the daily play of eristic thought, was in itself a real drama which educated both dramatists and audience, and which inevitably affected the handling of moral problems on the stage. Athens may thus be said to have cultivated discussion as Sparta cultivated "Laconism"; and both philosophy and drama in Greece are steeped in it. Myths thus came to be handled on the stage with a breadth of reflection which was nowhere else possible.

Historiography, science, and philosophy, again, were similarly fostered by other special conditions. Abstract and physical science began for Greece in the comparison and friction of ideas among leisured men, themselves often travelled, living in inquisitive communities often visited by strangers. What Egypt and Syria and Phœnicia had to give in medical lore, in geometry, and in astronomy, was assimilated and built upon, in an atmosphere of free thought and free discussion, whence came all manner of abstract philosophy, analytical and ethical. Plato and Aristotle are the peaks of immense accumulations of more primitive thought beginning on the soil laid by Semitic culture in Asia Minor; Socrates was stimulated and drawn out by the Athenian life on which he didactically reacted; Hippocrates garnered the experience of many medical priests. History was cultivated under similar conditions of manifold intercourse and intelligent inquisitiveness. Herodotus put down the outcome of much questioning during many travels, and he had an appreciative public with similar tastes.[333] The manifold life of Hellas and her neighbours, Egypt, Persia, Syria, was an endless ground for inquiry and anecdote. The art of writing, acquired long before from Phœnicia, was thus put to unparalleled uses; and at length the theme of the Peloponnesian war, in which all the political passions[Pg 128] of Hellas were embroiled for a generation, found in Thucydides a historian produced by and representative of all the critical judgment of the critical Athenian age. Plutarch, in a later period, condenses a library of lesser writers.

Thus in respect of every characteristic and every special attainment of Greek life we can trace external causation, from the geographical conditions upwards, without being once tempted to resort to the verbalist explanation of "race qualities" or "national genius." If Hellas developed otherwise than Phœnicia from any given date onwards, the causes lay either in the environment or in the set previously given to Phœnician life by its special antecedents, which in turn were determined by environment. To suppose that "the Greeks" started primordially with a unique connatural bent to a relatively "ideal" method of life, preferring culture to riches and art to luxury, is to entail the further assumption of a separate biological evolution from the pre-human stage. To put the problem clearly, let us say that if we suppose the ancestors of the Greeks three millenniums before Homer to have been planted in Australia, with none of the domesticable animals which have played so decisive a part in the development of human societies, there is no good reason to think that the "race" would have risen to any higher levels than had been reached by the Australian aborigines at the time of their discovery by Europeans. One of the most remarkable things about those aborigines is their disproportionately high cranial capacity, which seems compatible with a mental life that their natural environment has always precluded. Many plain traces of gross primeval savagery remain in Greek literature and religion; and to credit all Greek progress to a unique racial faculty is to turn the back upon all the accumulating evidence which goes to show that from the first entrance of the Greeks into Greece they blended with and assimilated the culture of the races whom they found there.[334] The futility of the whole racial thesis becomes evident, finally, the moment we reflect how unequal Greek culture was; how restricted in Hellas, how special to Athens was it on the intellectual side when once Athens had reached her stature; how blank of thought and science was all Hellenic life before the contact of Semitic survivals in Ionia; how backward were many sections of the pagan Hellenic stock to the last; and how backward they have been since the political overturn in antiquity.

[Pg 129]

The vitiating concept of racial genius appears incidentally, but definitely, in Dr. Cunningham's contrast of Phœnicians and Greeks as relatively wealth-seekers and culture-seekers, ingrained barbarians and ingrained humanists (Western Civilisation, pp. 72, 73, 98, 99, etc.), and in his phrase as to the persistent "principles which the Greek and the Phœnician respectively represented." The antithesis, it is here maintained, is spurious. Many Greeks were in full sympathy with the Phœnician norm; many Phœnicians must have been capable of delighting in the Greek norm had they been reared to it. At a given period the Phœnicians had a higher life than the Greeks; and had the Phœnicians evolved for ages in the Greek environment, with an equivalent blending of stocks and cross-fertilisation of cultures, they could have become all that the Greeks ever were. The assertion that when we see "the destruction and degradation of human life in the march of material progress, we see what is alien to the Greek spirit" (id. p. 99) will not bear examination. Greek slavery, like every other, was just such a degradation of human life. And to speak of a "consciousness of her mission" on the part of "Athens" (id. pp. 72, 73) is to set up a pseudo-entity and a moral illusion.

It is remarkable that even among students well abreast of evolutionary thought there is still a strong tendency to think of Greek civilisation in terms of some occult virtue of "Hellenic spirit," something unique in social phenomena, something not to be accounted for like the process of evolution in other races. Thus so accomplished and critical a thinker as Prof. Gilbert Murray seems to account for every Greek advance beyond savagery as a result of "Hellenism." E.g., "Human sacrifice, then, is one of the barbarities which Hellenism successfully overcame" (The Rise of the Greek Epic, 1907, p. 16); "Solved by the progressive, or, I may say, by the Hellenic spirit" (Id. p. 25). In this way the discrediting and abandonment of the use of poisoned arrows in the "Homeric" period (Id. pp. 120-21) seems to be ascribed either to the Homeric or to the Hellenic "spirit."

Now, Mr. Murray himself incidentally notes (p. 121) that poisoned weapons are forbidden in the Laws of Manu; and it might be pointed out that even among the barbaric and ill-advantaged Somali, when visited by Burton fifty years ago, the use of poisoned arrows was already restricted to "the servile class" (First Footsteps in East Africa, ed. 1910, p. 45; cp. p. 74). The use of poisoned arrows, in short, is common in savagery, and is transcended by all races alike when they rise some way above that level. The "Hellenes," to start with, were savages like the rest, and rose like others in virtue of propitious conditions. So with human sacrifice. According to Herodotus, the Egyptians had abandoned it before the Greeks. Shall we describe the Egyptian progress as a matter of "Egypticism" or "the Egyptian spirit"?[Pg 130]

Defences of the Greeks, such as that made so ably by Mr. Murray against the aspersions cast upon "Paganism" by uncritical Christians, are to be sympathetically received in the light of their purport; but the true historical method is surely not to exhibit the historic Greeks as "antitheses" to "the pagan man" of modern anthropology, but to show Christians how they and their creed have evolved from savagery even as did the Greeks. (Cp. the author's Christianity and Mythology, 2nd ed. p. 77 sq., as to the pro-Hellenic handling of Greek phenomena by other scholars.)

Should the general line of causation here set forth be challenged, it will suffice, by way of test, to turn to the special case of Sparta. If it were "Greek character" that brought forth Greek art, letters, and science, they ought to have flourished in Greek Sparta as elsewhere. It is, however, the notorious historic fact that during all the centuries of her existence, after the pre-Lycurgean period, Sparta contributed to the general deed of man virtually nothing, either in art or letters, in science or philosophy.

The grounds for holding that choral poetry flourished pre-eminently at Sparta (see K.O. Müller, History of the Dorians, Eng. tr. ii, 383) are not very strong. See Busolt, Griechische Geschichte, 1885, i, 158, 159, for what can be finally said on this head. Ernst Curtius (Griechische Geschichte, 1858, i, 240) writes on this subject as a romantic enthusiast. Burckhardt (Griechische Culturgeschichte, i, 116-19) examines the subject with his usual care, but decides only that the Spartans employed music with a special eye to military education. And Müller acknowledges that though many Spartan lyrists are named, "there has not been preserved a single fragment of Spartan lyric poetry, with the exception of Alkman's," the probable reason being "a certain uniformity and monotony in their productions, such as is perceived in the early works of art." On the whole question cp. K.J. Freeman's Schools of Hellas, chs. i and xi.

In the story of Hellas, Sparta stands almost alone among the peoples as yielding no foothold to the life of the mind, bare of nearly all memory of beauty,[335] indigent in all that belongs to the spirit, morally sterile as steel. Yet "the Dorians of Laconia are perhaps the only people in Greece who can be said to have preserved in any[Pg 131] measure the purity of their Greek blood."[336] Before such a phenomenon the dogma of race-character instantly collapses, whereas in terms of the reaction of conditions the explanation is entirely adequate. As thus:—

1. Sparta was by situation one of the most secluded of the Greek States. In the words of Euripides, it was "hollow, surrounded by mountains, rugged, and difficult of access to an enemy."[337] Compared in particular with Athens, it was not only landward and mountain-walled, but out of the way of all traffic.[338]

2. From the first the Spartans were balanced in a peculiar degree by the strength of the Achaians, who were in the Peloponnesus before them, the hostilities between the invaders and the older inhabitants lasting longer in the valley of the Eurotas than anywhere else.[339] The Spartan militarism was thus a special product of circumstances, not a result of Doric "character," since other Dorian communities did not develop it.

3. Being thus so little open to commercial influence, and so committed to a life of militarism, Sparta was susceptible of a rigidity of military constitution that was impossible elsewhere in the Hellenic world, save to some extent in the similarly aristocratic and undeveloped communities of Thessaly and Crete, each similarly noted for unintellectuality. Whatever be the political origins of these societies, it is clear that that of Sparta could not have been built up or maintained save under conditions of comparative isolation.

Grote, always somewhat inclined to racial explanations, argues (ed. 1888, ii, 262), as against K.O. Müller, who had still stronger leanings of the kind, that the Spartans were not the "true Doric type," in that their institutions were peculiar to themselves, distinguishing them "not less from Argos, Corinth, Megara, Epidaurus, Sikyôn, Korkyra, or Knidus, than from Athens or Thebes." This is doubtless true as against Müller (cp. Kopstadt, cited by Grote; Cox, General History of Greece, 1877, p. 28; and Ménard, Histoire des Grecs, 1884, pp. 218, 221), but the suggestion that the Spartans varied in respect of being less "Doric" is equally astray. Grote goes on to note that "Krête was the only other portion of Greece in which there prevailed institutions in many respects analogous, yet still dissimilar in those two attributes which form the real mark and pinch of [Pg 132]Spartan legislation—viz., the military discipline and rigorous private training. There were doubtless Dorians in Krête, but we have no proof that these peculiar institutions belonged to them more than to the other inhabitants of the island." The argument cuts both ways. If it was not definitely "Dorian" to have such institutions, neither was it un-Dorian. As Cox observes (p. 30), the Spartan constitution in its earlier stages "much resembled the constitution of the Achaians as described in the Iliad." Equally arbitrary seems Grote's argument (i, 451) that "the low level of taste and intelligence among the Thessalians, as well as certain points of their costume, assimilates them more to Macedonians or Epirots than to Hellenes." He notes the equally low level of taste and intelligence among the Spartans, who as a rule could not read or write (ii, 307), and to whom he might as well have assimilated the Thessalians as to the Macedonians. In all cases alike culture conditions supply the true explanation. All through Greece, barring Sparta, stocks were endlessly mixed. M. Ménard well points out in reply to Müller that it is impossible to associate types of government with any of the special "races"—that as against Sparta there were "Ionian aristocracies at Marseilles and at Chalkis, and Dorian democracies at Tarentum and Syracuse," while most of the Greek cities had by turns aristocratic and democratic constitutions.

4. As regards Sparta, the specialisation of all life on the military side developed a spirit of peculiar separateness and arrogance,[340] which clinched the geographical influence. Where Greeks of all States were admitted to the Eleusinian festivals, Sparta kept hers for her own people.[341] This would limit her literary mythology, and by consequence her art.

Among the names of Greek sculptors only three belong to Sparta, and these are all of the sixth century B.C., the beginning of the historic period. After that, nothing. See Radford's Ancient Sculpture, Chron. List at end. Thus Sparta positively retrogressed into militarism. "There is evidence in the character of Alkman's poetry that he did not sing to a Sparta at all resembling the so-called Sparta of Lycurgus" (Mahaffy, Problems in Greek History, p. 77; cp. Burckhardt, Griechische Culturgeschichte, i, 117).

5. Not only does military specialism preclude, so far as it goes, more intellectual forms of activity: it develops in the highest degree[Pg 133] the conservative spirit[342] when thoroughly rooted in law and custom. Nor is it any more favourable to moral feeling in general.[343]

As offset to all this it may be urged that the middle unenfranchised class (the Perioikoi) in Sparta, the Penestai in Thessaly, and the ordinary citizens in Crete, were in some ways superior types to part of the similar classes of Attica; while the slaves, as having some military life, were, despite the flavour of the name "Helot," above the average.[344] But even if that were so, it would not affect the problem as to culture development, and its solution in terms of the primary and secondary conditions of life for the given communities.

It is to be noted that in Crete, less isolated by nature and way of life than either Sparta or Thessaly, less rigidly militarised than they and more democratic in constitution, there were more stirrings of mind. Epimenides, the author of the famous saying that the Cretans were always "liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons," was himself a distinguished Cretan. But Crete on the whole counts for very little in Greek culture-history. Cp. K.J. Freeman, Schools of Hellas, p. 38.

§ 3

Such being, in brief, the process of the building up of culture for Greece, it remains to note the causes of the process of retrogression, which also connects broadly with the course of politics. Indeed, the mere expansion of Hellenistic life set up by the empire-making of Alexander might alone account for a complete change in the conditions and phases of Greek civilisation. In the new Hellenistic world wealth and power were to be won with ease and with amenity[345] where of old there was only an alien barbarism, or at least a society which to the cultured Greek was barbaric. When such cities as Alexandria and Antioch beckoned the Greek scholar of[Pg 134] small means, impoverished Athens could hardly retain him. Her extorted revenue in her most powerful period,[346] as we saw, was the source of her highest flight of artistic splendour; and even after the Peloponnesian War, with greatly lessened power, Athens was the most desirable dwelling-place in Hellas. After Alexander, all this was insensibly changed: Athens, though for a time filled with Greeks enriched by the plunder of Persia, must needs gradually dwindle to the point at which the slight natural advantages of her soil, industry, and situation would maintain her; and the life of ideas, such as it finally was, passed inevitably to Alexandria, where it was systematically encouraged and protected, in the fashion in which well-meaning autocrats do such things. But while these new developments were not inconsiderable, and included some rare felicities, they were on the whole fatally inferior to the old, and this for reasons which would equally affect what intellectual life was left in Greece proper.

The forces of hindrance were political and psychological;[347] and they operated still more powerfully under the Romans than under the successors of Alexander. The dominance of the Greeks over the other races in the eastern provinces did not make them more than a class of privileged tools of Rome; and they deteriorated none the less.[348] When for the stimulating though stormy life of factious self-government there was substituted the iron hand of a conqueror, governing by military force, there was need of a new and intelligent discipline if the mental atmosphere were not to worsen. All civilisation, in so far as it proceeds from and involves a "leisured class," sets up a perpetual risk of new morbid phases. Men must have some normal occupation if their life is to be sound; and where that occupation is not handicraft it can be kept sound and educative only by the perpetual free effort of the intelligence towards new truth, new conception, and new presentment.[349] Nor can this effort conceivably take place on any wide scale, and with any continuity, save in a community kept more or less generally alert by the agitation of vital issues. For a generation or two after Alexander,[Pg 135] it is true, there is no arrest in the production of good philosophic minds among the Greeks; indeed, the sudden forcing back of all the best remaining minds on philosophy, as the one mental employment left to self-respecting men of leisure,[350] raised the standards of the study, and led to the ethical systems of Epicurus and Zeno, certainly fit in their way to stand beside those of Plato and Aristotle. So, too, the thrusting back of the drama (which in the hands of Aristophanes had meddled audaciously with every public question) on the study of private life, developed in the highest degree the domestic and psychological bent of the later comedy,[351] very much as the autocracy has developed the novel in contemporary Russia. But the schools of Epicurus and Zeno, both of which outlasted in moral credit and in moral efficacy that of Plato,[352] and the new comedy of Menander, alike represent the as yet unexhausted storage of the mental energy generated by the old political life; and the development is not prolonged in either case. Evidently something vital was lost: only a renewal of the freer life could make possible a continuous advance in intellectual power.

On this it is important to insist, as there are plausible grounds for contrary inferences, which are often drawn. All supposed exceptions to the law, however, will be found on analysis to be apparent only. A tyranny may indeed give economic encouragement to art and culture, and a republic may fail to do so; but the work of the tyranny is inevitably undone or kept within a fixed limit by its own character; while, if the free community be but fairly well guided, its potentialities are unlimited. This is the solution of much modern dispute between the schools of laissez-faire and protection. A Velasquez, who might otherwise have been condemned to seek his market with coarser wares, may develop to perfection at the court of an autocrat of fine taste; but even he partly depends for his progress on intelligent communion, which the autocrat in this case chances to yield him. And from Velasquez onward there is no progress. So, in autocratic Assyria, sculpture reaches a certain point and becomes for ever conventionalised. In Egypt it conforms more or less exactly to the general stereotyping of life. We may grant, with some emphatic qualifications, that in [Pg 136]some cases "with the tyrant began the building of large temples, ... the patronage of clever handicrafts, the promoting of all the arts,"[353] and that he may have patronised men of letters; but as regards the temples it is certain that in Hellas he was not the chief temple-builder; and it is also quite certain that the tyrant never evolved a single generation of important writers, thinkers, and artists, any more than of intelligent, self-respecting, and self-governing citizens. The latter constituted, in fact, the necessary nutritive soil for the former in the communities of antiquity.[354] It has been said[355] that "at the end of the third century of Rome, when its inhabitants had hardly escaped from the hands of Porsena, Syracuse contained more men of high genius than any other city in the world. These were collected at the court of the first Hiero, during his short reign of ten years, and among them were the greatest poets of the age: Pindar ... Simonides ... Æschylus." This is true; but Hiero had not been the means of evolving the powers of any one of the three. Pindar is manifestly the product of the diversified life of the free States; Simonides, though much patronised by aristocrats, began to "find himself" as a chorus teacher at Carthea in Ceos, won countless prizes at the Greek festivals,[356] and spent only the latter part of his life with Hiero; Æschylus is the product of the Attic theatre. Not the tyranny, but democracy, had been the alma mater. It is true that Athens after Æschylus played the "despot city" in finance, but she so far preserved at home the democratic atmosphere, in which, according to Demosthenes, slaves had more freedom of speech than citizens in many other places.[357] Lesbos had her oscillations between oligarchy and despotism; but the group in which Sappho stood was that of Pittakos and Alkaios—the elected ten-years dictator who finally laid down his dictatorship, and the fierce singer who assailed him. Not in the "Roman peace" of a fixed despotism did Lesbian song reach its apex.

The old problem of the culture-value of the tyrant has been raised afresh by Messrs. Mitchell and Caspari, in their abridgment of Grote's History of Greece. Grote's enthusiasm for democracy, they contend, "undoubtedly prevented him from doing full justice to much that was good in the non-democratic [Pg 137]governments of Greece," notably "in his estimate of the so-called 'tyrants' of the Greek world and in his attitude towards the Macedonian Empire" (pref. to work cited, p. xv). Part of their discussion is beside the case, and proves only their general hostility to Grote as "a rationalist," to whom "every problem was a matter for rational discussion" (p. xiii). They first assert that Grote's chapter heading, "Age of the Despots," is "subtly misleading," inasmuch as there were despots at various periods in Greek history—as has been insisted by Professor Mahaffy. Then they avow that "this fact is mentioned by Grote himself," and that he "quite properly distinguishes" between the early and the late tyrannies.

The counter-claim is first put in the propositions (1) that an early Greek "tyranny" was in effect "a union of one powerful personality with the poorer and hitherto unrepresented classes," favourable to individual life among the latter; and (2) that the tyrants by preserving peace and giving the people individual freedom of life promoted "the accumulation of wealth and the extension of trade at home and abroad, and enriched the Greek mind by familiarising it with the natural and artistic products of other lands" (p. xvii). There is really nothing here that Grote denied; nor do the critics attempt to show that he denies it. Grote actually said, before them, that "the demagogue despots are interesting as the first evidence of the growing importance of the people in political affairs. The demagogue stood forward as representing the feelings and interests of the people against the governing few.... Even the worst of the despots was more formidable to the rich than to the poor; and the latter may perhaps have gained by the change...." (History, pt. ii, ch. ix, ed. 1888, ii, 397). As regards the case of Peisistratos, on which Messrs. Mitchell and Caspari chiefly found their plea, Grote notes that his "was doubtless practically milder" than the average despotism, but that "cases of this character were rare." And to this thesis, which is backed by an overwhelming mass of Greek testimony, from Herodotus to Aristotle and Plato, the critics offer no kind of answer.

They do, however, claim for "the tyrants" in general that "in the first place their orderly government provided for the first time the conditions which are essential to artistic and literary production. Secondly, it was their policy to foster in all possible ways everything that contributed to the magnificence of the States." If it be meant to include under the head of tyrannoi the early feudal chieftains before whom the bards chanted, the issue is merely confused. If not, the proposition is untenable. If again it be argued that the Mausoleum was a finer thing than the Parthenon, or quite as well worth having, the real issue is missed.

It is significant that Grote's anti-rationalistic critics make no [Pg 138]attempt to gauge the respective effects of "tyrannic" and democratic or oligarchic rule on the inner life of men, which is what Grote chiefly considered. Neither is this, the vital issue, once faced in the essay of Hegewisch "On the Epoch of Roman History most Fortunate for the Human Race" (French trans. by Solvet, 1834), or in the encomiums of Gibbon, Mommsen, and Renan, before cited (p. 89, note). As has been shown above, there is no instance of a new and great intellectual development taking its rise or visibly going forward (save as at Alexandria under the Ptolemies) under the auspices of even a good despot in antiquity; though such a despot might at times usefully preserve the peace and cherish writers and artists. Here, then, is a sociological clue that should be followed. The reasonable inference seems to be that democratic conditions, other things being equal, tend most to elicit human faculty.

And where in modern times certain of the less democratic nations may be said to have developed certain forms of culture more widely and energetically than do certain of the more democratic States—as Germany her learned class, in comparison with France and England and the United States; or modern Russia in comparison with the States in the matter of the higher fiction—it can easily be shown (1) that these developments arise not in virtue of but in reaction against autocracy, and (2) that they were possible only in virtue of the evocative influence of communities living more freely. Modern communities differ vitally from the ancient in that printing has created a species of intercourse which overleaps all political and geographical restrictions, so that a politically tyrannised community can yet receive and respond to the stimulus of another. But the stimulus is still indispensable. Thus the intellectual expansion of France after the death of Louis XIV[358] drew germinally from the culture of the England of the day; and that of Germany later in the century was equally a sequence from that and from the ferment in France. Given the cluster of independent States, each with its court and its university, which made up the Germany of the period, the revived spirit of free thought bore the more and the better fruit because of the multitude of the reactions involved in the circumstances. For the time, the slackened and lightened petty autocracies counted for intellectual democracy, though even Kant was made to feel the pressure of censorship. It was not regal or ducal rule that made Lessing or Herder or Schiller or Goethe; and it was not mere[Pg 139] kingly encouragement that bred scholars like Hermann and Wachsmuth and Buttmann and Bekker and Boeckh and Heeren and Ottfried Müller. The school of Tübingen was the outcome of a movement that proximately began in English Deism; and even the personal bias of Frederick counted for much less in the evolution than the general contagion of European debate. In the University of Berlin, organised after Jena, the inspiring principle was that of intellectual freedom; and the moving spirits took express pains to guard against the tyranny of convention which they saw ruling in the universities of England. For the rest, the production of a very large class of scholarly specialists in Germany was made possible primarily by the number of universities set up in the days of separatism, and secondarily by the absence of such economic conditions (all resting on possession of coal and maritime situation) as drew English energy predominantly to industry and commerce. It is true that if a democratic society to-day does not make express economic provision for a scholarly and cultured class, it is likely to lack such, because the leisured or idle class in all countries grows less capable of, and less inclined to, such intellectual production as it contributed to the serious literature of England during the nineteenth century. But such economic provision has been still more necessary in monarchic communities. Finally, at every stage Germany has been reacted upon by France and England; and it is notable that while, in the last generation, under a strengthening militarism and imperialism, the number of trained German specialists was maintained, the number of Germans able to stir and lead European thought fell off.[359]

In the same way the phenomenon of a group of great novelists in the autocratic Russia of our own age is no fruit of autocracy, save in the sense that autocratic government checks all other forms of criticism of life, all liberal discussion, and so drives men back on artistic forms of writing which offer no disturbing social doctrine. And the artistic development itself is made possible only by the[Pg 140] culture previously or contemporaneously accumulated in other and freer communities, from whose mental life the cultivated Russian draws his. It was to some extent a similar restrictive pressure that specially developed the drama in France under the Third Empire. Apart from the peculiar case of the Italian cities of the Renaissance, discussed hereinafter, the most that can be said for the "tyrant" in modern Europe is that Richelieu and Colbert promoted science in France; that the German principalities of the eighteenth century fostered music at their courts; that George III did much for Handel in England; and that the King of Bavaria did still more for Wagner. On the other hand, the system of national and municipal theatres on the Continent was an essential adjunct even in this regard; and the mere comparative freedom accorded to the drama in Elizabethan England, at a time when surplus intellectual energy lacked other stimuli, sufficed to develop that art in one generation to a degree never so speedily reached elsewhere, save in republican Athens. Where the "tyrant" is most useful is in such a civilisation as that of the Saracens, for which autocracy is the only alternative to anarchy, and where, on a basis of derived culture, he can protect and rapidly further the useful arts and all manner of special studies. But even he cannot command a great intellectual art, or an inwardly great literature.[360] It will hardly be pretended that the freethinking which went on in Moslem Persia and Spain in the eighth and later centuries was evoked by the Caliphs, though some of them for a time protected it. The Ptolemies for a while fostered science at Alexandria; but under Roman rule—surely as tyrannous—it died out. And even under the Ptolemies science was a hothouse plant which never throve in the open.

It is clear, then, that first the rule of Alexander and his successors, and later the rule of Rome, over Greece and the Græcised East, put a check on the intellectual forces there, against which there was no counteractive in existence. There remained no other free communities whose culture could fecundate that of the Greek and other cities held in tutelage.

The city of Rhodes, which recovered its independence at the death of Alexander, and maintained its self-government down till the Roman period, was, in point of fact, latterly distinguished for its art (Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, pp. 334-38), thus illustrating afresh the value of free life as an art stimulus; but its pre-eminently commercial activity, as in the case of Corinth, [Pg 141]and as later in the case of Venice, kept it relatively undistinguished in literature. Rich merchants commissioned pictures and statues, but not philosophies or books. Holm (Eng. trans. iv, 492) calls Rhodes a seat of philosophy, etc., naming Theophrastus and Eudemus. But they both studied and settled at Athens.

From the whole history there emerges the demonstration of what might reasonably be put a priori—that for a whole community, once self-governing, to acquiesce in an all-embracing foreign despotism meant the settling of lethargy on half of its mental life.[361] What the thinkers left in Greece could do was to lend philosophic ideas and method to the jurists at work on the problem of adapting Roman law to the needs of a world-empire, and this was done to good purpose; but it was the last genuine task that the circumstances permitted of. To discuss vitally the problems of politics would have meant challenging the despotism. There remained, it is true, philosophy and the arts; and these were still cultivated; but they finally subsisted at the level of the spirit of a community which felt itself degenerate from its past, and so grew soon hopelessly imitative. No important work, broadly speaking, can ever be done save by men who, like the most gifted Greeks of the palmy days (innovating in drama and improving on the science of the foreigner), feel themselves capable of equalling or transcending the past;[362] and that feeling seems to have become impossible alike for the students and the sculptors of Greece soon after the Macedonian conquest, or at least after the Roman. Plato and Pheidias, Aristotle and Praxiteles, Æschylus and Epicurus, figured as heights of irrecoverable achievement; and the pupillary generations brooded dreamily over Plato or drew serenity from Epicurus as their bent lay, and produced statues of alien rulers, or of the deities of alien temples, where their ancestors had portrayed heroes for the cities and Gods for the shrines of Greece. Beneath the decadence of spirit there doubtless lay, not physiological decay, as is sometimes loosely assumed, but a certain arrest of psychological development—an arrest which, as above suggested, may be held to have set in when the life and culture of the "family women" in the Greek cities began decisively to conform to the Asiatic standard, the men[Pg 142] cultivating the mind, while the women were concerned only with the passive life of the body. In this one matter of the equal treatment of the sexes Sparta transcended the practice of Athens, her narrow intellectual life being at least the same for both; and to this element of equilibrium was probably due her long maintenance of vigour at the level of her ideal.

[As, however, the Spartan women, whatever their training, could not finally live the martial life of the men, the results of their chiefly animal training were not exemplary. See the question vivaciously discussed by De Pauw, Recherches philosophiques sur les Grecs, 1787, ptie. iv, sect. x, § 1—a work which contains many acute observations, as well as a good many absurdities. The Spartan women, it appears, were in a special degree carried away by the Bacchic frenzy. Aelian, Var. Hist. iii, 42. Cp. Aristotle, Politics, ii, 9 (and other testimonies cited by Hermann, Manual of the Political Antiquities of Greece, § 27, 12), as to their general licence.]

The arrested psychological development, it need hardly be added, would tend to mean not merely unoriginal thinking among those who did think, but finally a shrinkage of the small number of those who cared greatly for thinking. Even in the independent period, the mental life of Greece drew perforce from a relatively small class—chiefly the leisured middle class and the exceptional artificers or slaves who, in a democratic community, could win culture by proving their fitness for it. Under the Roman rule the endowed scholars (sophists) and artists alike would tend to minister to Roman taste, and as that deteriorated its ministers would. Rome, it is easy to see, went the downward intellectual way in the imperial age with fatal certainty; and her subject States necessarily did likewise at their relative distance. Finally, when Christianity became the religion of the Empire, all the sciences and all the fine arts save architecture and metal-work were rapidly stupefied, the Emperor vetoing free discussion in the fifth century, and the Church laying the dead hand of convention on all such art as it tolerated, even as the priesthood of Egypt had done in their day. It is positively startling to trace the decline of the fine arts after the second century. On the arch of Constantine, at Rome, all the best sculpture is an appropriation from the older arch of Trajan: under the first Christian emperor there are no artists capable of decently embellishing his monument in the ancient metropolis. All the forms of higher faculty seem to have declined together; and as the decay proceeded the official hostility to all forms of free thought strengthened.[Pg 143]

[See Finlay, History of Greece, as cited, i, 284-85, as to the veto on discussion by Theodosius. In the next century Justinian suppressed the philosophic schools at Athens. Finlay, in one passage (i, 221), speaks of them as nearly extinct before suppression; but elsewhere (pp. 277-81) he gives an entirely contrary account. There are too many such contradictions in his pages. Cp. Hertzberg, Geschichte Griechenlands seit dem Absterben des antiken Lebens, 1876, i, 78-84.]

By the time of Constantine, even the coinage had come to look like that of a semi-barbarian State; and thought, of course, had already stagnated when Christianity conquered the "educated" classes. But these classes themselves were speedily narrowed nearly to those of the priests and the bureaucracy, save in so far as commerce maintained some semi-leisure. Barbarian invasion and imperial taxation combined in many districts to exterminate the former leisured and property-owning class. It is indeed an exaggeration to say that "the labourer and the artisan alone could find bread ... and, with the extinction of the wealthy and educated classes, the local prejudices of the lower orders became the law of society."[363] But the last clause is broadly true. In this society the priest, with his purely pietistic tastes and knowledge, became the type and source of culture.

A cultured modern Greek apologist of the Byzantine Empire[364] has anxiously sought to combine with the thesis that Christianity is a civilising force, the unavoidable admission that Byzantine civilisation was intellectually stationary for a thousand years. It is right that every possible plea for that ill-famed civilisation should be carefully attended to, even when it takes the form of reminding us[365] that after all the sixth century produced Procopius and Agathias; the seventh, George of Pisidia; the eighth, John of Damascus; the ninth, Photius; and so on—one man or two per century who contrived to be remembered without being annalised as emperor. Of rather more importance is the item that Christian Constantinople at one point, following Egyptian and Roman precedent, improved on the practice of heathen Athens, in that the women of the imperial court and of the upper classes seem to have received a fair share of what culture there was.[366] It is further a matter of bare justice to note[Pg 144] that Byzantium had all along to maintain itself against the assaults of Persia, of Islam, of barbarism, heathen and Christian, and of Latin Christendom. But there must all the same be made the grieving admission that "We certainly do not find in the Byzantine authors the same depth and originality which mark the ancient writers whom they copied";[367] and that this imitation "was unhappily the essential weakness of Byzantine literature." That is to say, the intelligence of the Christian Empire, like that of the Greece of the post-Macedonian and the Roman domination, looked back to pagan Athens as to an irrecoverable greatness. In that case, if we are to assume comparative equality of culture between the sexes, there is no escape from the conclusion that Christianity was in itself a force of fixation or paralysis, the subsequent counteraction of which in Europe was a result of many causes—of any cause but the creed and lore itself. The creed, in fact, was a specific cause of isolation, and so of intellectual impoverishment. As was well said by Gibbon, the mental paralysis of the Byzantines was "the natural effect of their solitary and insulated state."[368] The one civilisation from which Byzantium might latterly have profited—the Saracen—was made tabu by creed, which was further the efficient cause of the sunderance of Byzantine and Italian life.

Had the external conditions, indeed, permitted of the maintenance of the earlier manifold Empire of Constantine, the mere conditions of social diversity which prepared the countless strifes of speculative sects in Egypt and Syria might have led to intellectual progress, were it only by arousing in the more rational minds that aversion to the madness of all the wrangling sects which we detect in Procopius.[369] The disputes of the Christians were indeed the most absurd that had ever been carried on in the Greek tongue; and in comparing the competing insanities it is hard to imagine how from among themselves they could have evoked any form of rational thought. But as in Northern Europe in a later age, so in the Byzantine Empire, the insensate strifes of fanatics, after exhausting and decimating themselves, might have bred in a saner minority a conviction of the futility of all wars of creed—this if only external peace could have been secured. But the attacks, first of Persia and later of Islam, both determined religious enemies, with whom, on Christian principles, there could be no fruitful intercourse, shore away all the outlying and diversified provinces, leaving to Byzantium[Pg 145] finally only its central and most homogeneous section, where the power of the organised Church, backed by a monarchy bent on spiritual as on political unity, could easily withstand the slight forces of intellectual variation that remained. The very misfortunes of the Empire, connected as they were with so many destructive earthquakes and pestilences,[370] would, on the familiar principle of Buckle, deepen the hold of superstition on the general mind. On the other hand, the final Christianising of the Bulgarian and Slav populations on the north, while safeguarding the Empire there, yielded it only the inferior and retarding culture-contact of a new pietistic barbarism, more childish in thought than itself. We can see the fatality of the case when we contemplate the great effort of Leo the Isaurian in the eighth century to put down image-worship by the arm of the executive. No such effort could avail against the mindless superstition of the ignorant mass, rich[371] and poor, on whom the clerical majority relied for their existence. A Moslem conqueror, with outside force to fall back upon, might have succeeded; but Leo was only shaking the bough on which he sat.[372] It seems clear that the Iconoclastic emperors were politically as well as intellectually progressive in comparison with the orthodox party. The worshipped images which they sought to suppress were artistically worthless, and they aimed at an elevation of the people. "If the Iconoclastic reformers had had their way, perhaps the history of the agricultural classes would have been widely different. The abolition of the principle which the first Christian emperors had adopted, of nailing men to the clod, was part of the programme which was carried out by the Iconoclastic emperors and reversed by their successors."[373] Thus did it come about that Christian Byzantium found the rigid intellectual equilibrium in which it outlasted, at a lower level of mental life, the Caliphate which sought its destruction, but only to fall finally before the more vigorous barbarism of the Turks.


[319] Whistler, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, 1890, pp. 138, 139.

[320] Cp. Prof. Burrows, The Discoveries in Crete, 1907, ch. xi; Bury, History of Greece, 1906, p. 65. "The supreme inspiration," says Bury, "came to their minstrels on Asiatic soil."

[321] E. Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, ii. 533-36; A.R. Hall, The Oldest Civilisation of Greece, 1901, pp. 31, 32. Cp. the author's Short History of Freethought, i, 122-27; and Von Ihering's Vorgeschichte der Indo-Europäer, Eng. trans. ("The Evolution of the Aryan"), p. 73. Von Ihering's dictum is the more noteworthy because it counters his primary assumption of race-characters.

[322] Cp. Galton. Hereditary Genius, ed. 1892, p. 329. The contrast between the policy of Athens, before and after Solon, and that of Megara, which boasted of never having given the citizenship to any stranger save Hercules (Wachsmuth, Eng. tr. i, 248), goes far to explain the inferiority of Megarean culture.

[323] "No other Greek city possessed so large an immediate territory" [as distinct from subject territory, like Laconia] "or so great a number of free and equal citizens" (Freeman, History of Federal Government, ed. 1893, p. 22, note). And the number was greatly swelled "after Athens had in 477 taken the lead in the Delian Maritime League" (Maisch, Greek Antiquities, § 28), so that in 451 it was felt necessary again to limit citizenship to men born of Athenian parents.

[324] Cicero (in Verrem ii, 59) testifies to the zeal of Greek cities in buying paintings and statues in his day, and their unwillingness to sell.

[325] The result is a marked poverty of power in such sculpture as the Persians had. It is in every respect inferior to the Assyrian which it copies. See Reber, History of Ancient Art, Eng. tr. 1883, pp. 121-28.

[326] See above, p. 28.

[327] See Maspero, Manual of Egyptian Archæology, Eng. tr. 1895, pp. 215, 226, 235, 236, 240, etc.

[328] See above, p. 56.

[329] See Maspero, as cited, pp. 212, 214, 231, etc., as to the religious influence. M. Maspero recognises several movements of renaissance and reaction through the ages.

[330] Grote, iii, 21-22.

[331] Cp. Haigh, The Tragic Drama of the Greeks, 1896, ch. i; Miss Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, 2nd ed. 1908, ch. viii.

[332] Pt. ii, ch. 67.

[333] See Holm's suggestion, cited by Mahaffy, Problems of Greek History, p. 92, note, as to the value of Herodotus to the traders of his day. Holm also suggests, however, that the political service rendered by Herodotus to the Athenians was felt by them to be important, as giving them new light on Egypt and the East (Eng. tr. ii, 290, 291). The reward paid to Herodotus would greatly stimulate further historical research.

[334] Cp. Bury, History of Greece, pp. 7, 33-34.

[335] The Spartan women were indeed reputed the most beautiful, doubtless a result of their healthier life. As for the works of "art" claimed by Müller (The Dorians, ii, 25-26) for Sparta, they are simply objects of utility, and were by his own avowal (p. 24) the work of non-Spartan Laconians, aliens, or slaves, "since no Spartan, before the introduction of the Achæan constitution, was allowed to follow any trade." No one disputes that other Dorian cities, notably Sikyon, did much for art—another proof that "race" has nothing to do with the matter.

[336] Bury, History of Greece, ed. 1906, p. 59.

[337] Cited in Strabo, bk. viii, ch. v, § 6.

[338] Cp. Müller, i, 80. Müller notes that the Corinthians were "nearly singular among the Doric States" in esteeming trade, their experience of its productiveness "having taught them to set a higher value upon it" (work cited, ii, 24).

[339] Cp. Maisch, Manual of Greek Antiquities, Eng. tr. § 11; K.O. Müller, The Dorians, i, 105, 203.

[340] The native Spartans were positively forbidden to go abroad without special leave, nor were strangers permitted to settle there (Grote, ii, 306; Wachsmuth, i, 248).

[341] Grote, iii, 294, and note.

[342] Cp. Dr. Mahaffy's remark on post-Alexandrian Sparta, "where five ignorant old men were appointed to watch the close adherence of the State to the system of a fabulous legislator" (Greek Life and Thought from the Age of Alexander to the Roman Conquest, 1887, p. 3).

[343] Macaulay, in his youthful review of Mitford (Miscellaneous Writings, ed. 1868, p. 74), draws up a long indictment against the Spartans in the matter of bad faith and meanness. It is only fair to remember that some similar charges can be laid against others of the Greek States.

[344] Grote, ii, 204. But cp. Aristotle (Politics, ii, 9) and Plutarch (Lycurgus, c. 27), who agrees with the saying of Plato and others (cp. Müller, Dorians, Eng. tr. ii, 43, note) that in Sparta a free man was most a freeman, and a slave most a slave. And see Schömann, Alterthümer, i, 362. Hume (On Populousness) cites Xenophon, Demosthenes, and Plautus as proving that slaves were exceptionally well treated at Athens, and this is borne out by the Athenian comedy in general (cp. Maisch, Greek Antiquities, Eng. tr. § 32). But the fact remains that at Athens slaves, male and female, were frequently tortured to make them give evidence against their masters, who in turn were free to kill them for doing so (Mahaffy, Social Life in Greece, pp. 240-41). And Aristotle takes for granted that they were substantially inferior in character to freemen.

[345] Cp. Finlay, History of Greece, Tozer's ed. i, 15; Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, pp. 4, 105.

[346] Fifth century B.C.

[347] Holm (Eng. tr. iv, 595-98) misses half the problem when he argues that the Greek cities under the Romans were nearly as free and self-governing as are to-day those of Switzerland, the United States, or the German Empire. The last-named may perhaps approximate at some points; but in the other cases the moral difference is inexpressible. The Greek cities under the Romans were provincialised, and their inhabitants deprived of the powers of State government which they formerly possessed. Their whole outlook on life was changed.

[348] Cp. Finlay, i, 76.

[349] In artistic handicraft, of course, such daily renewal of creative intelligent effort is of great importance to mental health; and the complete lack of it, as in the conventional sculpture of Egypt, tells of utter intellectual stagnation. In the least artistic crafts, however, it is not so essential a condition of sound work.

[350] Cp. Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, pp. 4, 10, 15, 131-38, 144.

[351] The change was not so immediately dependent on the Alexandrian régime as Droysen implies (Geschichte Alexanders des Grossen, 3te Aufl. p. 367): the New Comedy had been led up to by the Middle Comedy, which already tended to withdraw from burning questions (cp. K.O. Müller, Lit. of Ancient Greece, Eng. tr. pp. 436-41); but the movement was clearly hastened.

[352] Cp. Mackintosh, On the Progress of Ethical Philosophy, 4th ed. p. 29; Lecky, History of European Morals, 6th ed. i, 128.

[353] Mahaffy, Problems of Greek History, p. 85; Survey of Greek Civilisation, pp. 87, 99, 117; Social Life in Greece, 3rd ed. pp. 83, 137, 440. Cp. the remark of Thirlwall, ch. xii (1st ed. ii, 125), that the tyrants "were the natural patrons of the lyrical poets, who cheered their banquets, extolled their success," etc.

[354] Holm on this head makes an admission (iii, 168) which countervails the remark last above cited from him. Noting the prosperity of art in Asiatic Greece, he writes: "Art as a rule flourishes—we do not say, reaches its highest point, for that is impossible without freedom—where wealth is to be found combined with good taste. And good taste is a gift which even tyrants may possess, and semi-barbarians acquire."

[355] Professor Spalding, Italy and the Italian Islands, i, 117, 118.

[356] K.O. Müller, History of Greek Literature, 1847, pp. 208, 210.

[357] Schömann, Griechische Alterthümer, ii, 362.

[358] The questions of the previous expansion under Richelieu and Mazarin, and of the decay in the latter part of Louis's reign, are discussed, àpropos of the laissez-faire argument of Buckle, in the author's Buckle and his Critics, pp. 324-39.

[359] An interesting corroboration of the above general view was presented in an article on the state of German art in the Century Magazine for July, 1898. The writer thus described the position of German art under the Kaiser's patronage: "Moved by the best of intentions, the Emperor is not very successful in his efforts to encourage art. They smack too much of personal tastes and one-man power. Menzel is perhaps a favourite, not because of his great Meissonnier-like skill in illustrations, but because he is the draftsman and painter of the period of Frederick the Great. The Emperor is really honouring his own line rather than the artist when he covers him with rewards.... It is not by making sketches for the Knackfusses to carry out that the Emperor will raise art in Prussia from its present stagnation, but by allowing the dangerous breath of liberty to blow through the art world. The fine arts are under the drill-sergeant, and produce recruits who have everything except art in them. It is too much to say that this is the Emperor's fault; but it is true that so long as he insists upon running things artistic, no one else can, or will—and the artists themselves least of all."

[360] Cp. Mill, Liberty, ch. iii, People's ed. p. 38.

[361] Cp. J.S. Mill's analysis of "benevolent despotism" in ch. iii of his Representative Government.

[362] Prof. Mahaffy (Greek Life and Thought, p. 112) attributes the same sense of superiority to the men of the period of the earlier successors of Alexander. This could well be, and such a feeling would serve to inspire the great art works of the period in question. Cp. Thirlwall (vii, 120) as to the sense of new growth set up by the commercial developments of the Alexandrian world.

[363] Finlay. History of Greece, i. 186. Cp. p. 185.

[364] D. Bikélas. Seven Essays on Christian Greece, translated by the Marquess of Bute, 1890.

[365] Work cited, p. 103.

[366] Work cited, pp. 97-98; Finlay, History of Greece, iv, 351-52. That this was no Christian innovation becomes clear when we compare the status of women in Egypt and imperial Rome. Cp. Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, pp. 173-74. And see his Greek World under Roman Sway, p. 328, as to pre-Christian developments.

[367] Bikélas, p. 104.

[368] Ch. 53, Bohn ed. vi, 233. Cp. Finlay, ii, 4, 217, as to the internal forces of routine.

[369] De bello Gothico, i, 3. Cp. Gibbon, ch. 47, note, Bohn ed. v, 243; and Prof. Bury's App. to his ed. of Gibbon, iv, 516.

[370] Finlay, History of Greece, i, 224-25; Gibbon, ch. 43, end.

[371] "The degrading feature of the end of the seventh century ... was the ignorant credulity of the richer classes" (Bury, History of the Later Empire, ii, 387). Cp. Gibbon, ch. 54, Bohn ed. vi, 235.

[372] Cp. Bury, as cited, ii, 521.

[373] Bury, App. 12 to ed. of Gibbon, v, 531.

Chapter II


While Byzantine civilisation thus stagnated, the Saracen civilisation for a time actually gained by contact with it, inasmuch as Byzantium possessed, if it could not employ, the treasures of old Hellenic science and philosophy. The fact that such a fructification of an alien civilisation could take place while the transmitting community showed no similar gain, is tolerably decisive as to (a) the constrictive force of religious systems under certain conditions, and (b) the nullity of the theory of race genius. Yet these very circumstances have been made the ground of a preposterous impeachment of the "Semitic" character in general, and of the Arab in particular.

Concerning no "race" save the Celtic has there been more unprofitable theorising than over the Semitic. One continental specialist after another[374] has explained Semitic "faculty" in terms of Semitic experience, always to the effect that a nation has a genius for becoming what it becomes, but only when it has become so, since what it does not do it has, by implication, no faculty for doing.[375] The learned Spiegel, for instance, in his work on the antiquities of Iran, inexpensively accounts for the Jewish opposition to sculpture as a matter of race taste,[376] without even asking how a practice to which the race was averse had to be forbidden under heavy penalties, or why the same course was held in Aryan Persia. Connecting sculpture with architecture, he pronounces the Semites averse to that also; and as regards the undeniable building tendencies of the Babylonians, he argues that we know not "how far entirely alien models were imitated by the Semites."[377] Only for music does he admit them to have any independent inclination; and their lack of epos and drama as such is explained, not by the virtual inclusion of their epopees and early dramatic writings in their Sacred Books, and the later tabu on secular literature, but by primordial lack of faculty[Pg 147] for epos and drama. The vast development of imaginative fiction in the Arabian Nights is credited bodily to the "Indo-Germanic" account, because it has Hindu affinities, and took place in Persia; and, of course, the Semites are denied a mythology, as by M. Renan, no question being raised as to what is redacted myth in the Sacred Books. For the rest, "the Semite" is not fitted to shine in science, being in all his branches "almost totally devoid of intellectual curiosity," so that what philosophy and science he has are not "his own"; and he is equally ill-fitted for politics, wherein, having no political idea save that of the family, he oscillates between "unlimited despotism and complete anarchy."[378] Apart from music, his one special faculty is for religion.

Contemporary anti-Semitism may fairly be surmised to underlie in part such performances in pseudo-sociology, which, taken by themselves, set up a depressing suspicion that numbers of deeply learned specialists contrive to spend a lifetime over studies in departments of the history of civilisation without learning wherein the process of civilisation consists. On Spiegel's method—which is that of Mommsen in dealing with the early culture-history of Rome—the Germanic nations must be adjudged to be naturally devoid of faculty for art, architecture, drama, philosophy, science, law, and order, since they had none of those things till they got them in the Middle Ages through the reviving civilisation of the Mediterranean and France. And as the Greeks certainly received their first impulse to philosophy and science through contact with the survivals of the old Semitic civilisations in Ionia, they in turn must be pronounced to have "neither a philosophy nor a science of their own"; while the Spartans were no less clearly devoid of all faculty for the epic and the drama. It is the method of Molière's doctors, with their virtus dormitivus of opium, applied to sociology.

The method, nevertheless, is steadily popular, and is no less freely applied to the phenomena of Arab retrogression than to those of imperfect development in the Semitic life of antiquity, with some edifying results as regards consistency. Says a French medical writer:—

"There is no such thing as an original Arab medical science. Arab medical science was a slavish imitation from the Greek. And the same remark is true of all the sciences. The Arabs have never been inventors. They are enthusiasts, possessed with a passion for anything new, which renders their enthusiasm itself evanescent. And in consequence of this incapacity for [Pg 148]perseverance, they soon forgot the lessons in medical science which they had once acquired from the Greeks, and have fallen back into a state of the most absolute ignorance."[379]

The method by which Arab defects are here demonstrated from the arrest of Arab civilisation is a simple extension of that by which Spiegel demonstrates the original deficiencies of the ancient Semites, and Mommsen the incapacity of the Latins to do what they did not do. A certain race or nation, having at one time attained a considerable degree of civilisation, and afterwards lost it, is held to have thus shown a collective incapacity for remembering what "it" or "they" had learned. The "they" here is the correlative of M. Taine's "we"—a pseud-entity, entirely self-determining and strictly homogeneous. The racial misfortune is set down to a fault pervading the whole national character or intellect, and peculiar to it in comparison with other national characters. Conditions count for nothing; totality of inherited character, acting in vacuo, is at once the summary and the judgment. Anyone who has followed the present argument with any assent thus far will at once grant the futility of such doctrine. "The Arabs" had neither more nor less collective faculty of appreciation and oblivion than any other equally homogeneous people at the same culture-stage. It is quite true that they had not an "original medical science." But neither have any other historical "they" ever had such. The Greeks certainly had not. The beginnings of medical knowledge for all mankind lay of necessity in the primeval lore of the savage; and the nations which carried it furthest in antiquity were just those who learned what others had to give, and improved upon it. The Greeks must have learned from Asia, from Egypt,[380] from Phœnicia; and the Romans learned from the Greeks. The Arabs, coming late into the sphere of the higher civilisation, and crossing their stock in the East with those of Persia, in the West with the already much-mixed stocks of Spain, passed quite as rapidly as the Greeks had done from the stage of primitive thought in all things to one of comparative[Pg 149] rationality as regards medicine and the exact sciences; and this not in virtue of any special "enthusiasm" for new ideas, but by the normal way of gradual collection of observations and reflection upon them, in communities kept alert by variety of intercourse, and sufficiently free on the side of the intellectual life. Such was the state of the Saracens in Persia and Spain in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries; and their social evolution before and after is all a matter of natural sequence, not proceeding upon any peculiarity of collective character, but representing the normal reactions of character at a given culture-stage in special political circumstances.

What is peculiar to the Saracen civilisation is its sudden origin (taking Islam as a history by itself)[381] under conditions reached elsewhere only as climax in a long evolution. The rise of Islam has the twofold aspect of a barbarian campaign of plunder and a crusade of fanaticism; and though the prospect and the getting of plunder were needed to ripen the fanaticism to full bloom,[382] the latter was ultimately a part of the cementing force that turned a horde into a community. The great facilitating conditions for both were the feeble centralised system maintained by the Christianised Empire, and the disintegrating force of Christianity as a sectarian ferment. In Egypt, for instance, the hatred between rival schools of Christian metaphysic secured for the Arabs an unresisted entrance into Alexandria.[383] It needed only a few generations of contact with higher culture in a richer environment to put the Saracens, as regards art and science, very much on a level with the stagnating Byzantines; and where the latter, possessed of their scientific and philosophical classics, but imprisoned by their religion, made no intellectual progress whatever, the former, on the same stimulus, progressed to a remarkable degree. There has been much dispute as to the exact measure of their achievements; but three things are clear: (1) that they carried the mathematics of astronomy beyond the point at which it had been left by the Greeks; (2) that they laid the foundations of chemistry; and(3) that they intelligently carried on surgery and medicine when the Byzantines, having early in the Christian period destroyed the Asklepions, which were in[Pg 150] some degree the schools of the medicine of antiquity, had sunk to the level of using prayers and incantations and relics as their regular means of cure. Curiously enough, too, the Saracens had the merit, claimed for the Byzantines, of letting their women share rather freely in their culture of all kinds.[384] What is more, the later Saracens of Spain, whatever the measure of their own scientific progress, were without question a great seminal force in the civilisation of Western Christendom, which drew from them its beginnings in mathematics, philosophy, chemistry, astronomy, and medicine, and to some extent even in literature[385] and architecture,[386] to say nothing of the effect on the useful arts of the contact of the Crusaders with the Saracens of the East.

As to Arab medicine, see Withington, as cited, pp. 139, 170; and Sprengel, History of Medicine, French tr. vol. ii (1815), pp. 262-64—a passage which contradicts Sprengel's previous disparagements. Compare p. 343. The histoire particulière in this chapter (v of Sect. 6) generally countervails the hostile summaries. Sprengel proceeded on the prejudice (i, 215) that there was no "rational science" anywhere before the Greeks; as if there were not many irrational elements in the science not only of the Greeks but of the moderns. A much better qualified historian of Arab medicine, Dr. Lucien Leclerc, writes (Histoire de la médecine arabe, 1876, i, 462) that in the eleventh century "the medical productions [of the Arabs] continue to develop an independent aspect, and have already a certain stamp of originality. Already the Arabs feel themselves rich on their own footing. We see appearing certain writings not less remarkable for the novelty of the form than for the value of the substance." Again, Dr. Ernst von Meyer, the historian of chemistry, sums up (Hist. of Chemistry, M'Gowan's tr. 2nd ed. p. 28), that "the germs of chemical knowledge attained to a marvellous growth among the Arabians." It may be noted that there is record of a hospital in Bagdad at the beginning of the ninth century, and that there were many there in the tenth (Leclerc, i, 559).

A rational argument is brought against Semitic "faculty" by Dr. Cunningham, it should be admitted, in the contention that the Phœnicians figured poorly as copyists of Greek art (Western Civilisation, p. 69, following Renan). But this argument entirely ignores the element of time that is needed to develop any art in any civilisation. The Phœnician civilisation was [Pg 151]overthrown before it had time to assimilate Greek art developments, which themselves were the work of centuries even in a highly favourable set of conditions. Nöldeke, though less unscientific than Spiegel, partly follows him in insisting that Phœnician architecture copied Egyptian, and that the later Semites copied the Greek, as if the Greeks in turn had not had predecessors and guides. Starting with the fixed fallacy that the Semites were "one-sided," he reasons in a circle to the effect that their one-sidedness was "highly prejudicial to the development of science," while compelled to admit the importance of the work of the Babylonians in astronomy. (Sketches from Eastern History, Eng. tr. pp. 15-18.)

It is now current doctrine that "for nearly eight centuries, under her Mohammedan rulers, Spain set to all Europe a shining example of a civilised and enlightened State. Her fertile provinces, rendered doubly prolific by the industry and engineering skill of her conquerors, bore fruit an hundredfold. Cities innumerable sprang up in the rich valleys of the Guadalquivir and the Guadiana.... Art, literature, and science prospered as they prospered nowhere else in Europe. Students flocked from France and Germany and England to drink from the fountain of learning which flowed only in the cities of the Moors. The surgeons and doctors of Andalusia were in the van of science; women were encouraged to devote themselves to serious study; and the lady doctor was not unknown among the people of Cordova. Mathematics, astronomy and botany, history[?], philosophy and jurisprudence[?] were to be mastered in Spain, and Spain alone. The practical work of the field, the scientific methods of irrigation, the arts of fortification and shipbuilding, the highest and most elaborate products of the loom, the graver and the hammer, the potter's wheel and the mason's trowel, were brought to perfection by the Spanish Moors."

See Stanley Lane-Poole, The Moors in Spain, pref. It could be wished that Mr. Lane-Poole had given English readers, as he so well could, a study of Saracen civilisation, instead of a "Story of the Nation" on the old lines. For corroboration of the passage see Dozy, Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne, 1861, iii, 109, 110; Prescott, History of Ferdinand and Isabella, Kirk's ed. 1889, pp. 186-88, 192, 195-99; Draper, Intellectual Development of Europe, ed. 1875, ii, 30-53; Sismondi, Historical View of the Literature of the South of Europe, Eng. tr. i, 50-54, 64-68, 76-84, 89. Cp. Seignobos, Histoire de la Civilisation au Moyen Age, 3e éd. pp. 48-62; Gebhart, Origines de la Renaissance en Italie, 1879, pp. 185-89; Bosworth Smith, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, 2nd ed. pp. 217, 286; [Pg 152]Nöldeke, as cited, p. 105; Bouterwek, as cited, i, 3; Baden-Powell, History of Natural Philosophy, 1834, pp. 94-104; U.R. Burke, History of Spain, Hume's ed. 1900, vol. i, ch. 16.

All this being so, the course of deciding that the Arabs retrogressed because "they" were impatient and discontinuous is on a level with the thesis that nature has a horror of a vacuum. The Arab civilisation was arrested and anchylosed by forces which in other civilisations operated in exactly the same modes. The first great trouble was the element of perpetual domestic strife, which was uncured by the monarchic system, since every succession was liable to dispute. Under such conditions just government could not flourish; and Moslem taxation always tended to be suicidally unscrupulous.[387] Disputes of succession, indeed, wrought hardly more strife among the Saracens than has taken place among Greeks and Romans, and Christians of all nations, down to modern times; even the ecclesiastical and feudal doctrine of legitimacy, developed by the Latin and Greek Churches, having failed to prevent dynastic wars in Christendom. But the Saracens, neighboured everywhere by Christians who bore them a twofold hostility, had peculiar need of union, and ran special risks from dissension; and in Spain their disunion was their ruin. At the same time their civilisation was strangled intellectually by a force which, though actually in operation in Christendom also, was there sufficiently countered by a saving condition which the Saracens finally lacked. The force of constriction was the cult of the Sacred Book; the counteracting force in Christendom was diversity and friction of governments and cultures—a condition which passed out of the Saracen equation.

How fatally restrictive the cult of the completed Sacred Book can be is obvious in the history of Byzantium. It was in terms of the claims of the Christian creed that the Eastern Emperors proscribed pagan philosophy and science, reducing the life of the whole Eastern world as far as possible to one rigid and unreasoned code. That the mental life of Italy and France was relatively progressive even in the Middle Ages was substantially due—(1) to Saracen stimulus, and (2) to the friction and ferment set up by the diversity of life in the Italian republics, and the Italian and French and German universities. Byzantium was in comparison a China or an Egypt. The saving elements of political diversity, culture competition, and culture contact have in later Europe completed[Pg 153] the frustration of the tendency of church, creed, and Bible to destroy alike science and philosophy. In Islam, on the other hand, the arresting force finally triumphed over the progressive because of the social and political conditions. (1) The political field, though stormy, finally lacked diversity in terms of the universality of the monarchic principle, which was imposed by the military basis and bound up with the creed: uniformity of ideal was thus furthered. (2) There was practically no fresh culture contact possible after the assimilation of the remains of Greek science and the stimulus of Jewish philosophy; for medieval Christendom had no culture to give; and the more thoroughly the Papacy and the Christian monarchy in Spain were organised, the more hostile they grew to the Moors. (3) The economic stimulus among the latter tended to be restricted more and more to the religious class, till that class was able to suppress all independent mental activity.

The last is the salient circumstance. In any society, the special cultivation of serious literature and the arts and sciences depends on one or more of three conditions—(a) the existence of a cultured class living on unearned incomes, as in ancient Athens, middle Rome, and modern England and France; (b) public expenditure on art and culture, as in ancient Athens, Renaissance Italy and modern France, and in the German university system par excellence; or (c) the personal concern of princes and other patrons to encourage ability. In the nature of the case it was mainly on this last and most precarious stimulus that Saracen culture depended. Taking it at its zenith, under such rulers as Haroun Alraschid and El-Mamoun at Bagdad, and Abderrahmān III and Hakam II of Cordova, we find its advance always more or less dependent on the bounty of the caliph; and even if, like Abderrahmān and his son Hakam, he founded all manner of public and free schools, it depended on the bias of his successors rather than on public opinion or municipal custom whether the movement should continue. Abderrahmān's achievement, seen even through Christian eyes, was so manifold as to constitute him one of the great rulers of all history; but the task of making Moorish civilisation permanent was one which no series of such statesmen could have compassed. The natural course of progress would have been through stable monarchy to constitutionalism. But Christian barbarism, with its perpetual assault, kept the Saracens forever at the stage of active militarism, which is the negation of constitutionalism; and their very refinement was a political danger, no less than their dynastic strifes.

On the other hand, the continuous stress of militarism was in[Pg 154] ordinary course much more favourable to fanaticism than to free thought; and to fanaticism the Koran, like the Bible, was and is a perpetual stimulant. It was as a militant faith that Islam maintained itself; and in such a civilisation the Sacred Book, which claimed to be the highest of all lore, and was all the while so easy a one, giving to ignorance and conceit the consciousness of supreme knowledge without any mental discipline whatever, was sure of abundant devotees.[388] In an uninstructed community—and of course the mass of the Saracen population was uninstructed[389]—the cult of the Sacred Book needs no special endowment; it can always be depended on to secure revenues for itself, even as may the medicine-man in an African tribe. To this day the propagation of the Koran is subscribed for in Turkey as the Bible Society is subscribed to among ourselves, ignorance earning thus the felicity of prescribing for human welfare in the mass, and at the same time propitiating Omnipotence, at the lowest possible outlay of study and reflection. Enthusiasms which can thus flourish in the twentieth century were of course abundant in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh;[390] and thus we find that when a caliph was suspected by the pietists of caring too little for their lore, he ran the risk of being rebelled against with a speed and zeal in the ratio of their conviction of divine knowledge. Islam, unlike the State churches of Greece, Rome, and England, has democratic rootage in the practice of setting ordinary laymen to recite the prayers and preach the sermons in the mosques: it, in fact, resembles Methodism more than any of the established Christian churches in respect of its blending of clerisy and laity. Such a system, when thoroughly fanaticised, has enormous powers of turbulence; and in Moorish Spain we find them early exercised. Abderrahmān I, whose policy of tolerance towards Jews and Christians transcended all previous Christian practice, and thus won for his realm a great stimulus in the way of variety of culture-elements and of industry, had kept the religious class in due control; but his well-meaning son Hishām was priest-ridden to the last degree; and when his successor Hakam showed an indisposition to patronise pietists to the same extent they raised revolt after revolt (806-815), all put down by massacre.[Pg 155]

Mr. Lane-Poole notes (p. 73) the interesting fact that the theologers were largely of Spanish stock, the natives having in general embraced Islam. Thus the fanaticism of the Berbers was reinforced by that of the older population, which, as Buckle showed, was made abnormally devout, not by inheritance of character, but by the constant effect of terrorising environment, in the form of earthquakes.

The elements of the situation remained fundamentally unchanged; and when the Moorish military power began to feel more and more the pressure of the strengthening Christian foe, it lay in the nature of the case that the fanatical species should predominate. The rationalistic and indifferent types would figure as the enemies of their race, very much as such types would have done in Covenanting Scotland. At length, in the eleventh century, the weakened Moorish princes had to call in the aid of the fanatical Almoravides from Barbary; and these, with the full support of the priesthood and the pious, established themselves at the head of affairs, reducing everything as far as possible to the standards of the eighth century.[391] And when the new barbarism in time grew corrupt, as that of the Goths and Vandals had done in earlier ages, the "Unitarian" Almohades in turn (twelfth century) overthrew the Almoravides in Spain as they had already done in Africa, only to be themselves overthrown a hundred years later by the Christians. Thereafter the curtailed Moorish power, pent up in Southern Spain, reverted to the spirit of fanaticism which national failure generates in religious minds; and from the thirteenth century to the final overthrow at the end of the fifteenth the intellectual life of Saracen Spain was but a long stagnation.

A civilisation driven back on superstition and fanaticism[392] thus gave way to a revived barbarism, which itself, after a few centuries of power, was arrested in its progress by the same order of forces, and has ever since remained in the rear of European development. A remarkable exception, indeed, is to be noted in the case of Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), who in the narrow world of Tunis attained to a grasp of the science of history such as no Christian historian up to his time had remotely approached.[393] Such an intellectual phenomenon sufficiently disposes of the current formulas about the innate incapacities of "the Semitic mind." But whether it were that he[Pg 156] dared not say what he thought of the fatal influence of the Sacred Book, or that on that side he was really, as he is ostensibly, quite uncritical, Khaldun fails, in his telling survey of Arab decadence, to set forth the decisive condition of intellectual arrest; and his luminous impeachment of the civilisation of his race failed to enlighten it.

In Persia the same forces wrought closely similar results. The Greek stimulus, after working wonders in science and rational thought, failed to sustain a society that could not politically evolve beyond despotism; and economic evil and intellectual decay together undermined the empire of the Caliphs,[394] till the Turks could overrun it as the Christians did Moorish Spain; they themselves, however, adding no new culture developments, because under them no new culture contacts were possible.

Of the Moslem civilisation as a whole, it must be said that on the material side, in Spain and the East, it was such a success as had not been attained under the Romans previously (though it was exceeded in Egypt by the Lagids), and has not been reached in Christian Spain since the fall of Boabdil. Economically, the Moorish regimen was sound and stable in comparison with that of imperial Spain, which, like Rome, merely set up a factitious civilisation on the basis of imported bullion and provincial tribute, and decayed industrially while nominally growing in empire and power. When the history of Spain from the seventeenth century onward is compared with that of the Saracens up to their overthrow, the nullity of explanations in terms of race qualities becomes sufficiently plain—unless, indeed, it is argued that Moorish blood is the secret of Spanish decadence. But that surmise too is folly. Spanish decadence is a perfectly simple sociological sequence;[395] and a Spanish renascence is not only conceivable, but likely, under conditions of free science and free thought. Nor is it on the whole less likely that the Arab stock will in time to come contribute afresh and largely to civilisation. The one element which can finally distinguish one race from another—acquired physiological adaptation to a given climate—marks the Arab races as best fitted for the recovery of great southern and eastern regions which, once enormously productive, have since the fall of the Roman and Byzantine Empires been reduced to sterility and poverty. The Greeks in their recovered fatherland, and the French in Algeria,[Pg 157] have not thus far been much more successful than the Turks in developing material prosperity. If North Africa, Syria, and Mesopotamia are again to be rich and fruitful lands, it must be in the hands of an acclimatised race; and the Arab stocks are in this regard among the most eligible.

But there is no reason why the Turks should not share in such a renascence.[396] Their incivilisation is no more a matter of race character than the decline of the Moors or the backwardness of the Spaniards: it is the enforced result of the attitude of special enmity taken up towards the Turkish intruders from the first by all their Christian neighbours. By sheer force of outside pressure, co-operating with the sinister sway of the Sacred Book, Turkey has been kept fanatical, barbarous, uncultured, utterly militarist, and therefore financially misgoverned. The moral inferiority of the long-oppressed Christian peoples of the Levant, whose dishonesty was till lately proverbial, was such as to strengthen the Moslem in the conceit of superiority; while the need to maintain a relatively great military force as against dangerous neighbours has been for him a check upon all endowment of culture. To change all this, it needs that either force or prudence should so modify the system of government as to give freer course to industry and ideas; that the military system should be restricted; and that European knowledge should be brought to bear on education, till the fettering force of religion is frustrated, as in the progressive countries of Christendom. For Turkey and Spain, for Moslems and for Christians, the laws of progress and decadence are the same; and if only the more fortunate peoples can learn to help instead of hindering the backward, realising that every civilisation is industrially and intellectually an aid to every other, the future course of things may be blessedly different from that of the past. But the closest students of the past will doubtless be as a rule slow to predict such a transformation.[397]


[374] Cp. the author's criticism of Dr. Pulszky, in Buckle and his Critics, p. 509.

[375] Thus Milman decides that the Mahommedan civilisation is "the highest, it should seem, attainable by the Asiatic type of mind" (Latin Christianity, 4th ed. ii, 222). This in the century which was to witness the renascence of Japan.

[376] Erânische Alterthumskunde, 1871, i, 387.

[377] Id. p. 388.

[378] Erânische Alterthumskunde, p. 389.

[379] Dr. Daremberg, writing on Cairo, "Impressions médicales," in the Journal des Débats, December 13, 1882, quoted by the K. Bikélas, as cited, tr. p. 100. Cp. Renan's language as to "l'esprit sémitique, sans étendue, sans diversité, sans arts plastiques, sans philosophie, sans mythologie, sans vie politique, sans progrès" (Études d'histoire religieuse, 1862, p. 67).

[380] This has been disputed; cp. Berdoe, Origin of the Healing Art, 1893, p.72; Withington, Medical History from the Earliest Times, 1894, pp. 21-22. But the Greeks could hardly have resorted to the Egyptians so much as they admittedly did for mathematical and astronomical teaching in the early period without learning something of their medicine. Cp. Berdoe, bk. ii, ch. i, and Kenrick, Ancient Egypt, 1850, i, 345-48, as to Egyptian medicine. The passage in the Odyssey, iv, 227-32, is decisive as to its repute in early Greece. Certainly it was stationary, like everything Egyptian. Whether the Indian and Egyptian medicine found "neue Bedeutung" in Greek hands, after the fresh contacts made under Alexander, as is claimed by Droysen (Geschichte Alexanders des Grossen, 3te Aufl. pp. 367-68), is another question.

[381] As to the inferred development of pre-Islamic civilisation in Arabia, see Deutsch, Literary Remains, pp. 91, 123, 124, 313, 314; and Nöldeke, Sketches from Eastern History, Eng. tr. pp. 18, 19.

[382] The first Islamites, apart from the inner circle, were the least religious. See Renan, Études d'histoire religieuse, pp. 257-65; and Van Vloten, Recherches sur la domination arabe, Amsterdam, 1894, pp. 1, 2, 4, 7. Nöldeke (p. 15) speaks in the conventional way of the "wonderful intellectual outburst" which made possible the early triumphs of Islam. The case is really on all fours with that of the French Revolution—"la carrière ouverte aux talens." Cp. Milman, Latin Christianity, 4th ed. ii, 204, as to the readiness with which the followers of Moseilama turned to Mahommedanism.

[383] See above, p. 97, note 1.

[384] Prescott, History of Ferdinand and Isabella, Kirk's ed. 1889, pp. 187, 188.

[385] Cp. Bouterwek, History of Spanish and Portuguese Literature, Eng. tr. 1823, i, 4, and Sismondi, Literature of the South of Europe, Eng. tr. i, 61, 64, 68, 80-90. As to Arabic study of linguistics, cp. Nöldeke, p. 17.

[386] Cp. Testa, History of the War of Frederick I. upon the Communes of Lombardy, Eng. tr. p. 100.

[387] Van Vloten, Recherches sur la domination arabe, Amsterdam, 1894, pp. 7-12.

[388] As to the religious zeal of the Berbers in the way of Moslem dissent, on all fours with the phenomena of Protestantism, see Lane-Poole, as cited, p. 53.

[389] Dozy (Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne, 1861, iii, 109) decides that "in Andalusia nearly everyone could read and write"; but even if this were true, which is very doubtful (seeing that on the same page the historian tells how Hakam founded twenty-three free schools for the children of the poor in Cordova), the reading would be almost solely confined to the Koran.

[390] The mere preaching and miracle-working of the Marabouts among the Berbers set up successively the movements of the Fatimites, the Almoravides, and the Almohades (Lane-Poole, p. 54).

[391] Concerning the intolerance of this reaction, see Dozy, iii, 248-54. Cp. iii, 16-21, as to the normal fanaticism of the Moorish populace.

[392] See Dozy, iii, 286, as to the general lapse from rationalism to faith.

[393] See the whole estimate of Prof. Flint, History of the Philosophy of History, 1893, pp. 157-71.

[394] Cp. Dugat, Histoire des philosophes et des théologiens mussulmans, 1878, pp. 337-48; Freeman, History and Conquests of the Saracens, p. 124; and the author's Short History of Freethought, 2nd. ed. i, 267-68, 277-79.

[395] See it discussed in A Short History of Freethought, 2nd. ed. i, ch. x, § 3; ii, 56 sq. And see below, pt. v, ch. iv. § 2.

[396] This was written before 1900.

[397] Deutsch, however (Literary Remains, p. 172), predicted it with confidence.

Chapter III

ROME[Pg 158]

The culture conditions of Rome seem to cause no perplexity even to those who find Greek civilisation a mystery. They are certainly obvious enough. By reason of the primary natural direction of Roman life to plunder and conquest, with a minimum of commerce and peaceful contacts, Roman culture was as backward as that of Greece was forward. The early Etruscan culture having been relegated to the status of archæology, however respectfully treated,[398] and the popular language having become that of all classes, the republican period had to begin again at the beginning. Latin literature practically commenced in the third century B.C., when that of Greece was past its meridian; and the fact that Lucius Andronicus and Nævius, the early playwrights, were men of Greek culture, and that Ennius translated the Greek rationalist Evêmeros (Euhêmeros), point to the Hellenic origins of Rome's intellectual life. Her first art, on the other hand, was substantially derived from the Etruscans, who also laid the simple beginnings of the Roman drama, later built upon under Greek influence. But even with the Etruscan stimulus—itself a case of arrested development—the art went no great way before the conquest of Greece; and even under Greek stimulus the literature was progressive for only two centuries, beginning to decline as soon as the Empire was firmly established.

Of the relative poverty of early Roman art, the cause is seen even by Mommsen to lie partly in the religious environment, religion being the only incentive which at that culture stage could have operated (and this only with economic fostering); but the nature of the religious environment he implicitly sets down as usual to the character of the race,[399] as contrasted with the character of the Greeks. Obviously it is necessary to seek a reason for the religious[Pg 159] conditions to begin with; and this is to be found in the absence from early Rome of exactly those natural and political conditions which made Greece so manifold in its culture. We have seen how, where Greece was divided into a score of physically "self-contained" states, no one of which could readily overrun the others, Rome was placed on a natural career of conquest; and this at a culture stage much lower than that of Ionic Greece of the same period. Manifold and important culture contacts there must have been for Hellenes before the Homeric poems were possible; but Rome at the beginning of the republican period was in contact only with the other Italic tribes, the Phœnicians, the Grecian cities, and the Etruscans; and with these her relations were hostile. In early Ionia, again, Greek poetry flourished as a species of luxury under a feudal system constituted by a caste of rich nobles who had acquired wealth by conquest of an old and rich civilisation. Roman militarism began in agricultural poverty; and the absorption of the whole energies of the group in warfare involved the relegation of the arts of song and poetry to the care of the women and boys, as something beneath adult male notice.[400] Roman religion in the same way was left as a species of archæology to a small group of priests and priestly aristocrats, charged to observe the ancient usages. It would thus inevitably remain primitive—that is, it would remain at a stage which the Greeks had mostly passed at the Homeric period; and when wealth and leisure came, Greek culture was there to over-shadow it. To say that the Latins racially lacked the mythopœic faculty is to fall back on the old plan of explaining phenomena in terms of themselves. As a matter of fact, the mere number of deities, of personified forces, in the Roman mythology is very large,[401] only there is lacking the embroidery of concrete fiction which gives vividness to the mythology of the Greeks. The Romans relatively failed to develop the mythopœic faculty because their conditions caused them to energise more in other ways.[402]

There is, however, obvious reason to believe that among the Italian peoples there was at one time a great deal more of myth[Pg 160] than has survived.[403] What is preserved is mainly fragments of the mythology of one set of tribes, and that in only a slightly developed form. All the other Italic peoples had been subdued by the Romans before any of them had come into the general use of letters;[404] and instead of being put in a position to develop their own myths and cults, or to co-ordinate the former in the Greek fashion, they were absorbed in the Roman system, which took their Gods to its pantheon, and at the same time imposed on them those of Rome. Much of their mythic lore would thus perish, for the literate Romans had not been concerned to cultivate even their own. Early Roman life being divided between war and agriculture, and there being no free literary class to concern itself with the embellishment of the myths, there subsisted only the simple myths and rituals of agriculture and folklore, the numerous list of personified functions connected with all the phases of life, and the customary ceremonial of augury and invocation in war. The augurs and pontifices were the public men and statesmen, and they made religion a State function. What occult lore there was they made a class monopoly—an effectual preventive in itself of a Hellenic development of myth. Apart from the special sets or colleges of priests there were specially appointed colleges of religio-archæological specialists—first, the six augurs and the five pontifices, then the duoviri sacris faciundis, afterwards increased to ten and to fifteen, who collected Greek oracles and saw to the Sibylline books; later the twenty fetiales or heralds, and so on. "These colleges have been often, but erroneously, confounded with the priesthoods. The priesthoods were charged with the worship of a specific divinity; the skilled colleges, on the other hand, were charged with the preservation of traditional rules regarding the more general religious observances.... These close corporations supplying their own vacancies, of course from the ranks of the burgesses, became in this way the depositaries of skilled arts and sciences."[405]

Religion being thus for centuries so peculiarly an official matter of settled tradition, no unauthorised myth-maker could get a hearing. Even what was known would be kept as far as possible a corporation secret,[406] as indeed were some of the mystery practices in Egypt and[Pg 161] Greece. But whereas in Greece the art of sculpture, once introduced, was stimulated by and reacted on mythology in every temple in every town, the rigid limitation of early Roman public life to the business of war would on that side have closed the door on sculpture,[407] even if it could otherwise have found entrance. The check laid on the efflorescence of the religious instinct was a double check on the efflorescence of art. The net result is described with some exaggeration by an eminent mythologist, in a passage which reduces to something like unity of idea the tissues of contradiction spun by Mommsen:—

For the Latins their Gods, although their name was legion, remained mysterious beings without forms, feelings, or passions; and they influenced human affairs without sharing or having any sympathy with human hopes, fears, or joys. Neither had they, like the Greek deities, any society among themselves. There was for them no Olympos where they might gather and take counsel with the father of Gods and men. They had no parentage, no marriage, no offspring. They thus became a mere multitude of oppressive beings, living beyond the circle of human interests, yet constantly interfering with it; and their worship was thus as terrible a bondage as any under which the world has yet suffered. Not being associated with any definite bodily shapes, they could not, like the beautiful creations of the Greek mind, promote the growth of the highest art of the sculptor, the painter, and the poet.[408]

It is necessary here to make some corrections and one expansion. The statement as to parentage, marriage, and offspring is clearly wrong. Cox here follows Keightley, whose pre-scientific view is still common. Keightley admits that the early Latin Gods and Goddesses occur in pairs, as Saturn and Ops, Janus and Jana; and that they were called Patres and Matres.[409] To assert after this that they were never thought of as generating offspring, merely because the bulk of the old folk-mythology is lost, is to ascribe uncritically to the Latins an abstention from the most universal forms of primitive myth-making. The proposition as to "terrible bondage," again, cannot stand historically; for, to say nothing of the religions of[Pg 162] Mexico and Palestine, and some of those of India, the Roman life was certainly much less darkened by creed than has been that of many Christian countries, for instance Protestant Scotland and Catholic Spain.

[M. Boissier (La religion romaine, i, 2) decided that the Romans were religiously ruled more by fear than hope, and that their worship consisted chiefly of "timid supplications and rigorous expiations." Mommsen, on the other hand (ch. xii, p. 191), pronounces that "the Latin religion was grounded mainly on man's enjoyment of earthly pleasures." Both statements would be equally true of all ancient religions. Compare M. Boissier's later remarks, pp. 21-25, 26, 28, wherein he contradicts himself as does Mommsen.]

As regards, again, the failure of the early Latin pantheon to stimulate sculpture and poetry, it has to be noticed that sculpture and poetry tended to make as well as to be made by mythology in Greece. The argument against the Latin pantheon is in fact an argument in a circle. If the Latin Gods were not "associated with any definite bodily shapes" (parentage, marriage, and offspring they certainly had), it could only be when and because they were not yet sculptured. Greek Gods before they were sculptured would be conceived just as variably. Were they then thought of as formless? The proposition is strictly inconceivable. Latin Gods must have been imagined very much as were and are those of other barbarous races, who are notoriously thought of as having sex, form, and passions. Greek mythology simply reached the art stage sooner. The cults of Hellas did not start with a mythology full-blown, thereby creating the arts; the mythology grew step by step with and in the arts, in a continuous mutual reaction; many Greek myths being really tales framed to explain the art-figures of other mythologies, Egyptian and Asiatic. Thus the primitive bareness of the Latin mythology signifies not a natural saplessness which could give no increase to art, but (1) loss of lore and (2) a lack of the artistic and literary factors which record and stimulate higher mythologic growth.

Thus limited in their native culture, the Roman upper class were inevitably much affected by higher foreign cultures when they met these under conditions of wealth and leisure. Long before that stage, indeed, they consulted Greek oracles and collected responses; and they had informally assimilated before the conquest a whole series of Greek Gods without giving them public worship.[410] The[Pg 163] very Goddess of the early Latin League, the Aventine Diana, was imaged by a copy of Artemis of Ephesus, the Goddess of the Ionian League.[411] As time went on the more psychologically developed cults of the East were bound to attract the Romans of all classes. What of religious emotion there was in the early days must have played in large part around the worship which the State left free to the citizens as individuals—the worship of the Lares and Penates, the cults of the hearth and the family; and in this connection the primitive mythopœic instinct must have evolved a great deal of private mythology which never found its way into literature. But as the very possession of Lares and Penates, ancestral and domestic spirits, was originally a class privilege, not shared by the landless and the homeless, these had step by step to be made free of public institutions of a similar species—the Lares Praestites of the whole city, festally worshipped on the first day of May, and other Lares Publici, Rurales, Compitales, Viales, and so on—just as they were helped to bread. Even these concessions, however, failed to make the old system suffice for the transforming State; and individual foreign worships with a specific attraction were one by one inevitably introduced—that of Æsculapius in the year 291 B.C., in a panic about pestilence; that of Cybele, the Mother of the Gods, in 205: both by formal decision of the Senate. The manner of the latter importation is instructive. Beginning the Hannibalic war in a spirit of religious patriotism, the Senate decreed the destruction of the temples of the alien Isis and Serapis.[412] But as the war went on, and the devotion shown to the native Gods was seen to be unrewarded, the Senate themselves, yielding to the general perturbation which showed itself in constant resort to foreign rites by the women,[413] prescribed resort to the Greek sacrificial rites of Apollo.[414] Later they called in the cult of Cybele from Phrygia;[415] and other cults informally, but none the less irresistibly, followed.

In all such steps two forces were at work—the readiness of the plebeians to welcome a foreign religion in which the patricians had, as it were, no vested rights; and the tendency of the more plastic patricians themselves, especially the women, to turn to a worship with emotional attractions. When the plebeians sought admission for their class to the higher offices of State, they were told with unaffected seriousness that their men had not the religious qualifications—they lacked the hereditary gift of reading auspices, the[Pg 164] lore of things sacred.[416] So, when they did force entrance, their alleged blunders in these matters were exclaimed against as going far to ruin the republic. This was not a way to make the populace revere the national religion; and as the population of foreign race steadily increased by conquest and enslavement, alien cults found more and more hold. "It was always in the popular quarters of the city that these movements began."[417]

The first great unofficial importation seems to have been the orgiastic worship of Dionysos, who specially bore for the Romans his epithet of Bacchus, and was identified with their probably aboriginal Liber. This worship, carried on in secret assemblies, was held by the conservatives to be a hotbed of vice and crime, and was, according to Livy, bloodily punished (B.C. 186). So essentially absurd, however, is Livy's childish narrative that it is impossible to take anything in it for certain save the bare fact that the worship was put under restrictions, as tending to promote secret conspiracies.[418] But from this time forward, roughly speaking, Rome may be said to have entered into the mythological heritage of Greece, even as she did into her positive treasure of art work and of oriental gold. Every cult of the conquered Mediterranean world found a footing in the capital, the mere craving for new sensations among the upper class being sufficient to overcome their political bias to the old system. It is clear that when Augustus found scores of Roman temples in disrepair after the long storms of the civil wars, it was not that "religion" was out of vogue, but that it was superseded by what the Romans called "superstition"—something extraneous, something over and above the public system of rites and ceremonies. In point of fact, the people of Rome were in the mass no longer of Roman stock, but a collection of many alien races, indifferent to the indigenous cults. The emperor's restorations could but give a subsidised continuity to the official services: what vitally flourished were the cults which ministered to the new psychological needs of a population more and more divorced from great public interests, and increasingly alien in its heredity—the stimulant and hysterical worships of Adonis, of Attis, of the Lover Goddess coupled with the first, or the Mourning Mother Goddess with the second, of Isis and Osiris and their child—rituals of alternate lamentation and rejoicing, of initiations, austerities, confessions, penances, self-abasement, and[Pg 165] the promise of immortality. On the general soil of devotion thus formed, there finally grew up side by side Mithraism and Christianity, the rival religions of the decadence, of which the second triumphed in virtue of having by far the larger number of adaptations to its environment.

But while Rome was thus at length fully possessed by the spirit of religious imagination which had so fruitfully stirred the art of Greece, there ensued no new birth of faculty. It was with the arts as with literature: the stimulus from Greece was received by a society rapidly on the way to that social state which in Greece had choked the springs of progress. In the last generations of the Republic the literary development was markedly rapid. In the century which saw Rome, after a terrific struggle, victorious over Carthage and prepared for the grapple with Macedon, the first practitioners of literature were playwrights, or slaves, or clients of great men, or teachers like Ennius, who could find in the now leisured and in part intelligent or at least inquisitive upper class a sufficient encouragement to a literary career. That class did not want recitals of the crude folklore of their fathers, so completely eclipsed by that of Greece, which was further associated with the literary form of drama, virtually new to the Romans.[419] Drama, always the form of literature which can best support itself, is the form most cultivated down till the period of popular abasement and civil convulsion, though of a dozen dramatists we have only Plautus and Terence left in anything like completeness; and while the tragedy of Pacuvius and Attius was unquestionably an imitation of the Greek, it may have had in its kind as much merit as the comedies that have been preserved. Even more rapid than the development, however, is the social gangrene that kills the popular taste; for when we reach the time of Augustus there is no longer a literary drama, save perhaps for the small audiences of the wooden theatres, and the private performances of amateurs;[420] parades and pantomimes alone can attract the mindless multitude; and the era of autocrats begins on well-laid foundations of ignorance and artificial incivilisation.

As with the literature of the people, so with that of the lettered class. In the last generation of freedom, we have in Lucretius and Catullus two of the great poets of all antiquity, compared with whose forceful inspiration Virgil and Horace already begin to seem sicklied o'er with the pale cast of decline. Thenceforth the glory[Pg 166] begins to die away; and though the red blade of Juvenal is brandished with a hand of power, and Lucan clangs forth a stern memorial note, and Petronius sparkles with a sinister brilliancy, there is no mistaking the downward course of things under Cæsarism. It is true we find Juvenal complaining that only the emperor does anything for literature:—

Et spes et ratio studiorum in Caesare tantum.
Solus enim tristes hac tempestate Camoenas

It is the one word of praise he ever gives to the autocrat, be it Domitian or another; and the commentators decide that only at the beginning of Domitian's reign would it apply. In effect, the satire is a description of the Roman upper class as grown indifferent to poetry, or to any but their own. But it is not on the economic side that the autocracy and the aristocracy of the Empire are to be specially indicted. The economic difficulty was very much the same under the Republic, when only by play-writing could literary men as such make a living. As Juvenal goes on to say, Horace when he cried Evohe was well fed, and if Virgil had lacked slave and lodging the serpents would have been lacking to the fury's hair, and the tongueless trumpet have sounded nothing great. Lucretius, Catullus, and Virgil were all inheritors of a patrimony; and Horace needed first an official post and later a patron's munificence to enable him to live as a poet. The mere sale of their books could not possibly have supported any one of them, so low were prices kept by the small demand.[422] What was true of the poets was still truer of the historians. Thus in the Republic as in the Empire, the men of letters, apart from the playwrights, tended to be drawn solely from the small class with inherited incomes. The curse of the Empire was that even when the sanest emperors, as the Antonines, sought to endow studies,[423] they could not buy moral or intellectual energy. The senate of poltroons who crouched before the Neros and Caligulas were the upper-class version of the population which lived by bread and the circus; and in that air neither great art nor great thought could breathe. Roman sculpture is but enslaved Greek sculpture taken into pay; Latin literature ceases to be Roman[Pg 167] with Tacitus. The noble apparition of Marcus Aurelius shines out of the darkening ages like some unearthly incarnation, collecting in one life and in one book all the light and healing left in the waning civilisations; beside the babble of Fronto his speech is as that of one of the wise Gods of the ancient fantasy. Henceforth we have but ancillary history, and, in imaginative literature, be it of Apuleius or of Claudian, the portents of another age. Roma fuit.

The last stages of the transition from the pagan to the Middle Ages can best be traced in the history of the northern province of Gaul. Subjected to regular imperial administration within a generation of its conquest by Cæsar, Gaul for some centuries actually gained in civilisation, the imperial regimen being relatively more favourable to nearly every species of material progress than that of the old chiefs.[424] The emperors even in the fourth century are found maintaining there the professorships of rhetoric, language, law, philosophy and medicine first founded by Marcus Antoninus;[425] and until finance began to fail and the barbarians to invade, the material conditions were not retrograde. But the general intellectual life was merely imitative and retrospective; and the middle and upper classes, for which the higher schools existed, were already decaying in Gaul as elsewhere. The old trouble, besides, the official veto on all vital political discussion—if indeed any appetite for such discussion survived—drove literature either into mere erudition or into triviality. On the other hand, the growing Church offered a field of ostensibly free intellectual activity, and so was for a time highly productive, in point of sheer quantity of writing; a circumstance naturally placed by later inquirers to the credit of its creed. The phenomenon was of course simply one of the passage of energy by the line of least resistance. Within the Church, to which they turned as did thoughtful Greeks to philosophy after the rise of Alexander's Empire, men of mental tastes and moderate culture found both shelter and support; and the first Gaulish monasteries, unlike those of Egypt and the East, were, as M. Guizot has noted, places for conference rather than for solitary life.[426] There, for men who believed the creed, which was as credible as the older doctrines, there was a constant exercise for the mind on interests that were relatively real, albeit profoundly divided from the interests of the community. Thus, at a time when the community needed all its mental energy to meet its political need, that mental energy was[Pg 168] spent in the discussion of insoluble and insane problems, of predestination and freewill, of faith and works, of fasts, celibacy, the Trinity, immortality, and the worship of saints. Men such as Ambrose and Jerome in Italy, Paulinus, Cassian, Hilary, and Salvian in Gaul, Chrysostom in the East, and Augustine in the South, represent as it were the last vibrations of the civilised intelligence; their energy, vainly spent on what they felt to be great issues, hints of the amount of force that was still running to waste throughout the Empire.

Soon, however, and even before the barbarian tide had overflowed the intellectual world, the fatal principle at the core of the new creed began to paralyse even the life that centred around that. In a world of political tyranny, an established church claiming to stand for the whole of supernatural truth must needs resort to tyranny as soon as it could wield the weapons. The civil strifes which broke out alike in the Eastern and the Western Empire in the third and fourth centuries, and the multitude of sects which rapidly honeycombed the Church, wore so many more forces of social disintegration; and churchmen, reasoning that difference of dogma was the ground of civil warfare as well as of war in the Church, must needs take the course that had before been taken in politics.

After the original Arian battle had raged itself out in Egypt, Gregory of Nazianzun at Constantinople, Ambrose at Milan, and Martin at Tours,[427] fought it over again. One point secured, others were settled in turn; and as soon as the influence of Augustine set up a prevailing system of thought, theology was as much a matter of rule and precedent as government. As we read Augustine's City of God, with its strenuous demonstration that the calamities which men ascribe to the new religion are the fruit of their own misdeeds, we realise to the full the dissolution of antiquity. All that is valid in his polemic is the exposure of the absurdity of the old faiths, long before detected by the reason of the few, but maintained by believers and unbelievers alike for reasons of State. The due Nemesis came in the rise of a faith which first flourished on and promoted an utter disregard of State concerns, then helped directly to rob the State of the mental energy it most needed, and finally wrought for the paralysis of what mental energy itself had attracted. Of constructive truth, of the thought whereby a State could live, the polemist had much less than was once possessed by the men who[Pg 169] framed or credited the fables he derided. He could destroy, but could not build up. And so it was with the Church, as regarded the commonweal. "Of all the various systems of government that have been attempted on this earth, theocracy, or more properly hierocracy, is undoubtedly one of the very worst."[428]

But one thing the Church could construct and conserve—the fabric of her own wealth and power. Hence it came about that the Church, in itself a State within the State, was one of the three or four concrete survivals of antiquity round which modern civilisation nucleated. Of the four, the Church, often treated as the most valuable, was really the least so, inasmuch as it wrought always more for the hindrance of progress and the sundering of communities than for advance and unification. The truly civilising forces were the other three: the first being the body of Roman law, the product of Roman experience and Greek thought in combination; and the second, the literature of antiquity, in large part lost till the time we call the New Birth, when its recovery impregnated and inspired, though it perhaps also overburdened and lamed, the unformed intelligence of modern Europe. The third was the heritage of the arts of life and of beauty, preserved in part by the populations of the western towns which survived and propagated their species through the ages of dominant barbarism; in part by the cohering society of Byzantium. From these ancient germs placed in new soil is modern civilisation derived.


[398] See E. Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, 703; cp. A. Schwegler, Römische Geschichte, i, 274-79, as to the survivals. The reversion of the remaining Etruscan aristocracy in Rome to the language of the common people, under stress of strife with Etruria, is a phenomenon on all fours with the abandonment of French by the upper-class English in the fourteenth century, as a result of hostility with France.

[399] Even Eduard Meyer decides in this fashion (Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, 530) that to Italy "was denied the capacity to shape a culture for itself, to energise independently and creatively in the sphere of art, poetry, religion, and science"—this after expressly noting (ii, 155) how Greece itself developed only under the stimulus of alien culture. Compare §§ 339, 340 (ii, 533-36).

[400] Mommsen, History of Rome, Eng. tr. 1894, i, 285-300 (bk. i, ch. xv).

[401] "No people has ever possessed a vaster pantheon," observes M. Boissier, while noting the slightness of the characterisation (La religion romaine d'Auguste aux Antonins, 4e édition, i, 8). The lack of characterisation would seem to have encouraged multiplication.

[402] The fact that the Etruscans, like the other Italian peoples, remained at the stage of unintellectual formalism (Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, ii, 528-29; Schwegler, Römische Geschichte, i, 273), suffices to show that not in race genius but in stage and conditions of culture lies the explanation. All early religion in official hands is formalist—witness the Pentateuch. The preoccupied Italians left their cults, as did the Phœnicians, to archæological officials, while the leisured Greeks carried them into poetry and art under conditions which fostered these activities.

[403] The point is discussed in the author's Christianity and Mythology, 2nd ed. pp. 74-90; Pagan Christs, 2nd ed. pp. 45-46.

[404] Whether or not we accept Mommsen's view (bk. i, c. xiv) that the use of the alphabet in Italy dates from about 1000 B.C. On this cp. Schwegler, i, 36.

[405] Mommsen, History of Rome, bk. i, ch. xii, Eng. tr. ed. 1868, i. 189. Cp. Boissier, as cited, i, 354, as to the respective functions of priests and pontiffs.

[406] It is only through fragmentary vestiges (Servius on Virgil, Georg. i, 21; cp. Varro in Augustine, De civitate Dei, vi, 7-10) that we know the contents of the book of Indigitamenta kept by the pontifices. It seems to have been a list, not of the Dii Indigetes commonly so-called, but of all the multitudinous powers presiding over the various operations of life. See Schwegler, Römische Geschichte, i, 32; Teuffel, Hist. of Roman Lit. ed. Schwabe, Eng. trans. 1900, i, 104; Boissier, La religion romaine d'Auguste aux Antonins, i, 4, and note. "I have no doubt," writes Mr. Ward Fowler (The Religious Experience of the Roman People, 1911, p. 168), "that Wissowa is right in explaining Indigitamenta as Gebetsformeln, formulæ of invocation; in which the most important matter, we may add, would be the name of the deity. See his Gesammelte Abhandlungen, p. 177 foll." Corssen put this view before Wissowa.

[407] According to Varro (cited by Augustine, De civ. Dei, iv, 31), the early Romans for 170 years worshipped the Gods without images.

[408] Rev. Sir G.W. Cox, Mythology of the Aryan Nations, ed. 1882, p. 169.

[409] Keightley, Mythol. of Anc. Greece and Italy, 1838, pp. 506-7.

[410] Meyer, ii, 531.

[411] Mommsen, ch. 12.

[412] Valerius Maximus, i, 3.

[413] Livy, xxv, 1.

[414] Id. xxv, 12.

[415] Id. xxix, 10, 14.

[416] Cp. Boissier, as cited, i, 39.

[417] Boissier, i, 346. Cp. Gibbon, ch. 2, Bohn ed. i, 40-41, and Wenck's note.

[418] Livy, xxxix, 18. The farrago of charges of crime we have no more reason to credit than we have in regard to the similar charges made later against the Christians.

[419] Cp. Carl Peter, Geschichte Roms, 1881, i, 550.

[420] Cp. Merivale, History, small ed. iv, 67-70, and Gibbon, ch. 31 (Bohn ed. iii, 420).

[421] Sat, vii, 1.

[422] Martial, i, 67, 118; xiii, 3. But cp. Becker, Gallus. Sc. iii, Excur. 3.

[423] Vespasian began the endowment of professorships of rhetoric (Suetonius, Vespasian, 18). As to the Antonines, see Gibbon, ch. ii, note, near end; and cp. Hatch, Influence of Greek Ideas upon the Christian Church, 1900, pp. 38-39; and Boissier, La Fin du Paganisme, i, 166. Vespasian's endowments, it should be noted, were given only to the professors of rhetoric. The philosophers (presumably the Stoics, but also the astrologers) he banished, as did Domitian. On this cp. Merivale, History, vol. vii, ch. 60.

[424] Cp. Guizot, Histoire de la civilisation en France, 13e éd. i, 48, 49.

[425] Id., pp. 113-15.

[426] Id., i, 121, 122.

[427] Guizot (as cited, i, 135) makes much of the fact that Hilary, Ambrose, and Martin opposed the capital punishment of heretics. He ignores the circumstance that Martin led an attack on all the pagan idols and temples of his neighbourhood, in which the peasants who resisted were slain.

[428] U.R. Burke, History of Spain, M. Hume's ed. 1900, i, 115.



We are now, perhaps, in a position to contemplate the wood without being distracted by the trees, and without forgetting, on the other hand, that it is an aggregate of trees individually conditioned by aggregation.

The record of Græco-Roman, as of all other ancient civilisation, with the partial exception of that of China, is one of a complete decadence—in this case a twofold decadence: a passing from collective energy and achievement to collective decrepitude and mental impotence, from intellectual freedom and force to the dogmatic arrest of thought, from artistic splendour to the very negation of the finest forms of art. However we may dispute about the nature of progress, we all agree that this was decadence. Not even the Christian Greek, the least freethinking of educated moderns, supposes that the life of his race went upwards from the time of Constantine. The Italian to this day aspires—by way of Tripoli, among other things—to bear some comparison with the Roman, whose "greatness" he envies. Decadence, then, is confessed. It concerns us, if we would have a historical philosophy at all, to think it all in terms of general causation.

At the outset, we shall do well to realise that in the long transmutation there was no day, save those of sudden and dire disaster, on which the human elements of the State organisms concerned were collectively conscious of any great change in their way of life. And days of dire disaster had occurred in the times to which we look back as those of energetic expansion. Early Rome had been actually captured by Etruscans, by Gauls; "she" had ostensibly come to the verge of overthrow by Hannibal a whole era before she was sacked by the Goths; Athens had been sacked by the Persians long before the Roman invasion. What was the determining difference in the consciousness of the citizens at the two epochs? Clearly that between the minds of men wont to "fend for themselves" collectively and of men wont to be ruled and prescribed for by a master—a difference, therefore, in power of resistance and of[Pg 171] recovery. And this difference had itself been wrought by long mutations—from the day of Sulla to the day of Tiberius in Rome, from the day of Alexander to that of Sulla in Greece. No one generation had been born in full "freedom," to pass away in complete subordination to an autocrat. The earlier generations, like the later, had been habituated to slave-owning, superstition, and the thought of war. The substantial and fatal change was in the degree of simple average manhood among the free. National decadence, in a word, is loss of manhood—a thing not easily lost.

A Conservative statesman of our day, wont to apply analytic criticism chiefly for partisan purposes, has attempted a comparatively disinterested analysis of the problem before us, in a short but not inconsiderate survey of the decadence of the old world. At the outset he rightly notes the inconsistency with which men still tend to hold by the old idea of an inevitable ageing and ultimate decrepitude of States and civilisations, while holding no less confidently to the modern notion, practically unattained by the ancients, of an inevitable progress. "Why," he asks, "should civilisations thus wear out and great communities decay? and what evidence is there that in fact they do?"[429] It may or may not be by reason of political bias that the questioner—who indeed avows that he is pursuing one of "those wandering trains of thought where we allow ourselves the luxury of putting wide-ranging questions, to which our ignorance forbids any confident reply"—propounds no clear answer to either query, contenting himself with suggesting that modern civilisation, in virtue of its strengthening hold on physical science, stands a chance of escaping the doom that fell on the old. But such a curtailed answer moves us afresh to seek a more complete one.

Our questioner, contemplating the "fall" of Rome, argues that the cause cannot have been even so serious an evil as slavery, which had been in operation from the beginning. He overlooks the fact that it had greatly increased in the period of far-reaching conquest,[430] and so misses an element in the solution. Passing over this, he recognises one proximate "cause," diminution of population; and he in effect seems to trace to this source the secondary factor of fiscal collapse—the breaking down of the tax-paying classes everywhere under the ever-increasing burden of State exaction. The final fiscal process he oddly describes as "a crude experiment in socialism." Putting the decay of population and the increase of burdens[Pg 172] together, he pronounces that "they absolutely require themselves to be explained by causes more general and more remote"; and his answer—confessedly a mere restatement of the problem—is just the word "Decadence." The process is simply formulated, once more, in terms of its name. The questioner does not even take the further analytical step of asking how the Eastern Empire came to endure a thousand years longer than the Western; and why the decadence did not similarly operate there.

If anything has been made out in the foregoing survey, we have got further than this; and indeed from any point of view the arrest of the analysis is surprising. Supposing failure of population to be the central phenomenon, we have obviously to ask: What were the political differentia of the progressive and the ostensibly declining states of population? How were the peoples ruled when they were strong, expansive, and collectively equal to their burdens? Surely the answer is obvious. Republican Greece and Republican Rome were self-governing communities, or aggregates of such, supporting themselves by individualist production of all kinds, breeding beyond and not under the apparent limit of food-production. When Romanised Italy ceased to produce a sufficiency of men, she had ceased to produce a sufficiency of things; and this latter failure, entailing the other, can be shown to have been a direct result of the exaction of all manner of subsistence from conquered territories. So far, there is no mystery.

Our querist, however, affirms a diminution of population not only in Italy but throughout the Empire. Here we must first question the assertion. Pestilences, such as that of 166 A.C., doubtless visited most parts of the Empire; but pestilences belong also to the pre-imperial period, and need not here be specially considered. As to Greece, the facts have been already given. The depopulation of that, after Alexander, was primarily a matter of exodus to the richer conquered lands, where a new Hellenistic civilisation arose under purely monarchic rule, and therefore unaccompanied by the all-round, self-developing mental energy which had marked the life of "free" Greece. In Byzantium, of course, the mental stagnation, under Christian autocracy, was no less complete. But there is no evidence whatever that after Constantine the principle of population failed in the Eastern Empire, especially when that was restricted by the amputation of the tributary territories.[Pg 173][431]

Did population then fail in Gaul and Spain and Africa? If so, when? As to Gaul, there is evidence that after the conquest population and productivity increased, though the latter had not previously been low—witness the loot taken by Cæsar at Toulouse. Gaul was certainly taxed exorbitantly; but Julian, as we saw, prudently lessened the drain; and Mommsen describes both Gaul and Spain as flourishing in their Romanised period.[432] They continued, in fact, to be, with North Africa, the main sources of the revenue of the Western Empire down to its collapse. Materially, they in some respects went forward, notably in the case of the region of old Carthage. The element wherein they were decadent was precisely that of free manhood, everywhere eviscerated by autocratic and bureaucratic rule. Therefore it was that, like Britain—similarly productive of revenue in the imperial period—they were unable to defend themselves against the final barbarian inroads. Had Honorius carried out his scheme for a measure of Home Rule in Gaul,[433] and followed it up by a similar scheme for Spain, Italy indeed might all the sooner have lost her hold on them as milch kine, but both provinces might conceivably have developed a new life centuries before they historically did.

The Conservative statesman has in fact, and very naturally, excluded from consideration the central political factor. Echoing the Gibbon-Mommsen-Renan thesis as to the excellence of the Antonine government of the Mediterranean world, he ignores as those writers did the vital problem: Wherein lies the felicity of a world wholly at the mercy of the chance of the election of a good emperor by a mercenary soldiery? To fall back on phrases about the Empire "respecting local feelings, encouraging local government," and being "accepted by the conquered as the natural organisation of the world," is merely to burke the real issue as to the political viability of communities satisfied with such a system, content to rest the social pyramid forever on its apex. To say that the conditions of the Empire under the Antonines were "getting better" is merely to close the eyes to the frightful hazard of imperial succession. A world absolutely dependent for its betterment—nay, even for its safe continuance—on the chance of a good succession of despots is a world doomed by the mere law of variation.

If we will but gauge moral and economic forces in human affairs as we gauge physical forces in that toil of science of which the[Pg 174] Conservative statesman has learned to recognise the efficacy, we shall deliver ourselves from the mystery-mongering which he is fain to substitute for the old shibboleth of "the divine will." To trace causation in a known civilisation is not to pretend either to understand all social sequences in all ages or to predict the destinate future: it is but to recognise the real reactions of human proclivities and procedures which habit and prejudice have been wont to contemplate uncritically. The late Sir John Seeley, who at times hardly advances on Kingsley as an interpreter of history, grappled in his day with our problem; and he too specified the Antonine age as a notably hopeful period, from which he dates the decadence:—

"A century of unparalleled tranquillity and virtuous government is followed immediately by a period of hopeless ruin and dissolution. A century of rest is followed not by renewed vigour, but by incurable exhaustion. Some principle of decay must have been at work; but what principle? We answer: it was a period of sterility or barrenness in human beings; the human harvest was bad. And among the causes of this barrenness we find, in the more barbarous nations, the enfeeblement produced by the too abrupt introduction of civilisation and universally the absence of industrial habits, and the disposition to listlessness which belongs to the military character."[434]

One is tempted to apply the theory of human crops to the case of the chair of history at Cambridge. Prof. Seeley's theory is an edifying variant on that of Mr. Balfour. Where one thesis finds the key to all in the emperor, the other sees failure of the human harvest the moment the imperial succession goes wrong. And while the Professor offers the semblance of a reason for the alleged failure in the human breed, it is really too nugatory for discussion. If the "barbarous nations" alluded to were Gaul and Spain, they had suffered the "abrupt introduction of civilisation" more than two hundred years before. Egypt and Syria and Greece and North Africa had older civilisations than the Roman. Germany was not decadent. The decay of industrial life in Italy had begun long before the Empire. As well might we say that a bad human crop there had preceded the Etruscan conquest, the invasion by Hannibal, and the civil wars. To cite, as does Prof. Seeley, the pestilence of the year 166 as a beginning of depopulation, is to ignore the problem of three hundred years of previous depopulation in Italy, and to set up a misconception as to the rest of the Empire. According to Gibbon, the long pestilence of the years 250-265 was the worst of all.[Pg 175][435]

More plausibly, Prof. Seeley goes on to argue that "what the plague had been to the population, that the fiscus was to industry. It broke the bruised reed; it converted feebleness into utter and incurable debility. Roman finance had no conception of the impolicy of laying taxation so as to depress enterprise and trade. The fiscus destroyed capital in the Roman Empire. The desire of accumulation languished where the Government lay in wait for all savings—locupletissimus quisque in prædam correptus. All the intricate combinations by which man is connected to man in a progressive society disappeared."[436] But this is a finally excessive description of a process which had been in full swing in the time of Cicero, and which subsisted for three hundred years after Marcus Aurelius in the West. A generation after Marcus came the powerful Severus, whose son Caracalla could find millions of money to build his immense baths at Rome, still monstrous in their ruins; and seventy years after Caracalla, Diocletian, wielding the Empire at its utmost extension, could build still vaster baths for the imperial city at which he had ceased to dwell. With a debased silver coinage,[437] the emperors of that day seemed to feel no fatal lack of real revenue, and maintained, at great cost, huge armies for the control and defence of their enormous realm.

It is impossible to see why the age of the Antonines should be taken as a turning point in the Empire's history rather than the age of Diocletian. That great organiser seems to have partly provoked the insurrection of the Bagaudae in Gaul by taxation; but the Bagaudae were a jacquerie oppressed by the nobles, as their fathers had been before Cæsar, and as their posterity was long afterwards; and their wrongs may as well have been at the hands of their lords as at those of the autocrat.[438] However that might be, Roman rule in Gaul survived the revolt of the Bagaudae, yielding a great revenue to Constantine; and at the time of the fall of Rome Gaul was much more productive than Italy. All this is beside the case. To say that "the downfall of the Empire is accounted for" by the fiscus[439] is to raise the question whether the Empire, as such, could have been run by any other method. The Professor himself pronounces that "Government in its helplessness was driven" to fiscal oppression. Then fiscal oppression belonged to the nature of the Empire. Once[Pg 176] more we return to the true line of sequence and explanation. Every step and stage in decadence belonged to the process of conquest, of confiscation, of subjection of foreign races, who were made to pay for the vast machinery that kept them subject till they were unfit for self-defence.

[What is true of the Roman fisc was true till the other day of the Turkish, another product of militarist imperialism, similarly collateral with mental stagnation. Depopulation and arrest of production in the East under Turkish rule are to be explained in substantially the way in which we have explained them for ancient Rome. And it is significant that the prospect of regeneration for Turkey has begun after the amputation of many of the provinces over which she maintained an alien rule. Her future visibly depends on the continuance of the processes of self-maintenance and development of the principle of self-government throughout the subsisting State.]

There is a danger that, in insisting on the primarily moral causation of the process of social disease and decay, we may on the one hand relapse into a delusive sense of moral superiority, and on the other hand fail to realise how the subjective moral divagation becomes politically effectual in structural and economic change. It is the understood process of causation that is alone truly instructive. But the instruction is deepened in the ratio of our realisation of the decay. Though it is clear that before Rome many a civilisation had gone to violent wreck, there is in recorded history no more overwhelming memory of long triumph and long downfall than that "from the far-distant morning when a small clan of peasants and shepherds felled the forests on the Palatine to raise altars to its tribal deities, down to the tragic hour in which the sun of Græco-Latin civilisation set over the deserted fields, the abandoned cities, the homeless, ignorant, and brutalised peoples of Latin Europe."[440] And this whole tremendous arc of triumph and decline is to be understood as the historic expression of the specially conditioned bias of conquest in one people.

The decline is the due sequence of the "rise": everything roots in the wrong relation of communities throughout the Empire. The extension of such a social disease as slavery is one of the symptoms, one of the sequelæ, of the central malady.[441] A totally progressive State eliminates or minimises slavery; a declining one fails to do so. The economic malady involved affects primarily the dominant or[Pg 177] parasitic State or central part, its condition of parasitism being more deadly than its draining effect on the others. Their malady lay in their state of subjugation, which was an impoverishment of character and political faculty; and thus it came about that the collapse of the centre of organisation meant the fall of the entire civilisation of Western Europe before the new barbarism.

Rome had so visibly ruined all that we are apt to forget how the process of moral and political retrogression had begun in the Greek world long before. There, however, the Roman conquest was but a consummation; and the economic and political continuance of the Eastern Empire was concurrent with a moral and intellectual contraction which was never recovered from. In a word, varying conditions determined the differences of continuance and evolution in the two spheres. But the causation is none the less clear throughout.

It might be supposed that this reverberating lesson could have been read in only one way—as a warning to the nations against taking the Roman road of conquest and dominion. And yet it is doubtful whether modern States have been at all guided by that lesson, as compared with the extent to which they have been overruled by the sheer difficulty of repeating the evolution. The problem has been faced by Lord Cromer, a ripe ruler, in his very scholarly essay on Ancient and Modern Imperialism. The experienced administrator is quite alive to the analogy between the part played of old by Rome around the Mediterranean and in Europe, and that played to-day by England in India and, in some measure, in Egypt. Raised in some degree above the ordinary hallucination of mere dominion, the confused pride of the average man in his country's rule over large portions of the earth, the veteran governor notes that, whereas there was a general acquiescence of the subject peoples in the imperial rule of Rome, no imperium to-day has won any such cordial acceptance.[442] Neither France in Algeria and Tunis nor Britain in India and Egypt is an assimilating and unifying power. We may note the proximate explanation, which he does not at first give—to wit, the sundering force of crystallised religious systems. As he later puts it, following Sir Alfred Lyall, religions make nations, where the Romans had to deal with tribes.[443] But that need not greatly affect our view of the political problem, which would remain if the religious factor were eliminated; and it is over the political problem that Lord Cromer most significantly balances.

Falling back on the method of fatalism, he pronounces, like[Pg 178] others before him, "that Rome, equally with the modern expansive Powers, more especially Great Britain and Russia, was impelled onwards by the imperious and irresistible necessity of acquiring defensible frontiers; that the public opinion of the world scoffed 2,000 years ago, as it does now, at the alleged necessity; and that each onward move was attributed to an insatiable lust for extended dominion."[444] As in all fatalistic reasoning, we are here faced by radical self-contradiction. The "public opinion of the world," which Lord Cromer allows to include a large part of Roman opinion,[445] could not scoff at an "irresistible necessity": it knew that it was no more irresistibly necessary for A to conquer B than for B to conquer A; and in ascribing to Rome an "insatiable lust for extended dominion" it merely credited Rome with an appetite known to inhere in all States. Rome succeeded in her aim; others failed. Pisa, overborne by Florence, had in her day overborne other communities. Lord Cromer has begged the vital question, which is: Can States, or can they not, live neighbourly? To say that Rome could not because of the ambitions or menaces of others is idle: the menace was reciprocal.

For practical purposes, of course, the thesis is sometimes adequate all round, as when France and Britain, face to face in North America and in India, strove each to oust the other. But at times the plea becomes visibly farcical, as in the recent case of Russia in the Far East, and the earlier case of Britain with regard to Afghanistan. We can all remember the temporary growth of the doctrine of "a scientific frontier." First you want a river; then you need the territory beyond the river; then you need the line of hills commanding that territory; then the territory behind the hills becomes a sine qua non.[446] In this case the doctrine has disappeared with the policy, and that disappeared simply because it failed. The event has proved that the doctrine was a chimera. And nobody to-day probably will maintain that Russia lay under an imperious and irresistible necessity to go and be defeated by the Japanese in Manchuria; or that she could not conceivably have stopped short of that extremity.

The use sometimes made of the word "cupidity" is apt to obscure the problem. There is cupidity of power and conquest as well as of territory, revenue, plunder. Roman cupidity was of all kinds. But so was that of "the" Greeks. Lord Cromer employs[Pg 179] the old false dichotomy—above discussed—that marks the Greeks as "individualistic" and the Romans as somehow unitary.[447] As we have seen, the original Roman City-State was just the same kind of thing as the Greek: it was opportunity that made "the Romans" expand, whereas "the Greeks," down to Alexander, remained segregated in their States. What was common and fatal to both, what led Greece to dissolution and Rome to downfall, was the primary impulse to combat, the inability to refrain from jealousy, hate, and war. And for the moderns, seeing this, the problem is, Can they refrain?

Either we are thus to learn from history, or all history is as a novel without a purpose. And Lord Cromer, as a man of action, cannot in effect take this attitude, though he recoils from any clear statement of the lesson. On the one hand, he makes the most of the differentia between ancient and modern Imperialism. English rulers in India, he admits, originally aimed at home revenue, and did for a time practise sheer plunder;[448] the British rule no longer does either: which is in effect an admission that one "imperious and irresistible necessity" of the Roman rule has been successfully resisted—shall we say, by modern enlightenment? But he will not frankly take the further step and say that for the ideal of dominion over backward races we should substitute the ideal of their education and purposive evolution. Rather he makes the most of the difficulties, enlarging in the familiar fashion on the dividedness and differentiation of the Indian peoples and the relative stationariness of Islam: two undeniable propositions, of which the first is nothing to the purpose, since we are discussing the lines of progressive policy; while the second merely incurs the rejoinder that Christendom was long as stationary as Islam, and that Christian Abyssinia is so still.

As was, indeed, to be expected, Lord Cromer will rather homologate the whole Roman process, decadence and collapse and all, than pronounce it what it was, a vast divagation in human progress. Ultimately he does not even blench at the proposition that the whole ruin "had to" take place[449] by way of preparing for the civilisation that was to follow, even as he argues that "the" Romans "had to" undertake fresh wars where they (on the urging, as he admits, of their wisest men) had sought to evade further conquest by recognising "buffer States"[450]—as who should say that whatever course a majority or a Government do take "had to" be[Pg 180] taken. The answer to such reasoning is the mention of the fact, which he admits, that it was "a supreme principle of the Roman Government to acknowledge no frontier Power with equal rights."[451] Can it be still a question whether that principle is to be transcended?

On the final issue as to what the ruling nations "have to" do to-day as regards the subject peoples, the disinterested student can hardly hesitate, however the ex-administrator may feel bound to balance. "The Englishman," Lord Cromer tells us, truly enough as regards the average citizen, "would be puzzled to give any definite answer" to the question Quo vadis? in matters imperial.[452] He may well be, when Lord Cromer visibly is, despite the ostensible emphasis with which he exhorts his countrymen to keep "the animus manendi strong within them."[453] The danger is that, noting the formal conclusion rather than the implicit lesson of Lord Cromer's very able survey, "the Englishman" may turn from his puzzle to some new insanity of imperialism. Not many years have passed since English wiseacres were speculating on a "break-up" of China, and a dominion of some other State over her huge area and multitudinous millions. He would be a bad sample of modernity who should now regret that China is apparently on the way, like Japan, to build up a new progressive civilisation in the "unchanging East."[454] But it is perhaps as much to the sheer impracticability of further great conquests as to any alert and conscious reading of the lesson of history that we owe the growing disposition of modern States to seek their good in their own development. If so, provided that the ideal be changed, "it is well, if not so well."


[429] Decadence. (Henry Sidgwick Memorial Lecture.) By the Right Hon. A.J. Balfour, 1908, p. 8.

[430] See above, pp. 23-24. On the whole question see the very full survey of W.R. Patterson, The Nemesis of Nations, 1907, p. 265 sq.

[431] Gibbon's generalisation (end of ch. 10) as to a "diminution of the human species" throughout the Empire is confessedly founded on very imperfect evidence, applying only to Alexandria, and very doubtful even at that point.

[432] History, vol. v (The Provinces). Cp. Merivale, General History, p. 682.

[433] See Gibbon, ch. 31, end. On Gibbon's and Guizot's interpretation of the scheme, see Prof. Bury's note on Gibbon, in loc.

[434] Lectures and Essays, 1870: Lecture on "Roman Imperialism," p. 54.

[435] Ch. 10, end.

[436] Essay cited, p. 56.

[437] Prof. Bury (note to Gibbon in his ed. i, 281) cites the debased silver coinage as a proof of the "distress of the Empire" and the "bankruptcy of the Government." This is an unwarranted inference. See above, p. 80.

[438] Cp. Gibbon, ch. 13, Bohn ed. i, 427-28; Merivale, General History, pp. 572-74. Bagaudae seem to have recruited the army of Julian. (Ed. note on Gibbon, as cited, ii, 474.)

[439] Seeley, as cited, p. 57.

[440] Ferrero, Greatness and Decline of Rome, Eng. tr. 1907, vol. i, pref.

[441] Cp. Patterson, Nemesis of Nations, as cited.

[442] Ancient and Modern Imperialism, 1910, pp. 37-38, 73-91.

[443] Id. p. 91.

[444] Ancient and Modern Imperialism, pp. 19-20.

[445] Id. p. 22.

[446] Compare Lord Cromer's mention (p. 32) of the doubt as to whether the Himalayas made a secure frontier.

[447] Ancient and Modern Imperialism, p. 14.

[448] Id. pp. 43, 65-68.

[449] Id. p. 62.

[450] Id. p. 22.

[451] Ancient and Modern Imperialism, p. 26, citing Mommsen.

[452] Id. p. 118.

[453] Id. p. 126.

[454] Mr. Balfour, using this egregious expression in his lecture on Decadence (p. 35), explains that "the 'East' is a term most loosely used. It does not here include China and Japan, and does include parts of Africa." At the same time it does not refer to the ancient Jews and Phœnicians. One is moved to ask, Does it include the Turks and the Persians? If not, in view of all the other exceptions, might it not be well to drop the "unchanging" altogether?



Note on Literature

No quite satisfactory history of Italy has appeared in English. The standard modern Italian history, that of Cesare Cantù, has been translated into French; but in English there has been no general history of any length since Procter and Spalding. Col. Procter's History of Italy (published as by G. Perceval, 1825; 2nd ed. 1844) has merit, but is not abreast of modern studies. Spalding's Italy and the Italian Islands (3 vols. 3rd ed. 1845) is an excellent work of its kind, covering Italian history from the earliest times, but is also in need of revision. The comprehensive work of Dr. T. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders (2nd ed. 1892-99, 8 vols.) comes down to the death of Charlemagne.

Of special histories there are several. One of the best and latest is that of The Lombard Communes, by Prof. W.F. Butler (1906). Captain H.E. Napier, in the preface to his Florentine History (1846, 6 vols.) rightly contended that "no people can be known by riding post through their country against time"; but his six learned volumes are ill-written and ill-assimilated. The best complete history of Florence, the typical Italian Republic, is the long Histoire de Florence by F.T. Perrens (9 tom. 1877-84; Eng. tr. of one vol. by Hannah Lynch, 1892). T.A. Trollope's History of the Commonwealth of Florence (1865, 4 vols.) is less indigestible than Napier's, but is gratuitously diffuse, and is written in large part in unfortunate imitation of the pseudo-dramatic manner of Carlyle. It is further blemished by an absurd index. Neither this nor Mr. W. Carew Hazlitt's History of the Venetian Republic (1860, 4 vols.; new ed. in two large vols. 1900) has much sociological value, though the latter is copious and painstaking, albeit also diffuse. The Genoa of J. Theodore Bent (1881) is an interesting sketch; but the well-read author fails in orderly construction.

A good short manual is the Italy of Mr. Hunt (Macmillan's Historical Course); and an excellent compendium is supplied by the two treatises of Oscar Browning (1894-95), Guelphs and Ghibellines (covering the period 1250-1409) and The Age of the Condottieri, covering the Renaissance, to 1530. Bryce and Hallam are alike helpful to general views; and it is still [Pg 182]profitable to return to the condensed History of the Italian Republics by Sismondi (written for the English "Cabinet Cyclopædia" in 1832), though it needs revision in detail. In his two volumes entitled The Fall of the Roman Empire (1834) that author has given a useful conspectus of the period covered by Gibbon's great work. Sismondi's larger and earlier Histoire des républiques italiennes has never ceased to be well worth study, though the Geschichte von Italien of H. Leo (1829) improves upon it in several respects. It has been revised and condensed (Routledge, 1 large vol. 1906) by Mr. William Boulting. For the early period the most comprehensive survey is the Geschichte Italiens im Mittelalter of Ludo Moritz Hartmann (3 Bde. in 5, 1897-1911) which comes down to the tenth century.

Among modern monographs that of Alfred von Reumont on Lorenzo de' Medici (Eng. tr. 1876, 2 vols.) in nearly every way supersedes the old work of Roscoe, whose Leo X, again, is practically superseded by later works on the Renaissance, in particular those of Burckhardt (Eng. tr. of Geiger's ed. in 1 vol. 1892) and the late J.A. Symonds. Miss Duffy has a good chapter on Florentine trade and finance in her Story of the Tuscan Republics, 1892; and the short work of F.T. Perrens, La civilisation florentine du 13e au 16e siècle (1892—in the Bibliothèque d'histoire illustrée) is luminous throughout; but Ranke's History of the Latin and Teutonic Nations (Eng. tr. 1887), which deals with the Italy of 1494-1514, is little more than a sand-heap of incident. On the economic side there is a good research in Pignotti's essay on Tuscan Commerce in his History of Tuscany (Eng. tr. 1823, vol. iii). Much interesting detail is given, with much needless rhetoric, in The Guilds of Florence, by Edgcumbe Staley, 1906.

Of great general value is the elaborate work of Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter (4te Aufl. 8 Bde. 1886-96; Eng. tr. by Mrs. Hamilton, 8 vols. 1895-1902), which, however, suffers from the disparity of its purposes, combining as it does, a topographical history of the city of Rome with a full history of its politics. It remains a valuable mass of materials rather than a history proper. The same criticism applies to the very meritorious Geschichte der Stadt Rom of A. von Reumont (3 Bde. 1867-70), which begins with the very origin of the city, and comes down to our own time.

But there has risen in contemporary Italy a school of historical students who are rewriting the history of the great period in the light of the voluminous archives which have been preserved by municipalities. One outcome of this line of investigation is Prof. Villari's The Two First Centuries of Florentine History (Eng. tr. of first 2 vols. 1894). New light, further, has been thrown on the commercial history of Italy in the Dark Ages and early Middle Ages by the admirable research [Pg 183]of Prof. W. von Heyd, of which the French translation by Furcy Raynaud, Histoire du commerce du Levant an moyen age (1886, 2 tom.) is recast and considerably enlarged by the author, while the Renascence period is illuminated by R. Pöhlmann's treatise, Die Wirthschafts Politik der Florentiner Renaissance und das Princip der Verkehrsfreiheit (Leipzig, 1878).

Chapter I


§ 1

To understand aright the phenomenon of medieval Italian civilisation we need first to realise that it was at bottom a fresh growth on the culture roots of the cities of Romanised Italy. When the imperial centre was shifted to the East, as already remarked, the people of Italy began a fresh adaptation to their conditions; those of Rome, instead of leading, standing most zealously to the old way of things. All the barbarian irruptions did but harass and hinder the new development; they finally counted for little in its upward course. There is a prevalent hallucination, akin to others concerning the "Teutonic race," in the shape of a belief that Italy was somehow "regenerated" by the "free nations of the North." No accepted formula could well be further away from the facts. If the political qualities of the "Teutonic race," whatever that may mean, are to be generalised on the facts of the invasions of Italy by the Germanic tribes, from Theodoric to Frederick Barbarossa, they must be summed up as consisting in a general incapacity for progressive civilisation. The invaders were, in fact, too disparate in their stage of evolution from that of the southern civilisation to be capable of assimilating it and carrying it on. Living a life of strife and plunder like the early Romans, they found in the disarmed Italians, and in their rapidly degenerate predecessors of their own stock, an easier prey than the Romans had ever known till they went to the East; but in the qualities either of military or of civil organisation they were conspicuously inferior to the Romans of the early Republic. Men of the highest executive ability appeared from time to time among their leaders; a circumstance of great interest and importance, as suggesting that a percentage of genius occurs in all stages of human culture; but the mass of the invaders was always signally devoid of the very characteristics so romantically attributed to them by German, English, and even French Teutophiles—to wit, the gifts[Pg 184] of union, discipline, order, and self-government. These elements of civilisation depend on the functioning of the nerve centres, and are not to be evolved by mere multiplication of animated flesh, which was the main constructive process carried on in ancient Germania. Precisely because they were, as Tacitus noted, the most homogeneous of the European races of that era,[455] they were incapable of any rapid and durable social development. It is only mixed races that can evolve or sustain a complex civilisation.

"The Germans," as we historically trace them at the beginning of our era, were barbarians (i.e., men between savagery and civilisation) in the most rudimentary stage, making scanty beginnings in agriculture; devoid of the useful arts, save those normally practised by savages; given to drunkenness; chronically at war; and alternating at other times between utter sloth and energetic hunting—the pursuit which best fitted them for war. Because the peoples thus situated were in comparison with the Romans "chaste" and monogamous—a common enough virtue in savage life[456]—they are supposed by their admirers to have been excellent material for a work of racial regeneration. Only in an indirect sense does this hold good. As a new "cross" to the Italian stocks they may indeed have made for beneficial variation; but by themselves they were mere raw material, morally and psychologically. Their reputed virtue of chastity disappeared as soon as the barbarians passed from a northern to a southern climate,[457] their vices so speedily exceeding the measure of paganism that even a degree of physiological degeneration soon set in. Even in their own land, met by a fiercer barbarism than their own, they collapsed miserably before the Huns. As regards the arts and sciences, moral and physical, it is impossible to trace to the invaders any share in the progress of Italy,[458] save in so far as they were doubtless a serviceable cross with the older native stocks. To their own stock, which had been relatively too homogeneous, the gain of crossing was mixed. Aurelian had put the case with rude truth when he told a bragging embassy of Goths that they knew neither the arts of war nor those of peace;[459] and so long as the Empire in any section had resources[Pg 185] enough to levy and maintain trained armies, it was able to destroy any combination of the Teutons. There was always generalship enough for that, down till the days of Teutonic civilisation. Claudius the Second routed their swarms as utterly as ever did Marius or Cæsar; Stilicho annihilated Rodogast, and always out-generalled Alaric; Aetius, after routing Franks, Burgundians, and Visigoths, overwhelmed the vast host of Attila's Huns; and in a later age the single unsleeping brain of Belisarius, scantily weaponed with men and money by a jealous sovereign, could drive back from Rome in shame and ruin all the barbarian levy of Wittich.[460]

As against the "Teutonic" theory of Italian regeneration, a hearing may reasonably be claimed for the "Etruscan," thus set forth:—"The Etruscans were undoubtedly one of the most remarkable nations of antiquity—the great civilisers of Italy—and their influence not only extended over the whole of the ancient world but has affected every subsequent age.... That portion of the Peninsula where civilisation earliest flourished, whence infant Rome drew her first lessons, has in subsequent ages maintained its pre-eminence.... It was Etruria which produced Giotto, Brunelleschi, Fra Angelico, Luca Signorelli, Fra Bartolomeo, Michael Angelo, Hildebrand, 'the starry Galileo,' and such a noble band of painters, sculptors and architects as no other country of modern Europe can boast. Certainly no other region of Italy has produced such a galaxy of brilliant intellects.... Much may be owing to the natural superiority of the race, which, in spite of the revolutions of ages, remains essentially the same, and preserves a distinctive character." (G. Dennis, The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria, 3rd ed. 1883, Introd. vol. i, pp. cii-iv.) Assumption for assumption, this is as defensible as the others.

What happened in Italy after Odoaker was that, for sheer lack of unitary government on the part of the invaders, the cities, which preserved the seeds and norms of the old civilisation, gradually grew into new organic life. Under the early Empire they had been disarmed and unwalled, to make them incapable of revolt. Aurelian, stemming the barbarian tide, began to wall them afresh; but, as we have seen, the withdrawal of the seat of empire left Italy economically incapable of action on an imperial scale; and the personal imbecility of such emperors as Honorius filled up the cup of the humiliation of what once was Rome. But the invaders on the whole did little better; and the material they brought was more[Pg 186] hopeless than what they found. The passage from full barbarism to order and civilisation cannot conceivably be made in one generation or one age. Athaulf, the able successor of Alaric, passed his competent judgment on the matter in words which outweigh all the rhetoric of modern romanticism: "He was wont to say that his warmest wish had at first been to obliterate the Roman name, and to make one sole Gothic empire, so that all that which had been Romania should be called Gothia, and that he, Athaulf, should play the same part as did Cæsar Augustus. But when by much experience he was convinced that the Goths were incapable of obedience to laws, because of their unbridled barbarism, and that the State without laws would cease to be a State, he had chosen to seek glory in rebuilding its integrity and increasing the Roman power by Gothic forces, so that posterity should at least regard him as the restorer of the empire which he was unable to replace. Therefore he strove to avoid war and to establish peace."[461]

It needed only command of the machinery of systematic government—if indeed the same qualities had not been in full play long before—to develop in the Teutons every species of evil that could be charged against the Southerns. The fallacy of attributing the crimes of Byzantium to the physiological degeneration of an "old" race is exposed the moment we compare the record with the history of the Franks, as told by Gregory of Tours. Christian writers continue to hold up Nero as a typical product of decadent paganism, saying nothing of the Christian Chilperic, "the Nero of France," or of his father, less ill-famed, Clothaire, the slayer of children, the polygamist, the strictly orthodox Churchman, "certain that Jesus Christ will remunerate us for all the good we do" to his priests.[462] Odious women were as powerful in Frankish courts as in Byzantine; and the tale of the end of Brunehild is not to be matched in pagan annals. Savage treachery, perjury, parricide, fratricide, filicide, assassination, massacre, debauchery, are if possible more constant notes in the tale of the young barbarism, as told by the admiring saint, than in that of the long-descended civilisation of Constantinople; and the rank and file seem to have been worthy of the heads.

One note of Gibbon's, on "barbaric virtue," àpropos of the character of Totila, has given one of his editors (Bohn ed. [Pg 187]iv, 505) the opportunity to assert that the "natural superiority" of the invaders was manifest wherever they came in contact with their civilised antagonists. As if Aurelian and Belisarius were not the moral equals of Totila. Yet in a previous note (ch. 38, ed. cited, iv, 181) on the Frankish history of Gregory of Tours, Gibbon had truly remarked that "it would not be easy, within the same historical space, to find more vice and less virtue." On that head Sismondi declares (Histoire des Français, ed. 1821, i, 403-4; Fall of the Roman Empire, i, 263) that "there was not a Merovingian king that was not a father before the age of fifteen and decrepit at thirty." Dunham (History of the Germanic Empire, 1834, i, 10) improves on this to the extent of asserting that "those abominable princes generally—such were their premature vices—died of old age before thirty." It is a fair surmise that, Clovis being a barbarian of great executive genius (cp. Guizot, Essais sur l'histoire de France, p. 43), his stock was specially liable to degeneration through indulgence. But Motley, whose Teutophile and Celtophobe declamation at times reaches nearly the lowest depth touched by his school, will have it (Rise of the Dutch Republic, ed. 1863, p. 12) that later "the Carlovingian race had been exhausted by producing a race of heroes." Any formula avails to support the dogma that "the German was loyal as the Celt was dissolute" (id. p. 6).

It is perhaps arguable that the early Teuton had a moral code peculiar to himself. Sismondi (Fall, i, 246) remarks, concerning Clothaire's son Gontran, called by Gregory "the good king Gontran," as compared with his brothers: "His morality indeed passed for good; he is only known to have had two wives and one mistress, and he repudiated the first before he married the second; his temper was, moreover, reputed to be a kindly one, for, with the exception of his wife's physician, who was hewn in pieces because he was unable to cure her; of his two brothers-in-law, whom he caused to be assassinated; and of his bastard brother, Gondebald, who was slain by treachery, no other act of cruelty is recorded of him than that he razed the town of Cominges to the ground and massacred all the inhabitants, men, women, and children." Sismondi has also appreciated (p. 205) what Gibbon has missed, the point of the letter of St. Avitus to Gondebald of Burgundy, who had killed his three brothers, exhorting him "to weep no longer with such ineffable piety the death of his brothers, since it was the good fortune of the kingdom which diminished the number of persons invested with royal authority, and preserved to the world such only as were necessary to rule it." Cp. Sismondi's Hist. des Français, i, 173.

A great name, such as Theodoric's, tends to dazzle the eye that[Pg 188] looks on the history of the time; but the great name, on scrutiny, is seen to stand for all the progress made in a generation. Theodoric, though he would never learn to read,[463] had a civilised education as regards the arts of government, and what was masterly in his rule may at least as well be attributed to that as to his barbaric stock.[464] It is important to note that in his reign, by reason of being forced to live on her own products, Italy actually attains the capacity to export grain after feeding herself[465]—a result to which the king's rule may conceivably have contributed.[466] In any case, the able ruler represents but a moment of order in an epic of anarchy.[467] After Theodoric, four kings in turn are assassinated, each by his successor; and the new monarchy begins to go the way of the old. What Belisarius began Narses finished, turning to his ends the hatreds between the Teutonic tribes. Narses gone, a fresh wave of barbarism flowed in under Alboin the Longobard, who in due course was assassinated by his outraged wife; and his successor was assassinated in turn. Yet again, the new barbarism began to wear all the features of disorderly decay; and the Longobard kingdom subsisted for over two hundred years, under twenty-one kings, without decisively conquering Venetia, or the Romagna, or Rome, or the Greek municipalities of the south.[468] Then came the Frankish conquest, completed under Charlemagne, on the invitation of the Pope, given because the Franks were good Athanasians and the Longobards Arians. The great emperor did what a great man could to civilise his barbarian empire; but instead of fitting it to subsist without him he destroyed what self-governing power it had.[469] Soon after his death, accordingly, the stone rolled downhill once more; and when Otto of Saxony entered Rome in 951, Italy had undergone five hundred years of Teutonic domination without owing to Teuton activity, save indirectly, one step in civil progress.[Pg 189]

It thus appears that, while barbaric imperialism has different aspects from that of "civilisation," having a possible alterative virtue where the conditions are in themselves stagnant, even then its work is at best negative, and never truly constructive. Charlemagne's work, being one of personal ambition, was in large part destructive even where it ostensibly made for civilisation; and at his death the Germanic world was as literally degenerate, in the sense of being enfeebled for self-defence, as was the Roman world in the period of its imperial decay.[470] It is true that, despite the political chaos which followed on the disintegration of his system, there is henceforth no such apparent continuity of decadence as had followed on the Merovingian conquest,[471] and his period shows a new intellectual activity.[472] But it is a fallacy to suppose that he created this activity, which is traceable to many sources. At most, Charlemagne furthered general civilisation by forcing new culture contacts in Central Europe[473], and bringing capable men from other countries, notably Alcuin, but also many from Ireland.[474] But these favourable conditions were not permanent; there was no steady evolution; and we are left asking whether progress might not have occurred in a higher degree had the emperor's work been left unattempted.[475] In any case, it is long after his time that civilisation is seen to make a steady recovery; and there is probably justice in the verdict of Sismondi, that Otto, an administrator of no less capacity than Charlemagne, did more for it than he.[476] Guizot, while refusing to admit that the work of Charlemagne passed away, admits Sismondi's proposition that in the tenth century civilised society in Europe was dissolving in all directions.[477] The subsequent new life came not of imperialism but of the loosening of empire, and not from the Teuton world but from the Latin. It is from the new municipal developments inferribly set up before and under Otto[478] that the fresh growth derives.[Pg 190]

Mommsen, in one of those primitively biassed anti-Celtic passages which bar his pretensions to rank as a philosophic historian, declares of the elusive Celtæ of antiquity, in dogged disregard of the question (so often put by German scholars and so often answered against him[479]) whether they were not Germans, that, "always occupied with combats and heroic actions, they were scattered far and wide, from Ireland to Spain and Asia Minor; but all their enterprises melted like snow in spring; they created nowhere a great State, and developed no specific civilisation."[480] The passage would be exactly as true if written of the Teutons. Every tendency and quality which Mommsen in this context[481] specifies as Celtic is strictly applicable to the race supposed to be so different from the Celts. "Attachment to the natal soil, so characteristic of the Italians and Germans, was foreign to them.... Their political constitution was imperfect; not only was their national unity feebly recognised,[482] as happens with all nations at their outset, but the separate communities were lacking in unity of aim, in solid control, in serious political sentiment, and in persistence. The sole organisation of which they were capable was the military,[483] in which the ties of discipline dispensed the individual from personal efforts." "They preferred the pastoral life to agriculture." "Always we find them ready to roam, or, in other words, to begin the march ... following the profession of arms as a system of organised pillage"; and so on. Such were in strict truth the peculiarities of the Germani, from Tacitus to the Middle Ages; while, on the contrary, there is plenty of evidence that not merely the Gauls but the Britons of Cæsar's day were much better agriculturists than the Germani.[484]

In the early stage the Germani actually shifted their ground every year;[485] and for every migration or crusade recorded of Celtæ, three are recorded of Teutons. The successive swarms who conquered Italy showed an almost invincible repugnance to the practice of agriculture; in the mass they knew no law and no ideal save the military; they were constantly at tribal war with each other, Frank with Longobard and Goth with Burgundian; Ostrogoths and Gepidæ[Pg 191] fought on the side of Attila at Chalons against Visigoths, Franks, Burgundians, and Saxons; they had no idea of racial unity; and not one of their kingdoms ever went well for two successive generations. The story of the Merovingians is one nightmare of ferocious discord; that of the Suevi in Spain, and of the Visigoths in Aquitaine, is mainly a memory of fratricide. As regards organisation, the only Teutonic kings who ever made any headway were those who, like Theodoric, had a civilised education, or, like the great Charles and Louis the Second, eagerly learned all that Roman tradition could teach them. The main stock were so incapable of political combination that, after the deposition of the last incapable Carlovingian (888), they could not arrest their anarchy even to resist the Huns and Saracens. Their later conquests of Italy came to nothing; and in the end, by the admission of Teutonic men of science,[486] there is nothing to show, in all the southern lands they once conquered, that they had ever been there. The supposed type has disappeared; the language never imposed itself; the Vandal kingdom in Africa went down like a house of cards before Belisarius;[487] the Teutondom of Spain was swept away by the Moors, and it was finally the mixed population that there effected the reconquest. No race had ever a fairer opportunity than the Visigoths in Spain, with a rich land and an undivided monarchy. "Yet after three centuries of undisputed enjoyment, their rule was overthrown at once and for ever by a handful of marauders from Africa. The Goth ... had been weighed in the balance and found wanting."[488] In Spain, France, and Italy alike, the language remained Romance; "not a word is to be found in the local nomenclature of Castile, nor yet of the Asturias, to tell the tale of the Visigoth";[489] even in England, where also the Teutonic peoples for six hundred years failed to attain either progressive civilisation or political order, the Norman conquerors, speaking a Romance language, vitally modified by it the vocabulary of the conquered. So flagrant are the facts that Savigny and Eichhorn in their day both gave the opinion that "the German nations have had to run through their history with an ingrained tendency in their character towards political dismemberment and social inequality." The contrary theory was a later development.[Pg 192][490]

If, instead of seeking simply for the scientific truth, we sought to meet Teutomania with Celtomania, we might argue that it was only where there was a Celtic basis that civilisation prospered in the tracks of the Roman Empire.[491] Mommsen, in the passage first above cited, declares that the Celts, meaning the Cisalpine Galli, "loved to assemble in towns and villages, which consequently grew and gained in importance among the Celts sooner than in the rest of Italy"—this just after alleging that they preferred pastoral life to agriculture, and just before saying that they were always on the march. If the first statement be true, it would seem to follow that the Celts laid the groundwork of medieval Italian civilisation; for it was in the towns of what had been Cisalpine Gaul that that civilisation flourished. Parts of Northern Italy had in fact been comparatively unaffected by the process which rooted out the peasantry in the South; and there was agriculture and population in the valley of the Po when they had vanished from large areas around and south of Rome.[492] It is certain that "Celtic" Gaul—whence Charlemagne (semi-civilised by the old environment) wrought hard, but almost in vain, to impose civilisation on Germany—reached unity and civilisation in the Middle Ages, while Germany remained divided and semi-barbaric; that Ireland preserved classical learning and gave it back to the rest of Europe when it had well-nigh disappeared thence;[493] that England was civilised only after the Norman Conquest; and that Germany, utterly disrupted by the Reformation where France regained unity, was so thrown back in development by her desperate intestine strifes that only in the eighteenth century did she begin to produce a modern literature. One of the most flagrant of modern fables is that which credits to "Teutonic genius" the great order of church architecture which arose in medieval and later France.[494] "That sublime manifestation of 'poetry in stone' so strangely called Gothic architecture is not only not Visigothic, but it was unknown in Spain for four hundred[Pg 193] years after the destruction of the Goths."[495] The Goth was not a builder but a wrecker.

But if anything has been proved by the foregoing analyses, it is that race theories are, for the most part, survivals of barbaric pseudo-science; that culture stage and not race (save as regards the need for mixture), conditions and not hereditary character, are the clues to the development of all nations, "race" being a calculable factor only where many thousands of years of given environments have made a conspicuous similarity of type, setting up a disadvantageous homogeneity. It was simply their prior and fuller contact with Greece and Rome, and further their greater mixture of stocks, that civilised the Galli so much earlier than the Germani. On the other hand, the national failure in Spain and Italy of the Teutonic stocks, as such, proves only that idle northern barbarians, imposing themselves as a warrior caste on an industrious southern population, were (1) not good material for industrial development, and (2) were probably at a physiological disadvantage in the new climate. Southerners would doubtless have failed similarly in Scandinavia.

I know of no thorough investigation of the amalgamation of the stocks, or the absorption or disappearance of the northern. There is some reason to suppose that early in Rome's career of conquest there began in the capital a substitution of more southerly physiological types—eastern and Spanish—for those of the early Latins. But the Italians at all times seem to have undergone a climatic selection which adapted them to Italy, where the northerners, whether Celt or Teuton, were not so adapted. The supposed divergence of character between northern and southern Italians, insisted on by the former in our own time, certainly cannot be explained by any Teutonic intermixture; for the Teutons were settled in all parts of Italy, and nowhere does the traditional blond type remain. Exactly such differences, it should be remembered, are locally alleged as between Norwegians and Danes, northern and southern Germans, and northern and southern English. If there be any real generic and persistent difference of temperament (there is none in variety of moral bias and mental capacity) or of nervous energy, it is presumably to be traced to climate. Some aspects of the problem are discussed at length in The Saxon and the Celt, pt. i, §§ 4, 5.

§ 2

The new life of Italy, so to speak, came of the ultimate[Pg 194] impotence of the northern invaders for imperialism. Again and again, from the time of Odoaker, we find signs of a growth of new life in the cities, now partly thrown on their own resources; and it is only the too great stress of the subsequent invasions that postpones their fuller growth for so many centuries. It is to be remembered that these invasions wrought absolute devastation where, even under Roman rule, there had been comparative well-being. Thus the province of Illyria, between the Alps and the Danube, whose outlying and exposed character made it unattractive to the senatorial monopolists, was under the Empire well populated by a free peasantry, who abundantly recruited the army.[496] In the successive invasions this population was almost obliterated; and when Odoaker conquered the Rugians, who then held the territory, he brought multitudes of them into stricken Italy, to people and cultivate its waste lands.[497] Theodoric, in turn, is held to have revived prosperity after overthrowing Odoaker; and we have seen reason to believe that after the loss of Africa even southern Italy perforce revived her agriculture;[498] but early in Theodoric's reign (496) we find Pope Gelasius declaring, doubtless with exaggeration, that in the provinces of Aemilia and Tuscany human life was almost extinct; while Ambrose writes that Bologna, Modena, Reggio, Piacenza, and the adjacent country remained ruined and desolate.[499] After Theodoric, Belisarius, in a struggle that exhausted central Italy, almost annihilated the Goths; and under Narses, who finished the conquest, there was again some recovery, the scattered remnants of the population congregating in the towns, so that Milan and others made fresh headway,[500] though the country remained in large part deserted.

This would seem to have been the turning-point in the long welter of Italian history. The Longobard conquest under Alboin forced on the process of driving the older inhabitants into the cities. The Ostrogothic kings, while they unwalled the towns they captured, had fortified Pavia, which was able to resist Alboin for four years, thus giving the other towns their lesson; and as he advanced the natives fled before him to Venice, to Genoa, to the cities of the Pentapolis, to Pisa, to Rome, to Gaeta, to Naples, and to Amalfi.[Pg 195][501] Above all, the cities of the coast, still adhering to the Greek Empire, and impregnable from land, were now allowed to retain for their own defence the revenue they had formerly paid to Constantinople; Naples won the right to elect her own dukes; and Venice won the status of an equal ally of Byzantium.[502] Thus once more there began to grow up, in tendency if not in form and name, republics of civilised and industrious men, in the teeth of barbarism and under the shadow of the name of empire.[503] Even in the eighth and ninth centuries the free populations of Rome and Ravenna were enrolled under the four heads of clerici, optimates militiæ, the milites or exercitus, and the cives onesti or free populus.[504] Beneath all were the great mass of unfree; but here at least was a beginning of new municipal life. The Longobards had not, as has been so often written, revived the spirit of liberty; conquest is the negation of the reciprocity in which alone liberty subsists; but they had driven other men into the conditions where the idea of liberty could revive; and in so far as "Lombard" civilisation in the next two hundred years distanced that of the Franks,[505] it was owing to the revival of old industries in the towns and the reactions of the other Italian cities, no less than to the renewed growth of rural population and agriculture.

Sismondi (Républiques, i, 55, 402-5; Fall, i, 242) uses the conventional phrase as to the Longobards reviving the spirit of freedom, while actually showing its fallacy. In his Short History of the Italian Republics (p. 13), he tells in the same breath that the invaders "introduced" several of their sentiments, "particularly the habit of independence and resistance to authority," and that in their conquests they considered the inhabitants "their property equally with the land." Dunham (Europe in the Middle Ages, 1835, i, 8) similarly speaks of the Longobards as "infusing a new spirit" into the "slavish minds of the Italians," and then proceeds (p. 9) to show that what happened was a flight of Italians from Longobard tyranny. He admits further (p. 17) that the Longobard code of laws was "less favourable to social happiness than almost any other, the Visigothic, perhaps, alone excepted"; and (p. 19) that the Longobards, wherever they could, "destroyed the [free] municipal institutions by subjecting the cities to the[Pg 196] jurisdiction of the great military feudatories, the true and only tyrants of the country." Gibbon decides that the Longobards possessed freedom to elect their sovereign, and sense to decline the frequent use of that dangerous privilege (ch. 45, Bohn ed. v, 125); but pronounces their government milder and better than that of the other new barbarian kingdoms (p. 127). Sismondi again (Fall, i, 259; so also Boulting in his recast of the Républiques, p. 8) declares that their laws, for a barbarian people, were "wise and equal." The midway truth seems to be that the dukes or provincial rulers came to feel some identity of interest with their subjects. Later jurists called their laws asininum jus, quoddam jus quod faciebant reges per se (Symonds, Renaissance in Italy, 2nd ed. i, 45).

Prof. Butler, in his generally excellent history of The Lombard Communes, is unduly receptive of the old formula that "the infusion of Teutonic blood had given new life to the Peninsula" (p. 37; also p. 38). His own narrative conflicts with the assertion; for he writes that the long isolation of such cities as Cremona in the midst of Teuton enemies "must have led to a rekindling of military and municipal spirit and the power of initiative" (p. 35). He notes, too, that the building up of a new and active "aristocracy" in the cities from plebeian elements was hateful to the Teuton, as represented by Otto of Freisingen in the time of Barbarossa (p. 48). And what had the Teutons to do with the making of Venice? And what of the similar movement in Spain, Africa, Illyria, and Gaul?

If the foregoing criticism be valid, it must be further turned against the expressions of Bishop Stubbs concerning the effect of the Teutonic conquest in setting up the Romance literatures. "The breath of life of the new literatures," he writes (Const. Hist. 4th ed. i, 7), "was Germanic.... The poetry of the new nations is that of the leading race ... even in Italy it owes all its sweetness and light to the freedom which has breathed from beyond the Alps." Here the thesis shifts unavowedly from "race" to "freedom," and all the while no data whatever are offered for generalisations which decide in a line some of the root problems of sociology. A laborious scholar can thus write as if in matters of total historic generalisation there were needed neither proof nor argument, while the most patient research is needed to settle a single detail of particular history.

On the whole, it may be psychologically accurate to say that the invaders, by setting up a new caste of freemen where before all classes were alike subordinate to the imperial tyranny, created a variation in the direction of a new self-government, the spectacle of privilege stimulating the unprivileged to desire it. But any conquest whatever might do this; and it is a plain paralogism to conclude that where the subjugated people does not react the fault is its own, while where it does the credit is to go to the [Pg 197]conquerors. It does not seem to have occurred to anyone to reason that the Norman Conquest of England was as such the bringer of the liberty later achieved there. Yet, as regards the Teutonic invasions of Italy, the principle passes current on all sides; and Guizot endorses it in one lecture (Hist. de la civ. en France, i, 7ième leçon, end), though in the next he gives an objective account which practically discredits it.

As regards the ideals of justice and freedom in general, the Teutonic laws, being framed not for a normal barbarian state but for a society of conquerors and conquered, were in some respects rather more iniquitous than the Roman. In particular the Ostrogothic laws of Theodoric and his son punish the crimes of the rich by fines, and put to death the poor for the same offences; while the degradation of the slave is in all the early Teutonic codes constantly insisted on. (Cp. Milman, Hist. Lat. Chr. 4th ed. ii, 36, and refs. Roman law also, however, differed in practice for rich and poor. Cp. Cassiodorus, l. ii, pp. 24, 25; iii, 20, 36; iv, 39; v, 14, and Finlay, ed. cited. i, 236.) Whether or not Gregory the Great, as has been asserted (Milman, as cited, p. 52), was the first to free slaves on the principle of human equality, he did not get the idea from the Teutons.

It took centuries, in any case, to develop the new upward tendency to a decisive degree. The Frankish conquest, like others, disarmed and unwalled the population as far as possible; and it seems to have been only in the tenth century, when the Hungarians repeatedly raided northern Italy (900-24), and the Saracens the southern coasts and the isles, that a general permission was given to the towns to defend themselves.[506] This time the balance of power lay with the defence; and to the mere disorderliness of the barbarian rule on one hand may in part be attributed the relative success of the cities of the later Empire as compared with those of the earlier. Latin Rome had not only disarmed its cities but accustomed them for centuries to ease and idleness; and before a numerous foe, bent on conquest, they made no resistance. Goths, Longobards, and Franks in turn sought to keep all but their own strong places disarmed; but their system could not wholly prevent the growth of a militant spirit in the industrial towns. On the other hand, the Hungarians and Saracens were bent not on conquest but on mere plunder, and were thus manageable foes. Had the Normans, say, come at this time[Pg 198] into Italy, they could have overrun the quasi-Teutonic communities as easily as the Teutons had done the Romans or each other. But the conditions being as they were, the swing was towards the independence of the cities; at first under the headship of the bishops, who in the period of collapse of the Carlovingian empire obtained part of the authority previously wielded by counts.[507] At this stage the bishop was by his position partly identified with the people, whom he would on occasion champion against the counts. Thus a new conception of social organisation was shaped by the pressures of the times; and when Otto came in 951 the foundations of the republics were laid. The next stage was the effacement of the authority of the counts within the cities; the next an extension of the bishops' authority over the whole diocese, which was as a rule the old Roman civitas or county. Thus the new municipalities came into being partly under the ægis of the Church.

Hallam (Middle Ages, ch. iii, pt. i) describes Sismondi as stating that Otto "erected" the Lombard cities into municipal communities, and dissents from that view. But Sismondi (Républiques, i, 95) expressly says that there are no charters, and that the municipal independence of the cities is to be inferred from their subsequent claims of prescription. As there is nothing to show for any regular government from the outside in the preceding period of turmoil, the inference that some self-government existed before and under Otto is really forced upon us. Ranke (Latin and Teutonic Nations, Eng. tr. p. 11) pronounces that the first consuls of the Italian cities, chosen by themselves, appear at the date of the first Crusade, 1100. "Beyond all question, we meet with them first in Genoa on the occasion of an expedition to the Holy Land." (They appear again in 1117 at a meeting of reconciliation for all Lombardy at Milan. Prof. W.F. Butler, The Communes of Lombardy, 1906, pp. 76-77.) But this clearly does not exclude prior forms of self-government for domestic needs. Consuls of some kind are noted "in Fano and other places in 883; in Rome in 901; Orvieto, 975; Ravenna, 990; Ferrara, 1015; Pisa and Genoa, 1100; Florence, 1101." Boulting-Sismondi, p. 63. (This last date appears to be an error. The document hitherto dated 1102 belongs to 1182. Villari, Two First Centuries of Florentine History, Eng. tr. pp. 55, 84. But there is documentary evidence for Florentine consuls in 1136. Id. p. 115.) Hallam himself points out that in the years 1002-6 the annalists, in recording the wars of the cities, speak "of the people and not of their leaders, which is the true republican tone of history"; and [Pg 199]notes that a contemporary chronicle shows the people of Pavia and Milan acting as independent states in 1047.

This state of things would naturally arise when the emperor and the nobles lived in a state of mutual jealousy. Cp. Bryce, Holy Roman Empire, pp. 127-29, 139-40, 150, 176. Mr. Bryce does not attempt to clear up the dispute, but he recognises that the liberties of the cities would naturally "shoot up in the absence of the emperors and the feuds of the princes." And this is the view finally of Heinrich Leo: "Seit Otto bemerken wir eine auffallende Aenderung in der Politik der ganzen nördlichen Italiens" (Geschichte von Italien, 1829, i, 325; Bk. iv, Kap. i, § 1). Leo points out that the granting of exemptions to the north Italian cities came from the Ottos. "It was not, however," he goes on, "as it has been supposed we must assume, the blending of Roman citizenship (which in the Lombard cities had never existed[508] in the form of commune or municipality [Gemeinde]) with the Lombard and German, but the blending of the survivors and the labourers, mostly of Roman descent, with the almost entirely German-derived free Gemeinde, through which the exemptions were obtained, and which gave a new aspect to the Italian cities" (pp. 326-27).

Similarly Karl Hegel, after noting the analogies between Roman collegia and German gilds, decides that "the German gilds were of native (einheimischen) origin, the same needs setting up the same order of institutions." He adds that the Christian Church first evoked in the gilds a real brotherly feeling. (Städte und Gilden der germanischen Völker in Mittelalter, 1891, Einleit. p. 10.) He admits, however, that the gilds, when first traced under Charlemagne, are forbidden under the name Gildonia, as oath-societies; and that they seem to have been unknown among the Franks (pp. 4, 6).

§ 3

Almost concurrently with the new growth of political life in the cities, rural life readjusted itself under a system concerning the merits of which there has been as much dispute as concerning its origins—the system of feudalism. Broadly speaking, that began in the relation between the leaders of the Germanic invasion and their chief followers, who, receiving lands as their share, or at another time as a reward, were expected as a matter of course to back the king in time of war, and in their turn ruled their lands and retainers on that principle. When the principle of heredity was established as regarded the crown, it was necessarily affirmed as regards land tenures; and[Pg 200] soon it was applied as a matter of course to nearly all the higher royal offices and "benefices" in the Frankish empire,[509] which after Charlemagne became the model for the Germanic and the French and English kingdoms. Thus "the aristocratic system was in possession of society"; and the conflict which inevitably arose between the feudal baronage and the monarchic power served in time to aggrandise the cities, whose support was so important to both sides.

[See Stubbs, Constitutional History of England, 4th ed. i, 273-74, note, for a sketch of the discussion as to the rise of feudalism. It has been obscured, especially among the later writers, by lack of regard for exact and consistent statement. Thus Bishop Stubbs endorses Waitz's dictum that "the gift of an estate by the king involved no defined obligation of service"; going on to say (p. 275) that a king's beneficium was received "with a special undertaking to be faithful"; and again adding the footnote: "Not a promise of definite service, but a pledge to continue faithful in the conduct in consideration of which the reward is given." Again, the bishop admits that by this condition the giver had a hold on the land, "through which he was able to enforce fidelity" (p. 275, note); yet goes on to say (p. 277) that homage and fealty "depended on conscience only for their fulfilment." Bishop Stubbs further remarks (i, 278) that there was a "great difference in social results between French (= Frankish) and German feudalism," by reason of the prostrate state of the old Gallic population; going on however to add: "But the result was the same, feudal government, a graduated system of jurisdiction based on land tenure, in which every lord judged, taxed, and commanded the class next below him; in which abject slavery formed the lowest, and irresponsible tyranny the highest grade; in which private war, private coinage, private prisons, took the place of the imperial institutions of government." Of course the bishop has previously (p. 274, note) endorsed Waitz's view, that "all the people were bound to be faithful to the king"; but the passage above cited seems to be his final generalisation.]

Whatever its social value, the feudal system is essentially a blend of Roman and barbarian points of polity; and in France, the place of its development, Gallic usage played a modifying part. It is dubiously described as growing up "from two great sources—the beneficium and the practice of commendation"—the first consisting (a) in gifts of land by the kings out of their own estates, and (b) in surrenders of land to churches or powerful men, on condition that[Pg 201] the surrenderer holds it as tenant for rent or service; while commendation consisted in becoming a vassal without any surrender of title. "The union of the beneficiary tie with that of commendation completed the idea of feudal obligation." The beneficium again, "is partly of Roman, partly of German origin," and "the reduction of a large Roman population," nominally freemen under the Roman system, "to dependence," placed it on a common footing with the German semi-free cultivator, "and conduced to the wide extension of the institution. Commendation, on the other hand, may have had a Gallic or Celtic origin...." In one or other of these developments, the German comitatus or chief's war-band, originally so different, "ultimately merged its existence." On the whole, then, the Teutons followed Gallo-Roman leads.

[See Stubbs, i, 275, 276; cp. p. 4; and Bryce, Holy Roman Empire, pp. 123-24. Under Otto, observes Mr. Bryce (p. 125), "the institutions of primitive Germany were almost all gone." Elsewhere Bishop Stubbs decides (p. 10) that "the essence of feudal law is custom," and again (p. 71), that "no creative genius can be expected among the rude leaders of the tribes of North Germany. The new life started at the point at which the old had been broken off." Then in the matter of the feudal system, "the old" must have been mainly the Gallo-Roman, for feudalism arose in Frankish Gaul, not in Germany. In an early passage (p. 3) Dr. Stubbs confuses matters by describing the government of France as "originally little more than a simple adaptation of the old German polity to the government of a conquered race," but proceeds to admit that "the Franks, gradually uniting in religion, blood, and language with the [Romanised] Gauls, retained and developed the idea of feudal subordination...." The rest of the sentence again introduces error. For a good general view of the evolution of feudalism see Prof. Abdy's Lectures on Feudalism, 1890, lect. v-vii.]

To pass a moral judgment on this system, either for or against, is to invert the problem. It was simply the most stable, or rather the most elastic arrangement possible in the species of society in which it arose; and we are now concerned with it merely as a conditioning influence in European civilisation. Hallam, severe towards all other men's generalisations, lightly pronounces that "in the reciprocal services of lord and vassal, there was ample scope for every magnanimous and disinterested energy," and that "the heart of man, when placed in circumstances which have a tendency to excite them, will seldom be deficient in such sentiments." On the other hand he concedes that "the bulk of the people, it is true,[Pg 202] were degraded by servitude," though he affirms that "this had no connection with the feudal tenures"; and he is forced to decide that "the peace and good order of society were not promoted by this system. Though private wars did not originate in the feudal customs, it is impossible to doubt that they were perpetuated by so convenient an institution, which indeed owed its universal establishment to no other cause."[510] The latter judgment sufficiently countervails the others; and the claim that feudalism was a school of moral discipline, which gradually substituted good faith for bad, will be endorsed by few students of the history of feudal times. A more plausible plea is that of Sismondi, that the feudal nobles of Italy, finding themselves resisted in the cities, which they had been wont to regard as their property, and finding the need of retainers for the defence of their castles, affranchised and protected their peasants as they had never done before. There resulted, he believes, an extension of agriculture which greatly increased the population in the tenth and eleventh centuries.[511] This is partially provable, and it gives us the standpoint most favourable to feudalism; which on the other hand is seen in the main to have soon reached its constructive limits, and to have promoted division no less than union.[512]

It is important here to realise how in the new civilisation, with its new language, there subsisted simultaneously all of the forms of spontaneous aggregation which had been evolved in the older Roman life. The aristocratic families in their very nomenclature exhibited anew the old evolution of the system of gentes, men being named "of the Uberti," "of the Buondelmonti," and so on. At the same time the industrial groups formed their communities, as the scholæ of workers had done of old; and in the political history of Florence we see constitution after constitution built out of political units so formed. First came the primary patriotism of the family stock; then that of the trade or industrial group; and only as a balance of these separate and largely hostile interests did the City-State subsist. Thus the new Italian civilisation was on its political side fundamentally and organically atomistic, civic union being never a primary[Pg 203] but always a secondary adjustment among groups whose first loyalty was to the primary fraternity. It was hard enough to evolve out of all this a common civic interest: to rise yet higher was impossible to the men of that era. And all the while the separate corporation of the Church, despite its inner feuds, tended to seek its separate interest as against all others.

As regards Italy, then, the value of the imperial feudal system, operating through the machinery of the bishoprics, was that it freed the energies of the cities, where alone the higher civilisation could germinate; but on the other hand it fostered in them a spirit of localism and separatism[513] that was ultimately fatal. The old Roman unity had been completely broken up by the invasions, by the strifes of Goths and Byzantines, by the sheer need for individual defence; and the empire, warring with the Papacy, fixed the tendency. Genoa, Pisa, Florence, Milan, and the smaller cities alike felt and acted as independent States, each against the other, forming occasional alliances only as separate nations or kings might do. In the ever-changing conflict of nobles, emperor, pope, cities, and bishops, all parties alike developed the spirit of self-assertion,[514] and wrought for their own special incorporation. At times prelates and cities combined against nobles, as under Conrad the Salic (1035-39), who was forced to revise the feudal law and free the remaining serfs; later, members of each species sided with pope or emperor in the strifes of Hildebrandt and Henry IV and their successors over the question of investitures, till the general interest compelled a peace. During these ages of inconclusive conflict the cities, thus far acting mainly in conjunction with their bishops or archbishops, developed their militia; their caroccio or banner-bearing fighting-car; and their institution of public election of consuls. Here the very name tells of the power of the Roman tradition, as against the supposed capacity of the Teutonic races for spontaneous free organisation and self-government—tells too of the survival of a majority of Roman-speaking people even in the upper and middle classes of the cities. We may readily grant, as against Savigny and his disciples, that the Roman institution of the curia had not been preserved in the cities of Lombardy. There was no reason why it should have been, even if the Longobard kings had been inclined to use it as a means of extorting taxation; for in the last ages of the Empire it had become detestable to the upper citizens themselves.[Pg 204]

[Savigny's proposition seems to be sufficiently confuted in a page or two by Leo, Geschichte von Italien, 1829, i, 82, 83. Karl Hegel later wrote a whole treatise to the same effect, Geschichte der Stadtverfassung von Italien, Leipzig, 1847. See also F. Morin, Origines de la démocratie, 3e ed. 1865, pp. 34-35, 59, 94, 122, etc. Guizot uncritically followed Raynouard, who held with or anticipated Savigny. As to the general revolt against the curia, cp. Leo, i, 47, and Guizot, Civilisation en France, i, 52-63. As to the theory of a Roman basis for the early civic organisation of Saxon Britain, cp. Pearson, History of England during the Early and Middle Ages, 1867, i, 264; Scarth, Roman Britain, App. i; Stubbs, Constitutional History of England, 4th ed. i, 99; and Karl Hegel, Städte und Gilden der germanischen Völker im Mittelalter, 1891, Einleit. pp. 10, 33, 34.]

But other Roman institutions remained even in the Lombard cities, in respect of the organisation of trades and commerce;[515] and apart from the Roman survivals at Ravenna,[516] the free cities of the coast, which had remained nominally attached to Byzantium, had their elective institutions, not specially democratic, but sufficiently "free" to incite the Lombard towns to similar procedure.[517] Venice in particular was moulded from the first by Byzantine influences. "Industry, commerce, economic methods, and financial institutions were affected as much as manners, the arts, and even religious life. Greek was the language of eastern trade, and served many Venetians as a second tongue."[518] Venice and Genoa alike developed a national police on Byzantine lines, prescribing the shape, construction, and manning of vessels[519] in the very spirit of late imperial Rome. And the cities of the peninsula could not but be similarly influenced. At all events it was in the train of these earlier developments, and perhaps in some degree on stimulus from papal Rome, that the new organic life of the Lombard and Tuscan cities began to develop itself in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The first seats of new commerce were in those cities to which, as we have seen, numbers of the old Italian population had fled before the Gothic invaders. Amalfi was such a seat even in the ninth century; and to its[Pg 205] merchants is credited the first traffic with the East in the Saracen period, as well as the first employment of the mariner's compass in navigation.[520] Next flourished Pisa, where also, perhaps, the ancient commerce had never wholly died out;[521] then her successful rivals, Genoa and Venice. And always commerce formed the basis of the revival.

Once begun, the new life was extraordinarily energetic on the industrial and constructive side, the independence and rivalry of so many communities securing for the time the maximum of effort. Already in the seventh century, indeed, their industry stood for a new era in history.[522] Where before even the men of the cities had gone clad in skins after the manner of the barbarian conquerors, they now began to weave for themselves woollen cloths like the civilised ancients.[523] Soon the art of weaving the finer cloths, which had hitherto been imported from Greece in so far as they were used at all, followed the simpler craft of wool-weaving.[524] It was in these cities that architecture may be said to have had its first general revival in western Europe since the beginning of the decay of Rome. Walls, towers, ports, quays, canals, municipal palaces, prisons, churches, cathedrals—such were the first outward and visible signs of the new era in Italian civilisation.[525] On these foundations were to follow the literature and the art and science which began the civilisation of modern Europe, the whole presided over and in part ordered and inspired by the recovered use of the great system of ancient Roman law, which too began to be redelivered to Europe early in the twelfth century from Italian Bologna.

[The public buildings of the eleventh century are to this day among the greatest in Italy. Cp. Sismondi with Testa, History of the War of Frederick I against the Communes of Lombardy, Eng. trans, p. 101. Before the tenth century the houses were mostly of wood, and thatched with straw or shingles (Testa, p. 11). It seems highly probable that the great development of building in the eleventh century was due to the sense of a new lease of life which came upon Christendom when it was found that the world did not come to an end, as had been expected, with the year 1000. That expectation must have gone far to paralyse all activity towards the end of the tenth century.]

[Pg 206]

And whereas the common political path to independence had been originally by way of the headship of the bishop as against the count, that headship in turn disappears during the eleventh century without any visible or general cataclysm. It would seem as if, when the obsessing fear of the end of the world with which men entered the year 1000 had passed away, the secular spirit recovered new life; and the intimate tyranny of the feudal representative of the military monarch being no longer a danger, the hand of the bishop was in turn thrown off. For a time the combination of city and prelate was politically valid, as in the case of Archbishop Aribert of Milan, under whose nominal rule the civic caroccio seems to have made its appearance; but even Aribert was shelved before his death, in the course of a civil strife between the people and the nobles. Thenceforward, for an age, the great Lombard city practically ruled itself, the nobles being included in a compromise brought about by Lanzone, who, himself a noble, had led the faction of the burghers. Fresh strifes followed, in which the succeeding archbishops bore part; but the virtual autonomy of the city remained.[526]

A similar evolution took place throughout northern Italy, in a sufficiently simple fashion. The bishops were still in large measure elected by the people, and rival candidates for vacant sees were always ready to outbid each other in surrendering political functions which were becoming ever harder to fulfil.[527] Beyond this, the course of the final stage of the emancipation of the cities is not traceable. "All that we can say is that at the opening of the eleventh century the bishops exercised in the cities the authority which had formerly been vested in the counts: at the close the cities have reduced the prelates to insignificance, and stand before us as so many free republics."[528] "The power of the bishops was the calyx which for a certain time had kept the flower of Italian life close-packed within the bud. Then the calyx weakened and opened, and Italian civic life unfolded itself to the eye to form and bear fruit."[529]

To this, however, we should add that in Florence the process was somewhat different. Under the Franks, Florence was ruled, like other cities, by a count, who replaced the Longobard duke; and under the later Germanic empire all Tuscany, and some further territory, is found ruled by a Marquis, or Markgraf, Ugo, in the tenth century. In the latter part of the tenth century his descendant Matilda sided with Hildebrandt against the Emperor. At this period Florence was a centre of the papal movement of monastic reform;[Pg 207] and the people actually rose against a simoniacal bishop, whom they fought for five years[530] (1063-68). Here, under the rule of Countess Matilda, the republic or "commune" is seen growing up rather of its own faculty than by help of the bishop; it already calls itself Populus Florentinus;[531] and after Matilda's death in 1115, it speedily develops the self-governing functions which it had partially exercised in her lifetime.[532] And Florence, be it noted, was the most democratic in population of the northern cities from the beginning.[533]

In no case, however, should we be right in supposing that "republic" or "commune" or "free city" meant a population united in devotion to a civic ideal. The eternal impulses of strife and repulsion had in no degree been eliminated by the formation of new State units. In Florence we find all the elements of Greek stasis at work in the first century of the commune.[534] Among the grandi were men who had risen from the people, and men descended from old feudal houses; and these spontaneously ranged themselves in factions. Such a division furthered imperialism by inclining groups to take the side of the emperor, who, wherever he could, set up his Podestà (potestas or "authority") in the cities.[535] Imperialistic nobles further formed groups called "Societies of the Towers," each of which had its common defensive tower or fort, communicating with the houses of neighbouring members; the officials of these societies were at times called consuls; and from these were usually chosen, in the early days, the consuls of the commune.[536] At times they were also consuls of trade guilds, a state of things proving a certain amount of assimilation between the trading and the noble class, who together formed the enfranchised "people," the town artisans and the rural cultivators of the surrounding contado or "county" being excluded.

The close community thus formed exhibited very much the same political tendencies as had marked that of early republican Rome. The cities, constantly flouted and menaced by the castled nobility of the surrounding territory, who blackmailed passing traders, soon learned to use the iron hand as against these, who in turn sought the emperor's protection; and cities wont to put down nobles were prompt to seek to coerce each other. On the death of the Emperor Frederick I (1197), Florence set on foot a League of the Tuscan cities, which, while primarily hostile to the Empire, repelled the claim of the Papacy to over-lordship as heir of the Countess Matilda.[Pg 208] On such a basis there might conceivably have arisen a new and strong national life; but soon Florence, like old Athens, was oppressing her allies, who gave their sympathy to a town like Semifonte, the refuge of all who fled from places conquered and taxed by her. To individual allies like Sienna, Florence was substantially faithless, and so strengthened from the first the fatal tendency to separatism—this while the inner social sunderance was steadily deepening.[537]

None of the forces at work was remedial on this side; the regimen of the Podestà, even when he was actually a foreigner, furthered instead of checking strife between communities;[538] and the more "aristocratic" cities were at least as quarrelsome as the less. Bologna played the tyrant city as vigorously as Florence.[539] Rome was among the worst governed of all. In the thirteenth century, under Innocent IV, we find the fighting factions of the nobles using the Coliseum and other ancient monuments as fortresses, garrisoned by bandits in their pay, who pillaged traders and passengers; and not the Papacy, but the "senator" chosen by the people—a Bolognese noble—put them down, hanging nobles and bandits alike.[540]

Such was civilisation at the centre of Christendom after a thousand years of Christianity. The notable fact is that through all this wild play of primitive passion there was yet growing up a new Italian civilisation; and it is part of our task to trace its causation.


[455] Germania, c. 2.

[456] For a good view of the many points in common between Teutonic barbarism and normal savagery, see the synopsis of Guizot, Histoire de la civilisation en France, i, 7ième leçon. Lamprecht acquiesces (What is History? 1905, p. 213).

[457] "Everything about them [the Longobards], even for many years after they have entered upon the sacred soil of Italy, speaks of mere savage delight in bloodshed and the rudest forms of sensual indulgence" (Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, 2nd ed. v, 156. Cp. Lamprecht, What is History? pp. 48-49.)

[458] Ranke's statement (Latin and Teutonic Nations. Eng. tr. p. 1) that the "collective German nations at last brought about" a Latino-Teutonic unity is a merely empirical proposition, true in no organic sense.

[459] Gibbon, ch. 11, Bohn ed. i, 365.

[460] It is true that none of the generals mentioned was an Italian. Stilicho was indeed a Vandal; Aetius was a Scythian; Belisarius was a Thracian; and Narses probably a Persian. But they handled armies made up of all races; and their common qualification was a military science to be learned only from Roman tradition. Cp. Finlay, History of Greece from its Conquest by the Romans, ed. 1877, i, 211.

[461] Paulus Orosius, vii, 43. The record has every appearance of trustworthiness, the historian premising that at Bethlehem he heard the blessed Jerome tell how he had known a wise old inhabitant of Narbonne, who was highly placed under Theodosius, and had known Athaulf intimately; and who often told Jerome how that great and wise king thus delivered himself.

[462] Sismondi, citing the Diplomata, tom. iv, p. 616.

[463] Because of his contempt for the religious controversies to which the literature of his time mainly ran.

[464] See Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Rom, B. ii, Kap. 2, as to his constant concern for culture and established usage.

[465] Cassiodorus, 1. i, c. 34; iii, 44; iv, 5, 7. Cp. Finlay, ed. cited, i, 236, note. At the same time it is to be remembered that the population was in some districts greatly reduced. See below, p. 194. And there were, of course, Italian scarcities from time to time. Cassiodorus, v, 35; x, 27; xi, 5.

[466] Cp. Gibbon, ch. 39 (Bohn ed. iv, 270-71), as to the general care of the administration and the prosperity of agriculture.

[467] "Gross war Ruhm und Glanz seines [Theodoric's] Reiches; die inneren Schäden und Gefahren desselben blieben damals noch verhüllt, kaum etwa dem Kaiser und den Merovingen erkennbar" (F. Dahn, Urgeschichte der germanischen und romanischen Völker, in Oncken's Allg. Gesch. 1881, i, 246).

[468] Machiavelli points out (Istorie Fiorentine, 1. i) that this was the result of their having, at the death of their tyrant Clef, suspended the election of kings and set up the system of thirty dukes or marquises—an arrangement unfavourable to further conquest.

[469] See Guizot, Essais sur l'histoire de France, 7e édit. pp. 185, 189, 195. But cp. pp. 198-201 as to the rise of hereditary feudality. Cp. also the Histoire de la civilisation en France, 13e édit. iii, 103; iv, 77-79.

[470] Cp. Sismondi, Républiques italiennes, ed. cited, i, 85.

[471] Guizot, Histoire de la civilisation en France, ii, 134, 162; Bryce, Holy Roman Empire, 8th ed. pp. 71-74.

[472] See Guizot's table, pp. 130-32.

[473] For a favourable view of the case see Schröder's Geschichte Karl's des Grossen, 1869, Kapp. 15, 16; Bryce, as cited, pp. 71-74; and Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Rom, B. v, Kap. i, § 2. Gregorovius (p. 20) calls Charlemagne "the Moses of the Middle Ages, who had happily led mankind through the wilderness of barbarism"—a proposition grounded on race-pride rather than on evidence.

[474] Cp. Poole, Illustrations of the History of Medieval Thought, 1884, pp. 15-16, 22.

[475] There is reason to infer that the very movement of theological thought which marks the ninth century was due to Moslem contacts. These might have been more fruitful under peace conditions than under those of Charlemagne's campaigns.

[476] Républiques, i, 91. "The Holy Roman Empire, taking the name ... as denoting the sovereignty of Germany and Italy vested in a Germanic prince, is the creation of Otto the Great" (Bryce, Holy Roman Empire, p. 80). Gregorovius, instead of giving Otto some such praise as he bestows on Karl, pronounces this time that "the Roman Empire was now regenerated by the German nation" (B. vi, Kap. iii, § 1).

[477] Guizot, Civilisation, iii, 103; Sismondi, Républiques, i, 87. In his Essais, however (p. 238, etc.), Guizot speaks of the "belle mais stérile tentative de Charlemagne." See the problem discussed in the author's essay on Gibbon, in Pioneer Humanists, p. 335 sq.

[478] Sismondi, Républiques, i, 95. See below, pp. 198-99.

[479] E.g. Wieseler, Die deutsche Nationalität der kleinasiatischen Galater, 1877; Holtzmann, Kelten und Germanen, 1855.

[480] History of Rome, bk. ii, ch. iv.

[481] The author has examined a later deliverance of Mommsen's on the subject in The Saxon and the Celt, pt. iii, § 1.

[482] In a later passage (bk. v, ch. 7) Mommsen credits the Celts with "unsurpassed fervour of national feeling." His History abounds in such contradictions.

[483] In the passage cited in the last note, the historian asserts that the Celts were unable "to attain, or barely to tolerate ... any sort of fixed military discipline." Such is the consistency of malice.

[484] Cp. Elton, Origins of English History, 2nd ed. 1890, p. 115.

[485] Tacitus, Germania, c. 26; Cæsar, Bell. Gall. vi, 21.

[486] See Virchow, as cited in Penka's Die Herkunft der Arier, 1886, p. 98.

[487] "Never was there a more rapid conquest than that of the vast kingdom of the Vandals" (Sismondi, Fall of the Roman Empire, Eng. tr. i. 221).

[488] U.R. Burke, History of Spain, Hume's ed. i. 115. The special explanation of the Visgothic decadence is held by this historian to lie (1) in the elective character of the monarchy, which left the king powerless to check the extortions of the nobles who degraded and enfeebled the common people, and (2) in the ascendency of the Church.

[489] Burke, as cited, i. 119.

[490] Cp. Prof. Paul Vinogradoff, Villainage in England, 1892, pp. 10-11, 17.

[491] Guizot (Hist. de la Civ. en France, i, 2e leçon) has an extraordinary passage to the effect that while German and English civilisation was German in origin, that of France is romaine dès ses premiers pas. As if there had not been a primary Gallic society as well as a Germanic. If Mommsen be right, the Galli before their conquest were much more advanced in civilisation than the Germani. In point of fact, the Celtæ of Southern France had commercial contact with the Greeks before they had any with the Romans. And in the very passage under notice, Guizot goes on to say that the life and institutions of northern France had been essentially Germanic. The theorem is hopelessly confused. The plain facts are that German "civilisation" came from Italy and Romanised Gaul, albeit later, as fully as did that of Gaul from Italy.

[492] Cp. Prof. Butler, The Lombard Communes, 1906, pp. 23, 28-30.

[493] Poole, Illustrations, as cited, p. 11.

[494] For a pleasing attempt to retain the credit for Teutonism, on the score that German invaders had "determined the character of the population" in the region of Paris, where the new architecture arose, see Dr. E. Richard's History of German Civilisation, New York, 1911, pp. 203-4. It is not explained at what stage the German responsibility for French evolution ceased.

[495] Burke, as cited, i, 118. On the "Gothic mania," cp. Michelet, Hist. de France, vii—Renaissance: Introd. § 10 and note in App.

[496] Sismondi, Fall of the Roman Empire, as cited, i, 35, 172, 238.

[497] Gibbon, ch. 36, end.

[498] Above, pp. 188.

[499] Citations in Gibbon, ch. 36; Bohn ed. iv, 105. For a somewhat fuller sketch than Gibbon's see Manso, Geschichte des ost-gothischen Reiches in Italien, 1824, §§ 73-79. Cp. Spalding, Italy, i, 398-400. It is possible that Gelasius and Ambrose were thinking mainly of the disappearance of the landowners, and were overlooking the serfs. Deserted villas would give the effect of desolation while the mass of the common people remained.

[500] Sismondi, Fall, i, 236. Cp. Gibbon, ch. 43; Bohn ed. iv, 536.

[501] Sismondi, Fall, i, 240; Gibbon, ch. 45, ed. cited, v. 116-18.

[502] Gibbon, as cited, v, 118.

[503] Sismondi, Fall, i, 241. The movement, as Sismondi notes, extended to Spain, to Africa, to Illyria, and to Gaul.

[504] Butler, The Communes of Lombardy, p. 45.

[505] Sismondi, Fall, i, 259. The historian decides that "the race of the conquerors took root and throve in the soil, without entirely superseding that of the conquered natives, whose language still prevailed," but gives no proofs for the first proposition. The uncritical handling of these questions in the histories leaves essential problems still unsolved. Cp. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, 2nd ed. vi (bk. vii), 579-93; vii (bk. viii), 384, 385. Mr. Boulting does not try to solve the problem.

[506] This is again Sismondi's generalisation (Histoire des républiques italiennes, ed. 1826, i, 21; Short History, p. 14; Boulting-Sismondi, p. 60). He has been followed by Procter (Perceval's History of Italy, 1825, 2nd ed. 1844, p. 9); by Dunham (Europe in the Middle Ages, i, 23); by Symonds (Renaissance in Italy, 2nd ed. i, 48); and by Prof. W.F. Butler (The Communes of Lombardy, p. 46). It is noteworthy that at the same period Henry the Fowler encouraged free cities in Germany for the same reason.

[507] Butler, pp. 40-43; Boulting-Sismondi, pp. 23-27.

[508] Note by Leo.—"Except in the cities acquired latest, and by capitulation from the Romans"—i.e. the Greek Empire.

[509] Guizot, Essais, pp. 199-201; Stubbs, i, 277. Cp. refs. in Buckle, author's ed. p. 348-49.

[510] Europe during the Middle Ages, ch. ii, pt. ii, end. Compare Hodgkin on "the Feudal Anarchy which history has called, with unintended irony, the Feudal System," and on the fashion in which, in the capitularies of Charlemagne, "we have imperial sanction given to that most anti-social of all feudal practices, the levying of private war" (Italy and her Invaders, viii, 301-2).

[511] Short History, p. 15. "The liberated agricultural classes multiplied rapidly, and brought vast tracts of abandoned soil under cultivation" (Boulting, p. 27). It probably needed such an expansion, we may note, to make possible the Crusades.

[512] Sismondi finally decides that in the tenth century feudalism had induced in the main rather a dissolution than an organisation of society (Républiques, i, 85-91). Cp. Guizot, History de la civ. en France, as cited, iii, 103, 272-75, iv, 77-79; Essais, v; and Boulting, p. 17.

[513] Cp. Sismondi, Républiques, i, 105-14.

[514] See Neander, Church History, Eng. tr., vii, 128 sq. and Milman, Hist. Latin Christ., lv, 61 sq., as to Hildebrandt's efforts to win public opinion to his side against clerical marriage, and the resulting growth of private judgment.

[515] "Die Abtheilung in Zünfte und die daran sich anknüpfende Markt-polizei mögen die einzigen Institute aus römischer Zeit sein, die sich auch unter den Longobarden erhielten" (Leo, i, 85; cp. p. 335). Cp. Villari, Two First Centuries, Eng. trans, pp. 95-99.

[516] Leo decides (i, 335) that in Ravenna between 1031 and 1115 there appear "gar keine Stadtconsuln in Urkunden, aber wohl Leute, die sich ex genere consulum nennen." Cp. Boulting-Sismondi, p. 58.

[517] As the general governor elected by the Venetians to stay their dissensions (697) bore the title of doge or duke, which was that borne by the Greek governors of Italian provinces, the influence of imperial example must be admitted, especially as Venice continued to profess allegiance to the Greek empire. The cities of Naples, Gaeta, and Amalfi, again, while connected only nominally and commercially with Byzantium, gave the title of doge to their first magistrate likewise (Sismondi, Short History, pp. 25, 26).

[518] Nys. Researches in the History of Economics, Eng. trans. 1899, p. 61.

[519] Id. p. 59.

[520] Cp. Pignotti, Hist. of Tuscany, Eng. trans. 1823, iii, 256; Hallam, Middle Ages, 11th ed. iii, 328, 332. It is clear that the polarity of the magnet was known long before the practical use of it in the compass.

[521] Hallam, iii, 441; Pignotti, iii, 256-58.

[522] Sismondi, Républiques, i, 384, 385.

[523] Pignotti, iii, 262-64; Dante, Paradiso, xv, 116.

[524] Pignotti, iii, 265.

[525] "The citizens (900-1200) allowed themselves no other use of their riches than that of defending or embellishing their country" (Sismondi, Short History, p. 23).

[526] Butler, The Communes of Lombardy, pp. 58-70.

[527] Id. p. 71.

[528] Id. P.55.

[529] Leo, as cited, i, 417.

[530] Villari, Two First Centuries, p. 74 sq.

[531] Id. p. 79.

[532] Id. pp. 84-92.

[533] Id. p. 91.

[534] Id. p. 142.

[535] Id. pp. 143, 148, 151, 153.

[536] Id. pp. 119, 121.

[537] Villari, Two First Centuries, pp. 158-72.

[538] Id. p. 173.

[539] Sismondi, Short History, p. 77.

[540] Id. p. 82.

Chapter II


§ 1

In the twelfth century, then, we find in the full flush of life a number of prosperous Italian republics or "communes," closely resembling in many respects the City-States of ancient Greece. The salient differences were (1) the Christian Church, with its wealth[541] and its elaborate organisation; (2) the pretensions of the Empire; and (3) the presence of feudal nobles, some of whom were first imposed by the German emperors on the cities, and who, after their exodus and their life as castle-holders, had in nearly every case compromised with the citizens, spending some months of every year in their town palaces by stipulation of the citizens themselves. All of these differentia counted for the worse to Italy, in comparison with Hellas, as aggravations of the uncured evil of internal strife. The source of their strength—separateness and the need to struggle—was at the same time the source of their bane; for at no time do we find the Italian republics contemplating durable peace even as an ideal, or regarding political union as aught save a temporary expedient of the state of war.

On the familiar assumption of "race character" we should accordingly proceed to decide that the Italians, by getting mixed with the Teutons, had lost the "instinct of union" which built up Rome. Those who credit "Teutonic blood" with the revival never think of saddling it with the later ruinous strifes of cities and parties, or with the vices of the "Italian character." The rational explanation is, of course, that there was now neither a sufficient preponderance of strength in any one State to admit of its unifying Italy by conquest, nor such a concurrence of conditions as could enable any State to become thus preponderant; while on the other hand the Empire and the Church, each fighting for its own hand, were perpetual fountains of discord. The factions of Guelph (papal) and Ghibelline[Pg 210][542] (imperial) stereotyped and intensified for centuries every proclivity to strife inherent in the Italian populations.

All the cities alike were at once industrial and military, with the exception of Rome; and for all alike a career of mere plunder was out of the question, though every city sought to enlarge its territory. Forcible unification could conceivably be wrought only by the emperor or the Papacy; and in the nature of things these powers became enemies, carrying feud into the heart of every city in Italy, as well as setting each on one or the other side according as the majority swayed for the moment. At times, as after the destruction of Milan by Frederick Barbarossa, hatred of the foreigner and despot could unite a number of cities in a powerful league; but though the emperor was worsted there was no excising the trouble of the separate interests of the bishops and the nobles, or that of the old jealousies and hatreds of many of the cities for each other. Pope Innocent IV, after the death of Frederick II in 1250, turned against the Papacy many of the Milanese by his arrogance. They had made immense sacrifices for the Guelph cause; and their reward was to be threatened with excommunication for an ecclesiastical dispute.[543] The Christian religion not only did not avail to make Italians less madly quarrelsome than pagan Greeks: it embittered and complicated every difference; and if the cities could have agreed to keep out the Germans, the Papacy would not have let them. Commonly it played them one against the other, preaching union only when there was a question of a crusade.

Some writers, even non-Catholics, have spoken of the Papacy as a unifying factor in Italian life. Machiavelli, who was pretty well placed for knowing where the shoe pinched, repeatedly (Istorie fiorentine, l. i; Discorsi sopra Tito Livio, i, 12) speaks of it bitterly as being at all times the source of invasion and of disunion in Italy. This is substantially the view of Gregorovius (Geschichte der Stadt Rom, B. iv, cap. iii, § 3) as to the process in the city of Rome to begin with. So also Symonds: "The whole history of Italy proves that Machiavelli was right when he asserted that the Church had persistently maintained the nation in disunion for the furtherance of her own selfish ends" (Renaissance in Italy: The Age of the Despots, ed. 1907, p. 75).

As a civilising lore or social science the religion of professed love[Pg 211] and fraternity, itself a theatre of divisions and discords,[544] counted literally for less than nothing against the passions of ignorance, egoism, and patriotism; for ignorant all orders of the people still were—more ignorant than the Greeks of Athens—in the main matters of political knowledge and self-knowledge.[545] Yet such is the creative power of free intelligence even in a state of strife—given but the conditions of economic furtherance and variety of life and of culture-contact—that in this warring Italy of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries there grew up a civilisation almost as manifold as that of Hellas itself. The elements of variety, of culture, and of competition were present in nearly as potent a degree. In the north, in particular, the Lombard, and Tuscan, and other cities differed widely in their industries. Florence, besides being one of the great centres of European banking, was eminently the city of various occupations, manufacturing and trading in woollens and silks and gold brocades, working in gold and jewelry, the metals, and leather, and excelling in dyes. In 1266 the reformed constitution specified twelve arti or crafts, seven major and five minor, the latter list being later increased to fourteen.[546] Pisa, beginning as a commercial seaport, trading with the East, whither she exported the iron of Elba, became the first great seat of the woollen manufacture.[547] Milan, besides silks and woollens, manufactured in particular weapons and armour. Genoa had factories of wool, cotton, silk, maroquin, leather, embroidery, and silver and gold thread.[548] Bologna was in a special degree a culture city, with its school of law, and as such would have its special minor industries. But indeed every one of the countless Italian republics, with its specialty of dialect, of life, and of outward aspect, must have had something of its own to contribute to the complex whole.[549]

In the south the Norman kingdom set up in the eleventh century meant yet another norm of life, for there Frederick II established the University of Naples; and Saracen contact told alike on thought and imagination. All through these regions there[Pg 212] now reigned something like a common speech, the skeleton of old Latin newly suppled and newly clothed upon; and for all educated men the Latin itself was the instrument of thought and intercourse. For them, too, the Church and the twofold law constituted a common ground of culture and discipline. On this composite soil, under heats of passion and stresses of warring energies, there gradually grew the many-seeded flower of a new literature.

Gradual indeed was the process. Italy, under stress of struggle, was still relatively backward at a time when Germany and France, and even England, under progressive conditions quickened with studious life;[550] and there was a great intellectual movement in France, in particular, in the twelfth century, when Italy had nothing of the kind to show, save as regarded the important part played by the law school of Bologna in educating jurists for the whole of western Europe. For other developments there still lacked the needed conditions, both political and social. The first economic furtherance given to mental life by the cities seems to have been the endowment of law schools and chronicle-writers; the schools of Ravenna and Bologna, and the first chronicles, dating from the eleventh century. Salerno had even earlier had a medical school, long famous, which may or may not have been municipally endowed.[551] To the Church, as against her constant influence for discord and her early encouragement of illiteracy,[552] must be credited a share in these beginnings. After the law school of Bologna (whence in 1222 was founded that of Padua, by a secession of teachers and students at strife with the citizens) had added medicine and philology to its chairs, the Papacy gave it a faculty of theology; and in Rome itself the Church had established a school of law. The first great literary fruit of this intellectual ferment is the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74), a performance in which the revived study of Aristotle, set up by the stimulus of Saracen culture, is brought by a capacious and powerful mind to the insuperable task of philosophising at once[Pg 213] the Christian creed and the problems of Christendom. Close upon this, the Latin expression of accepted medieval thought, comes the great achievement of Dante, wherein a new genius for the supreme art of rhythmic speech has preserved for ever the profound vibration of all the fierce and passionate Italian life of the Middle Ages. In his own spirit he carries it all, save its vice and levity. Its pitiless cruelty, its intellectuality, its curious observation, its ingrained intolerance, its piercing flashes of tenderness, its capacity for intense and mystic devotion, its absolute dogmatism in every field of thought, the whole pell-mell of its vehement experience, throbs through every canto of his welded strain. And no less does he incarnate for ever its fatal incapacity for some political compromise. For Dante, politics is first and last a question of the dominance of his faction: his fellow-citizens are for him Guelphs or Ghibellines, and he shares the Florentine rabies against rival or even neighbouring towns; his imperialism serving merely to extend the field of blind strife, never to subject strife to the play of reason. Exiled for faction by the other faction, he foreshadows the doom of Florence.

§ 2

With Dante we are already in the fourteenth century, close upon Petrarch and Boccaccio; and already the whole course of political things is curving back to tyranny, for lack of faculty in the cities, placed as they were, to learn the lesson of politics. Their inhabitants could neither combine as federations to secure well-being for all of their own members, nor cease to combine as groups against each other. Always their one principle of union remained negative—animal hatred of city to city, of faction to faction. It is important then to seek for a clear notion of the forces which fostered mental life and popular prosperity alongside of influences which wrought for demoralisation and dissolution. Taking progress to consist on one hand in increase and diffusion of knowledge and art, and on the other in better distribution of wealth, we find that slavery, to begin with, was substantially extinguished in the time of conflict between cities, barons, and emperor.

Already in the fifth century the process had begun in Gaul. Guizot treats the change from slave to free labour as a mystery. "Quand et comment il s'opéra au sein du monde romain, je ne le sais pas; et personne, je crois, ne l'a découvert; mais ... au commencement du Ve siècle, ce pas était fait; il y avait, dans toutes les grandes villes de la Gaule, une classe assez [Pg 214]nombreuse d'artisans libres; déjà même ils étaient constitués en corporations.... La plupart des corporations, dont on a continué d'attribuer l'origine au moyen âge, remontent, dans le midi de la Gaule surtout et en Italie, au monde romain" (Civilisation en France, i, 57). But a few pages before (p. 51) we are told that at the end of the fourth century free men commenced in crowds to seek the protection of powerful persons. On this we have the testimony of Salvian (De gubernatione Dei, lib. v). The solution seems to be that the "freed" class in the rural districts were the serfs of the glebe, who, as we have seen, were rapidly substituted for slaves in Italy in the last age of the Empire; and that in the towns in the same way the crumbling upper class slackened its hold on its slaves. Both in town and country such detached poor folk would in time of trouble naturally seek the protection of powerful persons, thus preparing the way for feudalism.

At the same time the barbarian conquerors maintained slavery as a matter of course, so that in the transition period slaves were perhaps more numerous than ever before (cp. Milman, Hist. Lat. Christ. 4th ed. ii, 45-46; Lecky, European Morals, ed. 1884, ii, 70). Whatever were the case in the earlier ages of barbarian irruption, it seems clear that during the Dark Ages the general tendency was to reduce "small men" in general to a servile status, whether they were of the conquering or the conquered stock. Cp. Guizot, Essais, as cited, pp. 161-72; Civilisation, iii, 172, 190-203 (leçons 7, 8). The different grades of coloni and servi tended to approximate to the same subjection in Europe as in the England of the twelfth century. But in France and Italy betterment seems to have set in about the eleventh century; and the famous ordinance of Louis the Fat in 1118 (given by Guizot, iii, 204) tells of a general movement, largely traceable to the Crusades, which in this connection wrought good for the tillers of the soil in the process of squandering the wealth of their masters. Cp. Duruy, Hist. de France, ed. 1880, i, 291.

The process of causation is still somewhat obscure, and is further beclouded by a priori views and prepossessions as to the part played by religion in the change. The fact that the Catholic Church everywhere, though the last to free her own slaves,[553] encouraged penitents to free theirs, is taken as a phenomenon of religion, though we have seen slavery of the worst description[Pg 215][554] flourishing within the past century in a devoutly Protestant community. Pope Urban II actually reduced to slavery the wives of priests who refused to submit to the law of celibacy, handing them over to the nobles or bishops.[555] The rational inference is that the motives in the medieval abandonment of slavery, as in its disuse towards the end of the Roman Empire, and as in its later re-establishments in Christian States, were economic—that (1) nobles on the one hand and burghers on the other found it to their advantage to free their slaves for military purposes,[556] by way of getting money; (2) that the Church in the Dark Ages actually had to enrol many serfs as priests, the desire of freemen to escape military service by taking orders having made necessary a prohibitory law;[557] and (3) that the Church further promoted the process,[558] especially during the crusading period, because a free laity was to her more profitable than one of slaves—as apart from her own serfs. Freemen could be made to pay clerical dues: slaves could not, save on a very small scale.

See Larroque, as cited, ch. ii. The claim of Guizot (Essais, p. 167; Civ. en Europe, leç. 6) that the religious character of most of the formulas of enfranchisement proves them to have had a specially Christian motive, is pure fallacy. Before Christianity the process of manumission was a religious solemnity, being commonly carried out in the pagan temples (cp. A. Calderini, La manomissione e la condizione dei liberti in Grecia, 1908, p. 96 sq.), and there were myriads of freedmen. It appears from Cicero (Philipp. viii, 11, cited by Wallon, Hist. de l'esclavage dans l'antiquité, ii, 419) that a well-behaved slave might expect his liberty in six years. Among the acts of Constantine to establish Christianity was the transference of this function of manumission from the pagan temples to the churches. Thus Christianity took over the process, like the idea of "natural equality" itself, from the pagans.

And the principle goes farther. In Adam Smith's not altogether coherent discussion of the general question,[559] the unprofitableness of slave labour in comparison with free is urged, probably rightly, as counting for much more than the alleged bull of Alexander III (12th[Pg 216] century); while the interest of the sovereign as against the noble is noted as a further factor. As regards the "love of domination" to which Smith attributes the slowness of slave-owners to see the inferiority of slave labour, it is to be remembered that the Roman slave-owner was fixed in his bias by the perpetual influx of captives and cheap slaves from the East; that this resource was lacking to the medieval Italians, who had to take the costly course of breeding most of their slaves; and that in such circumstances the concurrent pressure of all the other causes mentioned could very well suffice to make emancipation general.

While the lowest stratum of the people was thus being raised, the state of war was for a time comparatively harmless by reason of the primitiveness of the fighting. The cities were all alike walled, and incapable of capture in the then state of military technique;[560] so they had periodical conflicts[561] which often came to nothing, and involved no heavy outlay; even the long struggle with Barbarossa was much less vitally costly to the cities than to Germany. Frederick's eight variously devastating campaigns, ending in frustration, were the beginning of the medieval demoralisation of Germany,[562] to which such a policy meant retrogression in industry and agriculture; while the Lombards, traders and cultivators first, and soldiers only secondarily, rapidly made good all their heavy losses.

It was when the practice of war grew more and more systematic under Frederick II, and the policy of cities became more and more capricious for or against the Emperor, that their mutual animosities became more commonly savage. Thus we read that in 1250 "the Parmesans were overthrown by the Cremonese, losing 3,000 men. The captives were bound in the gravel-pit near the Taro ... the whole population seemed to have been captured. The Cremonese tortured them shamefully, drawing their teeth and ramming toads into their mouths. The exiles from Parma were more cruel to their countrymen than the Cremonese were."[563] And, indeed, the Parmesans a century before had burned Borgo San Donnino and led away all its inhabitants as prisoners.[564] Now the Cremonese threw into prison 1,575 of their Parmesan enemies; and when after a year the dungeons were thrown open, only 318 remained alive.[565] Thus[Pg 217] civilisation in effect went backwards on several lines at once, the spirit of internecine strife growing step by step with the economic process under which the community divided into rich and poor, as formerly into noble and plebeian.

Up till the end of the thirteenth century, however, the growth of capital went on slowly,[566] and the division between rich and poor was not deep, the less so because thus far the middle and upper classes held by the sentiment of civic patriotism to the extent of being ready to spend freely for civic purposes, while they spent little on themselves as compared with the rich of a later period. So that, although the republics were from the first, in differing degrees, aristocratic rather than democratic—the popolo being the body of upper-class and middle-class citizens with the franchise, not the mass of the population—and though the workers had later to struggle for their political privileges very much as did the plebs of ancient Rome, the economic conditions were for a considerable period healthy enough. A rapid expansion of upper-class wealth seems to have begun in the thirteenth century, in connection, apparently, with the new usury[567] and the new monopolist commerce connected with the Crusades; and it is from this time that the economic conditions so markedly alter as to infect the political unity and independence of the republics without substituting any ideal of a wider union.

Much of the wealth of Florence must in early republican times have been drawn from the agriculture of the surrounding plains, which had a large population. Machiavelli (Istorie fiorentine, 1. ii) states that when at the death of Frederick II the city reorganised its military, there were formed twenty companies in the town and sixty-six in the country. Cp. Hallam, Middle Ages, iii, 365. Dante (Paradiso, xv, 97-129) pictures the Florentine upper class as living frugally in the reign of Conrad III (d. 1152). Borghini and Giovanni Villani decide that the same standards still prevailed till the middle of the thirteenth century. (Cited by Villari, p. 200, and Testa, pp. 89-91: cp. Riccobaldi of Ferrara, there cited from Muratori; Pignotti, Hist. of Tuscany, Eng. tr. iii, 293; Trollope, History of Florence, i, 34; and Hallam, Middle Ages, 11th ed. iii, 342-44.) If these testimonies can be in any degree trusted, the growth of wealth and luxury may be inferred to have taken place in part [Pg 218]through the money-lending system developed by the Florentines in the period of the later Crusades, in part through the great commercial developments.

The wool-trade, in which Florentines soon surpassed Pisa by reason of their skill in dyeing, was a basis for capitalistic commerce, inasmuch as the wool they dyed and manufactured was mostly foreign, the Tuscan region being better suited for the growing of corn, wine, and olives than for pasture. Already in 1202 the Florentine wool trade had its consuls. (Villari puts these much earlier. He traces them in 1182, and thinks they were then long established. Two First Centuries, pp. 124, 313.) Woollen-weaving was first noticeably improved by the lay order of the Umiliati at Milan about 1020; and this order was introduced about 1210 into Florence, where it received special privileges. Thenceforward the city became the great emporium for the finer cloths till the Flemings and English learned to compete. (Pignotti, Hist. of Tuscany, as cited, iii, 265-70.)

The silk manufacture, brought into Sicily from the islands of the Archipelago by Roger II in 1147, and carried north from Sicily in the reign of Frederick III, seems to have existed in Florence at the beginning of the thirteenth century, but to have flourished at first on a larger scale at Lucca, whence, on the sack of the town by Uguccioni della Faggiola in 1315, most of the Lucchese manufacturers fled to Florence, taking their trade with them. (Pignotti, iii, 273-74; Villari, Two First Centuries, p. 323.) Many had fled to Venice from the power of Castruccio Castracani, five years earlier. (Below, p. 243.) Being much more profitable than any other, by reason of the high prices, it seems to have speedily ranked as more aristocratic than the wool trade; and when that declined, the silk trade restored Florentine prosperity. (Villari, as cited.)

The business of banking, again, must have been much developed before the Bardi and the Peruzzi could lend 1,500,000 florins to Edward III of England (G. Villani, xi, 88; xii, 54, 56; Gibbins, History of Commerce, 1891, pp. 47, 48; Hallam, Middle Ages, iii, 340. Pignotti, iii, 279, Eng. tr., estimates the sum lent as = £3,000,000 of modern money). This function, in turn, arose on the basis of commerce, and the cambisti are subjects of legal regulation in Florence as early as 1299. (Pignotti, iii, 276.) On this line capitalism must have been developed greatly, till it became the preponderant power in the State. Even as the kings and tyrants were enabled, by borrowing from the bankers, to wage wars which otherwise might have been impossible to them, the republican statesman who could command the moneyed interest was destined to supersede the merely military tyrant. In Genoa the bankers coalesced in a corporation called the Bank of St. George, which controlled politics, traded, and even made conquests, thus giving a historic lead to the Bank of [Pg 219]Amsterdam. (Cp. Hallam, Middle Ages, iii, 341; J.T. Bent, Genoa, 1881, ch. ii.)

Summing up the industrial evolution, we note that about 1340 there were 200 cloth factories in Florence; and a century later 272, of which 83 made silk and cloth-of-gold. At the latter period there were 72 bankers or money-changers, 66 apothecary shops, 30 goldbeaters, and 44 of goldsmiths, silversmiths, and jewellers. The artisan population was estimated at 30,000; and gold currency at two millions of florins (Pignotti, iii, 290-91). Concerning Milan, it is recorded that in 1288, a generation after it had lost its liberties, it had a population of 200,000 (certainly an exaggeration), 13,000 houses, 600 notaries, 200 physicians, 80 schoolmasters, and 50 copyists of MSS. (Hallam, Middle Ages, i, 393, citing Galvaneus Flamma; cp. Ranke, Latin and Teutonic Nations, Eng. tr. p. 111.)

§ 3

We can now generalise, then, the conditions of the rise of the arts and sciences in medieval Italy. First we have seen commerce, handicraft, and architecture flourish in the new free cities, as they did at the same time in Genoa, Pisa, and Venice. In the south, again, in the Two Sicilies, under the reign of Frederick II, prosperous industry and commerce, in contact and rivalry with those of the Saracens, supplied a similar basis, though without yielding such remarkable fruits. There, however, on the stimulus of Saracen literature, occur the decided beginnings of a new literature, in a speech at once vernacular and courtly, as being accepted by the emperor and the aristocracy. The same conditions, indeed, had existed before Frederick, under the later Norman kings; and it is in Sicily about 1190 that we must date the oldest known verses in an Italian dialect.[568] Some of them refer to Saladin; and the connection between Italian and Arab literature goes deeper than that detail; for there is reason to suppose that in Europe the very use of rhyme, arising as it thus did in the sphere of Saracen culture-contact, derives from Saracen models.[569] In any case, the Moorish poetry certainly influenced the beginnings of the Italian and Spanish. About the same time, however, there occurs the important literary influence of the troubadours, radiating from Provence, where, again, the special source of fertilisation was the culture of the Moors.[570] The Provençal speech, developed in a more[Pg 220] stable life,[571] took literary form before the Italian, and yielded a literature which was the most effective stimulus to that of Italy. And, broadly speaking, the troubadours stood socially for either the leisured upper class or a class which entertained and was supported by it.

Here, then, as regards imaginative and artistic literature, we find the beginnings made in the sphere of the beneficent prince or "tyrant." But, exactly as in Greece, it is only in the struggling and stimulating life of the free cities that there arises, after the period of primary song, the great reflective literature, the great art: and, furthermore, the pursuit of letters at the courts of the princes is itself a result of outside stimulus. It needed the ferment of Moorish culture—itself promoted by the special tolerance of the earlier Ommiades towards Jews and Christians—to produce the literary stir in Sicily and Provence. Again, while the Provençal life, like the Moorish, included a remarkable development of free thought, the first great propagation of quasi-rational heresy in the south occurring in Provence, it was in the free Italian cities, where also many Cathari and Paterini were found for burning, that there arose the more general development of intelligence. That is to say, the intellectual climate, the mental atmosphere, in which great literature grows, is here as elsewhere found to be supplied by the "free" State, in which men's wills and ideas clash and compromise.[572] In turbulent Florence of the thirteenth century was nourished the spirit of Dante. And it is with art as with literature. Modern painting begins in the thirteenth century in Florence with Cimabue, and at Siena with Duccio, who, trained like previous Italian painters of other towns in the Byzantine manner, transcended it and led the Renaissance.

The great step once taken, the new speech once broadly fixed, and the new art-ideal once adumbrated by masters, both literature and art could in differing sort flourish under the regimen of more or less propitious princes; but not so as to alter the truth just stated. What could best of all thrive was art. Architecture, indeed, save for one or two great undertakings, can hardly be said to have ever outgone the achievement of the republican period; and painting was first broadly developed by public patronage; but it lay[Pg 221] in the nature of the case that painting could find ample economic furtherance under the princes and under the Church. For the rule of the princes was not, save in one or two places at a time, a tyranny of the kind that destroys all individuality; the invention of printing, and the general use of Latin, now maintained a constant interaction of thought throughout all Europe, checked only by the throttling hand of the Church; and the arts of form and colour, once well grown, are those which least closely depend on, though they also thrive by, a free all-round intellectual life. The efficient cause of the great florescence of Italian art from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century was economic—the unparalleled demand for art on the part alike of the cities, the Church, the princes, and the rich. From the tenth to the thirteenth century the outstanding economic phenomenon in Italy is the growth of wealth by industry and commerce. In the same period, Italian agriculture so flourished that by the fifteenth century Italy would on this ground alone have ranked as the richest of European countries.[573] From the thirteenth to the sixteenth century the outstanding economic fact is the addition to this still increasing wealth of the foreign revenues of the Church.[574]

In the sixteenth century all three sources of wealth are almost simultaneously checked—that from agriculture through the miserable devastation wrought by the wars[575] and by the Spanish and papal rule; and then it is that the great art period begins to draw to its close. While the revenue of the Church from the northern countries was sharply curtailed by the Reformation, which in rapid succession affected Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, England, Scotland, and the Scandinavian States, the trade of Italy began to be affected through the development of the new sea route round the Cape of Good Hope by the Portuguese; and though that gradual change need not have brought depression speedily, the misrule of Leo X, raised to an unprecedented secular power, and the crowning blow of the Spanish Conquest, following upon the other and involving government by Spanish methods, were the beginning of the end of Italian greatness.

[Pg 222]

Prof. Thorold Rogers repeatedly generalises (Six Centuries of Work and Wages, p. 157; Holland, p. 49; Economic Interpretation of History, p. 11) that the Turkish conquest of Egypt (1517) blocked the only remaining road to the East known to the Old World; and that thenceforth the trade of the Rhine and Danube was so impoverished as to ruin the German nobles, who speedily took to oppressing their tenants, and so brought about the Peasants' War, while "the Italian cities fell into rapid decay." Whatever be the truth as to Germany, the statement as to Italy is very doubtful. The Professor confessedly came to these conclusions from having observed a "sudden and enormous rise in the prices of all Eastern products" at the close of the first quarter of the sixteenth century, not from having ascertained first the decay of the Italian cities. Now, H. Scherer expressly notes (Allgemeine Geschichte des Welthandels, 1852, i, 336), that Selim I, after conquering Egypt, made terms with his old enemies the Venetians (who were then the main Eastern traders in Italy) and "bestowed on them all the privileges they had under the Mamelukes." Prof. Rogers states that "the thriving manufactures of Alexandria were at once destroyed." Scherer states that Selim freed from imposts all the Indian wares brought into his States through Alexandria, while he burdened heavily all that came by way of Lisbon. Heyd sums up (Histoire du commerce du Levant, éd. fran. 1886, ii, 546), that "under the new régime as under the old, Egypt and Syria remained open to the Venetian merchants." It is hard to reconcile these data with the assertions of Prof. Rogers; and his statement as to prices is further indecisive because the Portuguese trade by sea should have availed to counteract the effect of the closing of the Egyptian route, if that were closed. But the subject remains obscure: Prof. Gibbins (History of Commerce in Europe, 1891, pp. 56, 57) follows Rogers without criticism. The difficulty is that, as Scherer complains (i, 272), we have very few records as to Italian trade. "They have illustrated nearly everything, but least of all their commerce and their commercial politics." The lack of information Scherer sets down to the internecine jealousy of the cities. But see the list of works of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries given by Heyd, i, p. xvii sq., and his narrative, passim.

So superficially has history been written that it is difficult to gather the effect thus far of the change in the channels of trade; but there seems to be no obscurity as to the effect of papal and Spanish rule. What the arrest of trade began, and the rule of Leo X promoted, the desperate wars of France and Spain for the possession of Italy completed, and the misgovernment of the Spanish crown from 1530 onwards perpetuated. Under sane rule[Pg 223] peace might have brought recuperation; but Spanish rule was ruin prolonged. Destructive taxation, and still more destructive monopolies, paralysed commerce in the cities under Spanish sway; while the executive was so weak for good that brigandage abounded in the interior, and the coasts were raided periodically by the fleets of the Turks or the Algerine pirates. The decline of the art of painting in Italy (apart from Venice and Rome) being broadly coincident with this collapse, the induction is pretty clear that the economic demand had been the fundamental force in the artistic development. The Church and the despot remained, but the artistic growth ceased.

Always in need of money for his vast outlays, Leo administered his secular power solely with a view to his own immediate revenue, and set up trade monopolies in Florence and the papal estates wherever he could. As to the usual effects of the papal power on commerce, see Napier, Florentine History, 1845, ii, 413. "The Court of Rome, since it had ceased to respect the ancient municipal liberties, never extended its authority over a new province without ruining its population and resources" (Sismondi, Short History, p. 319). Roscoe (Life of Leo X, ed. 1846, ii, 207) speaks of a revival of Florentine commerce under Leo's kinsman, the Cardinal, about 1520; but this is almost the only glance at the subject of trade and administration in Roscoe's work.

Under Pope Gregory XIII (1572-84) there was for a time fair prosperity in States that had formerly suffered from more precarious tyrannies; but ere long "the taxes laid upon persons, property, and commerce, to replace the lost revenues of Christendom, dried up these resources"; and many cities fell into poverty. Ancona in particular was so crushed by a tax on imports that her Mediterranean trade was lost once for all. (Zeller, Histoire d'Italie, 1853, p. 406.) Sismondi's charge is substantially borne out also by Ranke's account (History of the Popes, Eng. trans. 1-vol. ed. 1859, pp. 118-19) of the ruinous impositions of Pope Sixtus V (1585-90), who taxed the poorest trades and the necessaries of life, besides debasing the coinage and raising further revenue from the sale of places at exorbitant prices, leaving the holders to recoup themselves by extortion and corruption. Cp., however, Zeller, pp. 409-10, as to his municipal improvements.

As to Spanish misrule, see Cantù, Storia degli Italiani, cap. 139, ed. pop. ix, 512; Sismondi, Républiques, xvi, 71-76, 158-59, 170, 217; Symonds, Renaissance, vol. vi, pt. i (Catholic Reaction), pp. 52, 65; Procter, History of Italy, 1844, pp. 218, 219, following Muratori and Giannone; Spalding, Italy, ii, 264-72, citing many other sources. "The Spaniards, as a [Pg 224]Milanese writer indignantly remarks, possessed Central Lombardy for 172 years. They found in its chief city 300,000 souls; they left in it scarcely a third of that number. They found in it seventy-five woollen manufactories; they left in it no more than five" (Spalding, ii, 272). Agriculture suffered equally. The decay of manufactures might be set down to outside causes, not so the rise in taxation.

Yet the decadence does not seem to have been universal, or at least was not continuous. In Sicily, it is alleged, though the statement is hardly credible, the revenue, which in 1558 was 1,770,000 ducats, was in 1620 5,000,000 (Leo, Geschichte von Italien, v, 506, 507); and at the latter date, according to Howell, Naples abounded "in rich staple commodities, as silks, cottons, and wines," from which there accrued to the King of Spain "a mighty revenue," which, however, was mostly spent in the province, being "eaten up 'twixt governors, garrisons, and officers" (Letter of October, 1621, in Epistolæ Ho-elianæ, Bennett's ed. 1891, i, 130). Thus there would seem to have been marked fluctuations, for in the time of Pope Gregory Naples is described as sinking under oppression and Milan as prosperous (Zeller, p. 407). The inference seems to be that some governors learned from the failures of their predecessors to handle trade aright.

The case of Florence after 1587, finally, shows how a wise ruler could so profit by experience as to restore prosperity where misrule had driven it out. Duke Ferdinand (1587-1609) was technically as much a "tyrant" as his brother and predecessor Francis, but by wise public works he restored prosperity to Leghorn and to Pisa, whose population had latterly fallen from 22,000 to 8,000 (Zeller, pp. 406, 411), and so increased both population and revenue that he even set up a considerable naval power. The net result was that at 1620, even under less sagacious successors, Florence "marvellously flourished with buildings, with wealth, and with artisans"; and the people of all degrees were declared to live "not only well but splendidly well, notwithstanding the manifold exactions of the Duke upon all things" (Howell's Letter of November, 1621, ed. cited, i, 136).

We are in sight, then, of the solution of the dispute as to whether it was the republics or the "tyrants" that evoked the arts and literature in medieval and Renaissance Italy. The true generalisation embraces both sides. It may be well, however, to meet in full the "protectionist" or "monarchist" view, as it has been very judiciously put by an accomplished specialist in Italian culture history, in criticism of the other theory:—

"The obliteration of the parties beneath despotism was needed, [Pg 225]under actual conditions, for that development of arts and industry which raised Italy to a first place among civilised nations. We are not justified by the facts in assuming that, had the free burghs continued independent, arts and literature would have risen to a greater height. Venice, in spite of an uninterrupted republican career, produced no commanding men of letters, and owed much of her splendour in the art of painting to aliens from Cadore, Castle-franco, and Verona. Genoa remained silent and irresponsive to the artistic movement of Italy to the last days of the Republic, when her independence was but a shadow. Pisa, though a burgh of Tuscany, displayed no literary talent, while her architecture dates from the first period of the Commune. Siena, whose republican existence lasted longer even than that of Florence, contributed nothing of importance to Italian literature. The art of Perugia was developed during the ascendency of despotic families. The painting of the Milanese school owes its origin to Lodovico Sforza, and survived the tragic catastrophes of his capital, which suffered more than any other from the brutalities of Spaniards and Frenchmen. Next to Florence, the most brilliant centres of literary activity during the bright days of the Renaissance were princely Ferrara and royal Naples. Lastly, we might insist upon the fact that the Italian language took its first flight in the court of imperial Palermo, while republican Rome remained dumb throughout the earlier stage of Italian literary evolution. Thus the facts of the case seem to show that culture and republican independence were not so closely united in Italy as some historians would seek to make us believe.

"On the other hand, it is impossible to prove that the despotisms of the fifteenth century were necessary to the perfecting of art and literature. All that can be safely advanced upon this subject is that the pacification of Italy was demanded as a preliminary condition, and that this pacification came to pass through the action of the princes, checked and equilibrated by the oligarchies of Venice and Florence. It might further be urged that the despots were in close sympathy with the masses of the people, shared their enthusiasms, and promoted their industry.... To be a prince and not to be the patron of scholarship, the pupil of the humanists, and the founder of libraries, was an impossibility. In like manner they employed their wealth upon the development of arts and industries. The great age of Florentine painting is indissolubly connected with the memories of Casa Medici. Rome owes her magnificence to the despotic popes. Even the pottery of Gubbio was the creation of the ducal house of Urbino."[576]

The criticism of this well-marshalled passage may best be put in a summary form, as thus:[Pg 226]

I. (a) The despot promoter of arts and letters is here admittedly the pupil and product of a previous culture. That being so, he could avail for fresh culture in so far as he gave it economic furtherance. He might even give such furtherance on some sides in a fuller degree than ever did the Republics. But he could not give (though after the invention of printing he could not wholly destroy) the mental atmosphere needed to produce great literature. None of the above-cited illustrations goes any way to prove that he could; and it is easy to show that his influence was commonly belittling to those who depended on him.

(b) The point as to pacification is unduly pressed, or is perhaps accidentally misstated. It is not to be denied that the despot in the Italian cities, as in old Greece and Rome, did in a measure earn popular support by giving the common people relief from the strifes of Guelphs and Ghibellines. But the despots did not pacify Italy, though they to some extent set up local stability by checking faction feuds.

(c) The popes were in the earlier Middle Ages a main cause of the ill-development of Rome. Their splendid works were much later than many of those of the Republics. St. Mark's at Venice, a result of Byzantine contact, was built in the eleventh century, as was the duomo of Pisa, whose baptistery and tower belong to the twelfth. The Campo Santa of Pisa, again, belongs to the thirteenth and fourteenth, and the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence to the end of the thirteenth. And the great architects and sculptors of the thirteenth century were mostly Pisans.[577]

II. The point as to the lack of the right intellectual atmosphere under the princes can be proved by a comparison of products. The literature that is intellectually great, in the days before printing equalised and distributed cultures, belongs from first to last to Florence. Dante and Machiavelli are its terms; both standing for the experience of affairs in a disturbed but self-governing community; and it was in Florence that Boccaccio formed his powers. "Florentine art and letters, constituting the most fertile seeds of art and letters in Italy, were essentially republican; many writers, and most of the artists, of Florence were the offspring of traders or labouring men."[578] What the popes and the princes protected and developed was the literature of scholarship, their donations constituting an endowment of research. If the revival of classic[Pg 227] learning and the rapid growth of art after the middle of the fifteenth century be held, as by some historians, to be the essence of the Renaissance,[579] then the Renaissance is largely the work of the despots. But even the artists and scholars patronised by Cosimo de' Medici were formed before his time,[580] and there is no proportional increase in number or achievement afterwards. On the other hand, it was mere scholarship that the potentates fostered: Lorenzo Valla, welcomed for his Elegantiae latinae linguae, had barely escaped exile for his De falsa donatione Constantini Magni;[581] and it is impossible to show that they promoted thought save in such a case as the encouragement of the Platonic philosophy by Cosimo and Lorenzo. For the rest, the character of the humanists whom the potentates fostered is admittedly illaudable in nearly every case. Pomponius Lætus, who almost alone of his class bears scrutiny as a personality, expressly set his face against patronage, and sought to live as a free professor in the University of Rome.[582] And it is open to argument, finally, whether the princely patronage of the merely retrospective humanists did not check vital culture in Italy.[583] It is true that when "despotism" has been so long acquiesced in as to mean a stable social state, there may take place under it new forms of intellectual life. The later cases of Galileo and Vico would suffice to prove as much. But it will hardly be suggested that monarchic rule evoked such forms of genius, any more than that the papacy was propitious to Galileo. In both cases the effective stimulant was foreign thought.

III. (a) The case of Venice has to be explained in respect of its special conditions. Venice was from the first partly aloof from ordinary Italian life by reason of its situation and its long Byzantine connections. It was further an aristocratic republic of the old Roman type, its patrician class developing as a caste of commanders and administrators; and its foreign possessions, added to in every[Pg 228] century, reinforced this tendency.[584] The early usage of civic trading, carried on by means of fleets owned by the State, was habitually turned to the gain of the ruling minority. The use of the fleets was generally granted to monopoly companies, who paid no duties, while private persons did; the middle classes in general being allowed to trade only under burdensome restrictions.[585] Here were conditions contrary in effect to those of the progressive days of Greece. Contrasted with Florence, the Italian Athens, Venice has even been likened to Sparta by a modern Italian.[586] It has been more justly compared, however,[587] with Rhodes, which, unlike Sparta, was primarily a commercial and a maritime power; and where, as in Venice, the rich merchants patronised the arts rather than letters. From the first Venice achieved its wealth by an energetically prosecuted trade, with no basis of landed property to set up a leisured class. In such a city the necessarily high standards of living,[588] as well as the prevailing habit and tradition, would keep men of the middle class away from literature;[589] and only men of the middle class like Dante, or leisured officials like Poggio and Boccaccio and Machiavelli, are found to do important literary work even in Florence. Hence the small share of Venice in the structure of Italian literature.

The same explanation partly holds good of art. Venice, however, at length gave the needed economic furtherance; and men of other communities could there find a market, as did Greek sculptors in imperial Rome. Obviously a despot could not have evoked artists of Venetian birth any more than did the Republic, save by driving men out of commerce. But it is in Venice, where wealth and the republican form lasted longest, that we find almost the last of the great artists—Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese. After these the Caracci, Guido, and many others gravitate to Rome, where the reorganised Church regains some riches with power. We are to remember, too, that the aristocratic rulers saw to the food supply of the whole Republic by a special promotion of agriculture in its possessions, particularly in Candia; besides carefully making treaties which[Pg 229] secured its access to the grain markets of Sicily, Egypt, and North Africa.[590] Here again we have to recognise a form of civic self-preserving resource special in origin to republics, though afterwards exploited by autocracies, as earlier in the case of imperial Rome.

The fact that Venice did maintain great artists after the artistic arrest of Tuscany and Lombardy, is part of the proof that, as above contended (p. 221), it was papal and Spanish misrule rather than the change in the channels of trade that impoverished Italy in the sixteenth century. Venice could still prosper by her manufactures when her commerce was partly checked, because the volume of European trade went on increasing. As Hallam notes: "We are apt to fall into a vulgar error in supposing that Venice was crushed, or even materially affected [phrase slightly modified in footnote], as a commercial city, by the discoveries of the Portuguese. She was in fact more opulent, as her buildings themselves may prove, in the sixteenth century than in any preceding age. The French trade from Marseilles to the Levant, which began later to flourish, was what impoverished Venice rather than that of Portugal with the East Indies." As the treatise of Antonio Serra shows (1613), Venice was rich when Spanish Naples was poor (Introduction to the Literature of Europe, ed. 1872, iii, 165, 166).

(b) As regards Genoa, the explanation is similar. That republic resembled Venice in that it was from the beginning a city apart from the rest of Italy, devoted to foreign commerce, and absorbed in the management of distant possessions or trade colonies. When we compare the intellectual history of two such States with that of Florence, which was not less but more republican in its government, it becomes clear that it was not republicanism that limited culture in the maritime cities. Rather we must recognise that their development is analogous with that of England in the eighteenth century, when the growth of commerce, of foreign possessions, and of naval power seems to have turned the general energies, hitherto in large proportion intellectually employed, predominantly towards practical and administrative employment.[591] The case of Florence is the test for the whole problem. Its pre-eminence in art and letters alike is to be explained through (1) its being in constant touch with all the elements of Italian and other European culture; and (2) its having no direct maritime interests and no foreign possessions.[592]

IV. With the patronage of the princes of Ferrara, history[Pg 230] associates the poetry of Ariosto and Tasso, though as a matter of fact the Orlando Furioso seems to have been written before Ariosto entered the ducal service. But even if that and the Gerusalemme be wholly credited to the principle of monarchism, it only needs to weigh the two works against those which were brought forth in the atmosphere of the free cities in order to see how little mere princely pay can avail for power and originality in literature where the princely rule thwarts the great instincts of personality. Ariosto and Tasso are charming melodists; and as such they have had an influence on European literature; but they have waned in distinction age by age, while earlier and later names have waxed. And all the while, what is delightful in them is clearly enough the outcome of the still manifold Italian culture in which they grew, though it may be that the influence of a court would do more to foster sheer melody than would the storm and stress of the life of a Republic.

Sismondi (Républiques italiennes, iv, 416-18), admits the encouragement given to men of letters by despots like Can' Grande, and the frequent presence of poets at the courts. But he rightly insists that the faculty of imagination itself visibly dwindled when intellectual freedom was gone. It is interesting to note how Montaigne, writing within a century of the production of the Orlando Furioso, is struck by its want of sustained imaginative flight in comparison with Virgil (Essais, B. ii, 10; éd. Firmin-Didot, vol. i, p. 432). Compare the estimate of Cantù, Storia degli Italiani, cap. 142, ed. pop. x, 180-86.

In fine, we can rightly say with Mr. Symonds himself that the history of the Renaissance is not the history of arts, or of sciences, or even of nations. It is the history of the attainment of self-conscious freedom by the human spirit manifested in the European races.[593] And this process, surely, was not accomplished at the courts of the despots. Nor can it well be disputed, finally, that the Spanish domination was the visible and final check to intellectual progress on the side of imaginative literature, at a time when there was every prospect of a great development of Italian drama. "It was the Inquisitors and Spaniards who cowed the Italian spirit."[594]

Equally clear is it that the republican life evolved an amount of[Pg 231] expansive commercial energy which at that period could not possibly have taken place under a tyrant. The efforts by which Florence developed her trade and power—efforts made possible by the mere union of self-interest among the commercial class—will compare with any process of monarchic imperialism in respect of mere persistency and success. Faced by the jealous enmity of Pisa, their natural port, and suffering from the trade burdens laid on them by the maritime States while they lacked a marine, the Florentines actually opened up trade communication with China when shut out from Egypt by the Venetians; traded through the port of Talamone when the Pisans barred their traffic; took Provençal and Neapolitan galleys in their pay when the Pisans and Genoese tried to close Talamone; and, after becoming masters of Pisa in 1406, not only established a well-ordered marine, but induced Genoa to sell to them the port of Leghorn. They could not, indeed, successfully compete with the Genoese and Venetians till the fall of the Greek Empire; but thereafter they contrived to obtain abundant concessions from the Turks, while the Genoese were driven out of the Levant. Commercial egoism, in fact, enabled them to tread the path of "empire" even as emperors had done long before them; and they hastened to the stage of political collapse on the old military road, spending on one war of two years, against Visconti, a sum equal to £15,000,000 at the present time; and in the twenty-nine years of struggle against Pisa (1377-1406) a sum equal to £58,000,000.[595] Thus they developed a capitalistic class, undermined in the old way the spirit of equity which is the cement of societies, and prepared their own subjection to a capitalist over-lord. But that is only another way of saying that the period of expansive energy preceded the age of the tyrant, wise or unwise.

When all is said, however, there can be no gainsaying of the judgment that the strifes of the republics were the frustration of their culture; and it matters little whether or not we set down the inveteracy of the strifes to the final scantiness and ill-distribution of the culture. Neither republics nor princes seem ever to have aimed at its diffusion. The latter, in common with the richer ecclesiastics, did undoubtedly promote the recovery of the literature of antiquity; but where the republics had failed to see any need for systematic popular tuition[596] the princes naturally did not dream of it. It would[Pg 232] be a fallacy, however, to suppose that, given the then state of knowledge and of political forces, any system of public schooling could have saved Italian liberty. No class had the science that could solve the problem which pressed on all. The increase and culmination of social and political evil in Renaissance Italy was an outcome of more forces than could be checked by any expedient known to the thought of the time. It must never be forgotten that the very dividedness of the cities, by maximising energy, had been visibly a cause of their growth in riches;[597] and that, though peace could have fostered that when once it had been attained, anything like a federation which should secure to the satisfaction of each their conflicting commercial interests was an enormously difficult conception. It would be a bad fallacy, again, to suppose that there was lacking to the Italians of the Renaissance a kind of insight or judgment found in other peoples of the same period. There is no trace of any such estimate in that age; and we who look back upon it are rather set marvelling at the intense and luminous play of Italian intelligence, keen as that of Redskins on the trail, so far as the realisation of the self-expressive and self-assertive appetites could go. The tragedy of the decadence, here as in the case of Rome, is measured by the play of power from which men and States fall away; for the forces which next came to the top stand for no mental superiority. The problem, in fact, was definitely beyond the grasp of the age. It remains to realise this by a survey of the process of decline from self-government to despotism.


[541] Leo estimates that as early as the reign of Louis the Pious the Church owned about one-third of the land of Italy. Cp. B. iii, cc. 1, 3, as to the process.

[542] Names derived from the German Welf (or Wölf) and Waiblingen; Italianised as Guelfo and Ghibellino. Waiblingen was the name of a castle in the diocese of Augsburg belonging to the Salian or Franconian emperors, the descendants of Conrad the Salic, Welf was a family name of the Dukes of Bavaria and Saxony, who constantly resisted the predominance of the emperors, both of the Franconian and the Hohenstaufen lines. The names seem to have become war-cries in Italy about the end of the twelfth century. In Florence they appear first in 1239. Villari, Two First Centuries, p. 181, note.

[543] Sismondi, Short History, p. 81.

[544] As to the relations of successive popes in the Dark Ages—each cancelling the acts of his predecessor—see Sismondi, Républiques, i, 142; Gregorovius, as last cited, and passim.

[545] Prof. Butler (Communes of Lombardy, p. 231), credits the Italians with having acquired, as a result of the perpetual wars of the cities, "a breadth of view and a vigour of mind unknown among the urban populations of other lands." How can "breadth of view" in politics be ascribed to communities whose unending strifes finally brought them all under despotism?

[546] Machiavelli, Istorie fiorentine, l. ii. The seven major arti were (1) the judges and notaries; (2) the dealers in French cloths; (3) the money-changers; (4) the wool traders; (5) the physicians and apothecaries; (6) the silk dealers and mercers; and (7) the furriers.

[547] Pignotti, Hist. of Tuscany, Eng. trans. iii, 260.

[548] H. Scherer, Allgemeine Geschichte des Welthandels, 1852, i, 337, 338.

[549] Cp. Symonds, Age of the Despots, ed. 1897, pp. 26-27.

[550] Villari, Two First Centuries, p. 310; Hallam, Introd. to Literature of Europe, ed. 1872, i, 8, 16, 19, 71, 77, 78. But see p. 74 as to the stimulus from Italy in the eleventh century. Cp. Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Rom, B. viii, Kap. vii, § i (Bd. iv, 604-605), as to the primitive state of mental life in Rome in the twelfth century, and the resort of young nobles to Paris for education.

[551] In the previous edition I accepted the still current statement that Salerno drew its first medical lore from the Saracens. But Dr. Rashdall has, I think, sufficiently shown that there is no basis for the theory (The Universities in the Middle Ages, 1895, i, 77-86). Salerno seems rather to have preserved some of the classic lore on which the Saracens also founded. Arabic influence in the Italian schools began in the twelfth century, and was in full force early in the fourteenth, when Salerno was in complete decline (Id. p. 85).

[552] As to the attitude and influence of Gregory the Great see Hallam, Literature of Europe, as cited, i, 4, 21, 22; and Gregorovius, B. iii, cap. iii, § 2 (ii, 88). As to the reforms of Gregory VII in the tenth century, see also Gregorovius, B. vii, cap. vii, § 5 (iv, 288). See the latter writer again, B. vii, cap. vi (iv, 242-46), and Guizot, Civilisation en Europe, leçon vi, ed. 1844, pp. 159-60, as to the effect of Hildebrandt's policy in dividing the Church.

[553] Cp. Boulting-Sismondi, p. 9; Muratori, Dissert. xv, cited by Lecky, Hist. of European Morals, ii, 71; Milman, as last cited, ii, 51.

[554] We know further from Salvian, as noted above, p. 119, that the Christians of Gaul treated their slaves as badly as the pagans had ever done (De gubernatione Dei, l. iv). As to the whole subject, see the valuable researches of Larroque, De l'esclavage chez les nations chrétiennes, 2e éd. 1864, and Biot, De l'abolition de l'esclavage ancien en Occident, 1840.

[555] Lea, Hist. Sketch of Sacerdotal Celibacy, 2nd ed. pp. 242-43.

[556] Cp. Sismondi, as before cited, and Testa, as cited, p. 92. Testa's book, like so many other modern Italian treatises, is written with the garrulity of the Middle Ages, but embodies a good deal of research. The pietistic passage on p. 93 is contradicted by that on p. 92.

[557] Hardwick, Church History: Middle Age, 1853, p. 58 and refs. Manumission was the legal preliminary to ordination; but it was often set aside, with the object of having the serf-priest more subject to discipline. Cp. Tytler, Hist. of Scotland, ed. 1869, ii, 255, as to bondmen-clerks in Scotland in the thirteenth century.

[558] As in the war of cities against nobles under Conrad the Salic. See above, p. 203.

[559] Wealth of Nations, bk. iii, ch. 2.

[560] Cp. Butler, pp. 224, 229.

[561] As to these see Testa, p. 56. Compare the accounts of the later bloodless battles of the condottieri, which were thus not without Italian precedent. Between 1013 and 1105 Pavia and Milan had six wars. Butler, The Communes of Lombardy, p. 58.

[562] Cp. Heeren, Essai sur l'influence des Croisades, Villers' tr. 1808, p. 101; Bryce, Holy Roman Empire, 8th ed. pp. 199, 211, 213, 223; Stubbs, Germany in the Middle Ages, 1908, pp. 105, 197.

[563] Memoirs of Fra Salimbene, tr. by T.K. L. Oliphant, in same vol. with The Duke and the Scholar, 1875, p. 120.

[564] Butler, p. 98.

[565] Id. p. 314.

[566] Wealth-accumulation first took the form of land-owning. At the beginning of the twelfth century the Florentine territory was merely civic; at the end it was about forty miles in diameter. (Trollope, History of the Commonwealth of Florence, 1865, i, 85.) The figure given for the beginning, six miles, is legendary and incredible. See Villari, Two First Centuries, pp. 71-72.

[567] As everywhere else in the Middle Ages, interest at Florence was high, varying from ten to thirty per cent. Pignotti, Hist. of Tuscany, Eng. tr. 1823, iii, 280. Cp. Hallam, Middle Ages, 11th ed. iii, 337.

[568] Bartoli, Storia della letteratura italiana, 1878, tom. ii, cap. vii.

[569] Sismondi, Literature of the South of Europe, Eng. tr. i, 61, 85, 86, 87, 89; Bouterwek, History of Spanish and Portuguese Literature, Eng. tr. 1823, i, 22, 23; Bartoli, i, 94.

[570] Sismondi, as last cited, i, 74, 76, 80, 242; Bartoli, tom. ii, cap. i, and p. 165.

[571] "The union of Provence, during two hundred and thirteen years, under a line of princes who ... never experienced any foreign invasion, but, by a fraternal government, augmented the population and riches of the State, and favoured commercial pursuits ... consolidated the laws, the language, and the manners of Provence" (Sismondi, as last cited, i, 75).

[572] See above, p. 135 sq., as to the theory of the culture-value of the despot.

[573] Sismondi, Républiques, xii, 38-41. The land was already cultivated on the métayer system, half the crop going to the tenant—a state of things advantageous all round. Villari (Two First Centuries, p. 315) pronounces that the Florentines looked sagaciously to trade, but harassed agriculture. This does not seem to be true of Italian polity in general.

[574] As to these, consult M'Crie, History of the Reformation in Italy, ed. 1856, pp. 23-25.

[575] See Sismondi, Républiques, xii, 39, as to the utter ruin of the Pisan territory by Florence.

[576] J.A. Symonds, The Age of the Despots, ed. 1897, pp. 61-62.

[577] Sismondi, Républiques italiennes, iv, 174-77.

[578] Villari, Two First Centuries, p. 239. So Perrens: "Its glory belonged to the democratic period" (Histoire de Florence, Eng. trans. of vol. vii, p. 171).

[579] Cp. Zeller, Histoire d'Italie, 1853, p. 309.

[580] Roscoe (Life of Leo X, ii, 318) attributes to the rivalry of Leonardo and Michel Angelo at Florence (in 1500, while the Medici were in exile, and the city was self-governed) the kindling of the art life of the greatest period. And see Perrens (Histoire de Florence, Eng. trans. of vol. cited, p. 457, also as cited below, p. 249) on the decay of architecture and the check to art through the policy of Lorenzo. "Art under the grandfather," he declares (p. 434), "completed a remarkable evolution which has no equivalent under the grandson." Previously (p. 200) he had noted that "many works of which the fifteenth century gets the glory because it finished them, were ordered and begun amid the confusion and terrible agitation of the demagogy." As to Cosimo's expenditure on building see p. 166, and on letters p. 168.

[581] Zeller, p. 310. The De falsa donatione was certainly an abusive document. See Hallam, Literature of Europe, pt. i, ch. iii, sect. i, par. 7, note.

[582] Burckhardt, as cited, p. 279. Another estimable type was Fra Urbano. See Roscoe, Leo X, i, 351, 352. On the character of Poliziano see Perrens, trans. cited, p. 441.

[583] Cp. Burckhardt, pp. 203, 204, 291; Zeller, p. 330; and von Reumont, Lorenzo de' Medici, Eng. trans. ii, 18. Lorenzo expressly cut down the scope and the resources of the Florentine Studio for selfish personal reasons. Perrens, trans. cited, pp. 436-37. It was Bernardo Nerli, not Lorenzo, who bore the cost of printing Homer. Id. p. 443.

[584] See the estimate of Venetian ideals in Burckhardt, Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy, pt. i, ch. vii.

[585] Nys, Researches in the History of Economics, 1899, pp. 66-67; Frignet, Histoire de l'association commerciale, 1868, p. 78.

[586] Prof. Giacomo Gay, Dei Carattere degli Italiani nel medio evo e nell' età moderna, Asti, 1876, p. 8.

[587] By Prof. Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, p. 97.

[588] Compare these as described by Ranke (Latin and Teutonic Nations, Eng. tr. p. 248) with those of old Athens.

[589] Burckhardt (Eng. tr. ed. 1892, pp. 71, 72) gives some illustrative details. See also H. Brown in Cambridge Modern History, 1902, i, 284. But cp. Geiger, Renaissance und Humanismus in Italien und Deutschland, Berlin, 1882, pp. 265-66, as to the per contra.

[590] Nys, Researches in the History of Economics, 1899, pp. 64-65, and ref.

[591] Cp. The Dynamics of Religion, by "M.W. Wiseman" (J.M. R.), 1897, pp. 175, 176, 181.

[592] "Non partecipavi Firenze nelle faccende d'Europa così largamente, come Venezia e Genova, sì per essere continuamente straziata dalle fazioni e sì per non avere dominio di mare. Dal che nasceva, che niun cittadino potesse sorgere in lei di nome e di appichi esterni tanto possente che potesse stabilirvi da per se o la libertà o la tyrannide" (C. Botta, Storia d' Italia, 1837, i, 124). But Genoa also had countless strifes of faction, so that the vera causa of the greater inner development of Florence must be held to be her lack of external dominion and occupation.

[593] Vol. cited, p. 3. Cp. Burckhardt, Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy, pt. iv, ch. iv, p. 309. Both writers adopt the language of Michelet.

[594] Burckhardt, p. 317. The Counter-Reformation, of course, must always be taken into account in estimates of the latter period of Italian history. The regeneration of the Papacy after the Reformation is to be credited jointly to Spain and the Reformation itself.

[595] Pignotti, Hist. of Tuscany, Eng. tr. iii, 282-92.

[596] Study suffered in Florence particularly from the faction troubles. The Studio or college, founded in 1348, was closed between 1378 and 1386; reopened then, shut in 1404, again opened in 1412, and so on. Cp. Napier, Florentine History, 1846, iv, 75; Perrens, Histoire de Florence, Eng. tr. of vol. vii, pp. 172-77; and von Reumont, Lorenzo de' Medici, Eng. tr. i, 428-30.

[597] Mr. Symonds notes (Age of the Despots, p. 34) how Guicciardini argued this (Op. Ined. i, 28), as against Machiavelli's lament over the lack of Italian unity.

Chapter III


§ 1

Given the monarchic and feudal environment, the chronic strife within and between the Italian cities can be seen to be sufficient in time to undo them;[598] and some wonder naturally arises at their failure to frame some system of federal government that should restrain their feuds. It was their supreme necessity; but though the idea was now and then broached,[599] there is no sign that the average man ever came nearer planning for it than did the Ghibelline Dante, with his simple theory that Cæsar should ride the horse,[600] or than did the clear brain of Machiavelli, with its longing for a native ruler[601] like Cesare Borgia, capable of beating down the rival princes and the adventurers, and of holding his own against the Papacy. One of the statesmen who harboured the ideal was Rienzi; but he never wrought for its realisation, and his devotion to the Papacy as well as to the headship of Rome would have made it miscarry had he set it on foot.[602] The failure of Cesare Borgia, who of all Italians of his day came nearest to combining the needed faculties for Italian unification, is the proof of the practical impossibility of that solution. But a federation of States, it has been reasoned, was relatively feasible; why then was it never attempted? As usual, the question has been answered in the simple verbalist way, by the decision that the Italians did not strike out a political philosophy or science because they were not that way given. They lacked the "faculty" for whatever they did not happen to do; whereas the ancient Greeks, on the contrary, did theorise because that faculty was theirs, though they had not the faculty to work out the theories.[Pg 234]

E.g. the reasoning of so intelligent a thinker as Heeren: "Among those countries in which [political speculation] might have been expected to give the earliest sign of life, Italy was undoubtedly the first: all the ordinary causes appear to have united here; a number of small states arose near each other; republican constitutions were established; political parties were everywhere at work and at variance; and with all this, the arts and sciences were in the full splendour of their revival. The appearance of Italy in the fifteenth century recalls most fully the picture of ancient Greece. And yet in Italy, political theories were as few as in Greece they had been many!—a result both unexpected and difficult to explain. Still, however, I think that this phenomenon may be in great part accounted for, if we remember that there never was a philosophical system of character or influence which prospered under the sky of Italy. No nation of civilised Europe has given birth to so few theories as the Italian: none has had less genius for such pursuits. The history of the Roman philosophy, a mere echo of the Grecian, proves this of its earlier ages, nor was it otherwise in its later." (Essay "On the Rise and Progress of Political Theories," in Historical Treatises, Eng. tr. 1836, p. 118.)

To say nothing of the looseness of the generalisation, which ignores alike Thomas Aquinas and Vico, Leonardo and Galileo, Machiavelli and Giordano Bruno, it may suffice to note once more that on this principle the Germans must be pronounced to have been devoid of theoretical faculty before Leibnitz. On that view it does not become any more intelligible how "they" acquired it.

Seeking a less vacuous species of explanation, we are soon led to recognise (1) that the case of medieval Italy was to the extent of at least two factors more complicated than that of ancient Greece; and that these factors alone might suffice to explain their non-production of a "theory" which should avail for the need; (2) that the theories of the Greeks did not avail to solve their problem; and (3) that the Italians all the while had really two theories too many. At the very emergence of their republics they were already possessed or wrought upon by the embodied theories of the Empire and the Papacy, two elements never represented in the Greek problem, where empire was an alien and barbarian thing suddenly entering into the affairs of civilised Hellas, and where there was nothing in the nature of the Papacy. These two forces in Italian life were all along represented by specific theories; and their clash was a large part of the trouble. Their pressure set up a chronic clash of parties; and the theorist of to-day may be challenged to frame a theory which could have worked well for Italy otherwise than by setting[Pg 235] those forces aside—a thing quite impossible in the Middle Ages. If mere system-making on either side could have availed, Thomas Aquinas might have rendered the service.[603]

The economic and political destiny of the Church may be said to have been determined in the eleventh century, when, after a desperate struggle, begun by Pope Hildebrandt, celibacy was forced on the secular clergy. The real motive to this policy was of course not ascetic but economic, the object being to prevent at once the appropriation of church property by married priests for family purposes, and the creation of hereditary titles to church benefices. An evolution of that kind had actually begun; and there can be no question that had it not been checked it would have been fatal to the Papacy. Naturally the married clergy on their part resisted to the uttermost. Only the desperate policy of Hildebrandt, withdrawing popular obedience and ecclesiastical protection from those who would not give up their wives, broke down the resistance; and even thereafter Urban II, as we saw, had to resort to the odious measure of making priests' wives slaves.[604] From that period we may date the creation of the Church as a unitary political power. Sacerdotal celibacy took many generations to establish; but when once the point was carried it involved a force of incorporation which only the strongest political forces—as at the Reformation—could outdo, and which since the Reformation has kept the Church intact.

It is true that the monk Arnold of Brescia, burned alive by the Papacy in 1155, fought a long battle (1139-55) against the papal power, creating an immense ferment in Lombardy, and rousing a strong anti-papal movement in Rome itself (Sismondi, Républiques italiennes, i, chs. 7, 8; Gibbon, ch. 69); and that, as noted by M'Crie (Reformation in Italy, p. 1), "the supremacy claimed by the bishops of Rome was resisted in Italy after it had been submitted to by the most remote churches of the west"; but once papalised, Italy necessarily remained so in her own pecuniary interest. Cp. Rogers, Economic Interpretation of History, p. 79. Arnold's movement led even to a revolution in Rome; but after he had ruled there for ten years, overbearing two successive popes, one of greater energy, Adrian IV, excommunicated the city, so expelling Arnold. Adrian then, making a bargain with the emperor Frederick Barbarossa at his coronation, got the republican leader in his power; and the movement ended with Arnold's life. The Papacy was now an irremovable element of division in Italy; and disunion was thenceforth the lot of the land.

[Pg 236]

If we seek to localise the disease, however, we find that no one factor is specially responsible. The alien emperor, coming in from outside, and setting city against city, Pavia against Milan, and nobles against burghers, is clearly a force of strife. Again, whereas the cities might on the whole have combined successfully against the emperor, to the point of abolishing his rule, the Papacy, calling him in to suit its own purposes, and calling in yet other aliens at a pinch, is still more a force of discord. At times the emperors, in the worst days of Roman corruption, had to choose among the competitors nominated to the Papacy by the intrigues of courtesans and nobles and the venal votes of the people, thus identifying the man they chose with their cause. Hildebrandt, again, after securing that the popes should be elected by the cardinals, became the fiercest of autocrats. By his strife with Henry IV he set up civil war through all Italy and Germany; and when in his despair he called in the Normans against Rome, they sold most of the people into slavery.[605] Later, in the minority of Frederick II, Innocent III so strengthened the Church that it was able by sheer slaughter to crush for a generation all Provençal heresy, and was able to prevail against Frederick in its long struggle with him; in so doing, however, deepening to the uttermost the passion of faction in all the cities, and so preparing the worst and bloodiest wars of the future.

Yet, on the other hand, if we make abstraction of pope and emperor, and consider only the nobles and the citizens, it is clear that they had among them the seeds of strife immeasurable. The nobles were by training and habit centres of violence.[606] Their mutual feuds, always tending to involve the citizens, were a perpetual peril to order; and their disregard of law kept them as ready to make war on citizens or cities as on each other. Again and again they were violently expelled from every Lombard city, on the score of their gross and perpetual disorders; but they being the chief experts in military matters, they were always welcomed back again, because the burghers had need of them as leaders in the feuds of city with city, and of Guelphs with Ghibellines. So that yet again, if we put the nobles out of sight, the spirit of strife as between city and city was sufficient, as in ancient Greece, to make them all the[Pg 237] prey of any invader with a free hand. They could not master the science of their problem, could not rise above the plane of primary tribal or local passion and jealousy; though within each city were faction hatreds as bitter as those between the cities as wholes. Already in the twelfth century we find Milan destroying Lodi and unwalling Como. Later, in the thirteenth century, Genoa ruins the naval power of Pisa,[607] then under the tyranny of Ugolino, in a war of commercial hatred, such as Pisa had before waged with Amalfi and with Lucca; in the fourteenth, Genoa and Venice again and again fight till both are exhausted, and Genoa accepts a lord to aid her in the struggle, Pisa doing likewise, and so recovering strength on land;[608] in the fifteenth and sixteenth, Florence spares no cost or effort to keep Pisa in subjection. This fatal policy, in turn, was the result of the frequent attempts of the Pisans to destroy Florentine trade by closing their port to it.[609] All along, inter-civic hates are in full flow through all the wars of Guelphs and Ghibellines; and the menace of neither French nor Spanish tyranny can finally unify the mutually repellent communities.

We may, indeed, make out a special case against the Papacy, to the effect that, but for that, Italian intelligence would have had a freer life; and that even if Italy, like Spain and France and England, underwent despotism in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, her intellectual activity would have sufficed to work her recovery at least as rapidly as the process took place elsewhere. It has been argued[610] that the liberating force elsewhere in the sixteenth century was the Reformation—a theory which leaves us asking what originated the Reformation in its turn. Taking that to be the spirit of (a) inchoate free thought, of developing reason, or (b) of economic revolt against the fiscal exactions of an alien power, or both, we are entitled to say broadly that the crushing of such revolt in Italy, as in Provence and in Spain, clearly came of the special development of the papal power thus near its centre—the explanation of "national character" being as nugatory in this as in any other sociological issue.

Heeren naturally rests on this solution. The "new religion," he says, "was suited to the north, but not to the south. The calm and investigating spirit of the German nations found in it [Pg 238]the nourishment which it required and sought for.... The more vivid imagination and sensitive feelings of the people of the south ... found little to please them in its tenets.... It was not, therefore, owing to the prohibitions of the government, but to the character of the nations themselves, that the Reformation found no support among them" (vol. cited, pp. 58, 59). The two explanations of climate and race can thus be employed alternatively at need. Ireland, though "northern," is to be got rid of as not being "German." For the rest, the Albigenses, the paterini, the reforming Franciscans, and the myriad victims of the Inquisition in Spain, are conveniently ignored. Heeren's phrase about the "almost total exclusion" of the southern countries from the "great ferment of ideas which in other countries of civilised Europe gave activity and life to the human intellect" can be described only as a piece of concentrated misinformation. And a similar judgment must be passed on the summing-up of Mr. Symonds that "Germany achieved the labour of the Reformation almost single-handed" (Renaissance in Italy, 2nd ed. i, 28). There is far more truth in the verdict of Guizot, that "la principale lutte d'érudition et de doctrine contre l'Eglise catholique a été soutenue par la réforme française; c'est en France et en Hollande, et toujours en français, qu'ont été écrits tants d'ouvrages philosophiques, historiques, polémiques, à l'appui de cette cause" (Civilisation en France, i, 18). Motley, though an uncritical Teutophile and Gallophobe, admits as to Holland that "the Reformation first entered the Provinces, not through the Augsburg but the Huguenot gate" (Rise of the Dutch Republic, ed. 1863, p. 162). As to the spirit of reformation in Italy and Spain, the student may consult the two careful and learned Histories of M'Crie, works which might have saved many vain generalisations by later writers, had they heeded them. The question of the supposed racial determination of the Reformation is discussed at some length in The Saxon and the Celt, pp. 92-97, 143-47, 203, 204. Cp. The Dynamics of Religion, 1897, pt. i; Letters on Reasoning, 2nd ed. 1905, pp. 20-24; and A Short History of Freethought, vol. i, chs. ix, x, xi.

The history of Italian religious life shows that the spirit of sheer reformation in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was stronger there than even in France in the sixteenth, where again it was perhaps positively stronger than in Germany, though not stronger relatively to the resistance. And in Italy the resistance was personified in the Papacy, which there had its seat and strength. When all is said, however, the facts remain that in England the Reformation meant sordid spoliation, retrogression in culture, and finally civil war; that in France it meant long periods of furious[Pg 239] strife; that in Germany, where it "prospered," it meant finally a whole generation of the most ruinous warfare the modern world had seen, throwing back German civilisation a full hundred years. Save for the original agony of conquest and the special sting of subjection to alien rule, Italy suffered in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries less evils than these.

The lesson of our retrospect, then, is: (1) generally, that as between medieval Italian development and that of other countries—say our own—there has been difference, not of "race character" and "faculty," but of favouring and adverse conditions; and (2) particularly, that certain social evils which went on worsening in Florence and are in some degree present in all societies to-day, call for scientific treatment lest they go on worsening with us. The modern problem is in many respects different from that of pre-Reformation Italy; but the forces concerned are kindred, and it may be worth while to note the broad facts of the past process with some particularity.

§ 2

The central fact of disunion in Italian life, complicated as we have seen it to be by extraneous factors, analyses down to the eternal conflict of interests of the rich and the poor, the very rich and the less rich, or, as Italian humour figured it, the "fat" and the "lean." For Machiavelli this is the salient trouble in the Florentine retrospect, since it survived the feuds of Guelph and Ghibelline; though he sets down to the Papacy the foreign invasions and the disunion of the cities. The faction-feuds, of course, tell of the psychological conditions of the feud of rich and poor, and were to some extent an early form of the feud,[611] the imperialist Ghibellines being originally the more aristocratic faction; while the papalist Guelphs, by the admission of Machiavelli, were the more friendly to the popular liberties, that being the natural course for the Papacy to take. The imperial cause, on the other hand, was badly compromised by the tyranny of the terrible Ezzelino III, the representative of Frederick II in the Trevisan March, who ruled half-a-dozen cities in a fashion never exceeded for cruelty in the later ages of Italian tyranny.[612] Whatever democratic feeling there was must needs be on the other side.

After Florence had recast its constitution at the death of[Pg 240] Frederick II, establishing twelve anziani or magistrates, replaced every two months, and two foreign judges—one the upper-class podestà and the other the captain of the people[613]—to prevent grounds of quarrel, matters were in fair train, and the city approved its unity by the sinister steps of forcing Pistoia, Arezzo, and Siena to join its confederation, capturing Volterra, and destroying several villages, whose inhabitants were deported to Florence. But new plots on behalf of Manfred led to the expulsion of the Ghibellines, who in turn, getting the upper hand with no sense of permanence, reasoned that to make their party safe they must destroy the city; a purpose changed, as the familiar story goes, only by the protest of the Florentine Ghibelline chief, Farinata degli Uberti. They then tried, in obvious bad faith, the expedient of conciliating the people, whom they had always hitherto oppressed, by giving them a quasi-democratic constitution, in which the skilled workers were recognised as bodies, to which all citizens had to belong.[614] But this scheme being accompanied by fresh taxation, the Ghibellines were driven out by force; and once more the Guelphs, now backed by Charles of Anjou (1266), organised a government of twelve magistrates, adding a council of twenty-four upper-class citizens, called the credenza, and yet another body of 180 popular deputies, thirty for each of the six quarters of the city, making up with the others a Council General. To this, however, was strangely added yet another council of 120, charged with executive functions. The purpose was to identify the Guelph cause with that of the people—that is, the lower bourgeoisie and skilled artisans; and the property of the exiled Ghibellines was confiscated and divided among the public treasury, the heads of the ruling party, and the Guelphs in general. At this stage the effort of Gregory X, at his election, to effect a restoration of the Ghibellines and a general reconciliation, naturally failed. Yet when his successor, Nicolas III, persisted in the anti-French policy, he was able through his northern legate to persuade the city, suffering from the lawlessness of the Guelph as of old from that of the Ghibelline nobles, to recall the latter and set up a new constitution of fourteen governors, seven of each party,[Pg 241] all nominated by the Pope—a system which lasted ten years. Then came another French interregnum; whereafter, on the fall of the French rule in Sicily in 1282, there was set up yet another constitution of compromise. For the council of fourteen was set up one of three priori delle arti, heads of the crafts—a number immediately raised to six, so as to give one prior to each ward of the city, with a change in the title to signoria. These were to be elected every two months. The system, aristocratic in respect of its small governing body, yet by its elective method lent itself peculiarly to the new bourgeois tendencies; and thenceforward, says Machiavelli, we find the parties of Guelph and Ghibelline in Florence supplanted by the simpler enmity of rich and poor. Soon many of the nobles, albeit Guelph, were driven out of the city, or declared disqualified for priorship on the score of their past disorders; and outside they set up new feuds.

While Florence thus held out, other cities sought safety in one-man-power, choosing some noble as "captain of the people" and setting him above the magistrates. Thus Pagano della Torre, a Guelph, became war-lord of Milan, and his brothers succeeded him, till the office came to be looked on as hereditary, and other cities inclined to choose the same head. And so astutely egotistic was the action of all the forces concerned, that when the Guelph house of Della Torre thus became unmanageably powerful, the Papacy did not scruple to appoint to the archbishopric of Milan an exiled Ghibelline, Visconti. "Henceforward," says Sismondi, "the rivalry between the families of Della Torre and Visconti made that between the people and the nobles almost forgotten." The Visconti finally defeated the other faction, made Milan Ghibelline, and became its virtual rulers.

On the other hand, the entrance of a French army under Charles of Anjou, called in by a French pope to conquer the Ghibelline realm of the Two Sicilies (1266), put a due share of wrong to the account of the Guelphs, the French power standing for something very like barbarism. Its first achievement was to exterminate the Saracen name and religion in Sicily. On its heels came a new irruption from Germany, in the person of Conradin, the claimant of the imperial succession, to whom joined themselves Pisa and Siena, in opposition to their big neighbour and enemy Florence, and the people of Rome itself, at quarrel with their Pope, who had left the city for Viterbo. By Conradin's defeat the French power became paramount; and then it was that the next pope, Gregory X, sought to restore the Ghibellines as counterpoise: a policy pursued by his[Pg 242] successor, to the end, however, of substituting (1278) papal for imperial claims over Italy. Even Florence at his wish recalled her Ghibellines. But then came the forced election of another French pope, who acted wholly in the French interest, and re-exiled everywhere the Ghibellines: a process speedily followed in turn by the "Sicilian Vespers," involving the massacre and expulsion of the French, and introducing a Spanish king as representative of the imperial line. Again the Papacy encouraged the other power, relieving Charles II, as King of Naples, from his treaty oath, and set him upon making a war with Sicily, which dragged for twenty-four years. Such were the main political features of the Italy of Dante. The Papacy, becoming a prize of the leading Roman families, played a varying game as between the two monarchies of the south and their partisans in the north; and the minor cities, like the greater, underwent chronic revolutions. Still, so abundant was the Italian outflow of intellectual and inventive energy, so substantial was the general freedom of the cities, and so soundly was the average regimen founded on energetic agriculture and commerce, that wealth abounded on all hands.

With the new French invasion (1302) under Charles of Valois, called in by Boniface VIII to aid him against Sicily, a partially new stage begins. Charles was received at Florence as the typical Guelph; but, being counselled by the pope to pacify Tuscany to his own advantage, allied himself with the ultra-Guelphs, the Neri, gave up to plunder, the proceeds of which he pocketed, the houses of the other or pro-Ghibelline faction, the Bianchi, and enforced the execution or exile of its leading men, including Dante. Then came the election of a strictly French pope and his establishment at Avignon. A new lease being now given to faction, the cities rapidly lapsed into the over-lord system as the only means of preserving order; and when in 1316 a new emperor, Henry VII, presented himself for homage and claimed to place an imperial vicar in each city, most were well disposed to agree. When however Henry, like Charles, showed himself mainly bent on plunder, demanding 100,000 florins from Milan and 60,000 from Genoa, he destroyed his prestige. He had insisted on the recall of all exiles of either party; but all united against his demands, save the Pisans, who had sent him 60,000 florins in advance. His sudden death, on his way to fight the forces of Naples, left everything in a new suspense, save that Pisa, already shorn of maritime power, was soon eclipsed, after setting up a military tyranny as a last resort.

The régime of the local tyrant now rapidly developed. On the[Pg 243] fall of the Pisan tyrant rose that of Lucca, Castruccio Castracani, the great type, after Ezzelino, of the Italian despot-adventurer of the Renaissance. Such a leader was too dangerous an antagonist to such a corporation as that of Florence—once more (1323) reconstructed on an upper-class basis, with a scrutinised franchise, election by ballot, and a more complicated system of offices than ever.[615] To command them against Castruccio, they called in the Catalonian general Cardona, who utterly failed them. He took the course of so handling and placing his troops as to force those citizens in the army who could afford it to buy leave of absence, and was finally defeated with his wilfully weakened army. Florence was driven to call in the King of Naples, at the price of conferring the signoria on his son. Meanwhile the new emperor Ludwig, called in by Castruccio, plundered the Milanese and imprisoned their lords, the Visconti, who had been of his own party; extorted 150,000 florins from the Pisans; tortured, to extort treasure, a Ghibelline who had given up to him a fortress in the papal State; and generally showed the Italians, before he withdrew, that a German tyrant could beat even a native at once in treachery, cruelty, and avarice. Castruccio and the son of the King of Naples, who had proved a bad bargain, died about the same time as did the reigning Visconti at Milan, the reigning tyrant at Mantua, and Can' Grande of Verona, the successor of Ezzelino, who had conquered Padua. Again the encouraged middle class of Florence recast their constitution (1328), annulling the old councils and electing two new: a Council of the "People," composed of 300 middle-class citizens, and a Council of the Commune, composed of 250 of both orders. Elsewhere the balance inclined to anarchy and despotism, as of old. A new emperor, John of Bohemia, offered (1330) a new chance of pacification, eagerly welcomed, to a harassed people, in large part shaken by military dangers in its devotion to republicanism, and weary of local tyrannies. But against the new imperialism Florence stoutly held out, with the aid of Lombard Ghibellines; the new emperor, leaving Italy, sold his influence everywhere to local tyrants, and once more everything was in suspense.

At length, in 1336, there occurred the new phenomenon of a combination between Florence and Venice against a new tyrant of Padua and Lucca, who had betrayed Florence; but the Venetians in turn did the same thing, leaving the Florentines half a million of[Pg 244] florins in debt; whereupon they were attacked by their old enemies the Pisans, who heavily defeated them and captured Lucca, for which Florence had been fighting. It was in this stage of demoralisation that the Florentines (1342) suddenly forced their signoria to give the war-lordship to the French Gaultier de Brienne, "Duke of Athens," formerly the right-hand man of the son of the King of Naples, who had now been sent to them as a new commander by that king, on the request of the Commission of Twenty charged with the war. The commission elected him to the sole command in order to save themselves[616] and pacify the people; and his natural associates, the old nobility, counselled him to seize the government, which he gradually did, beheading and exiling the discredited middle-class leaders, and so winning the support of the populace, who, on his putting himself for open election to the signoria for one year, acclaimed him to the function for life. To this pass had come the see-saw of middle class (popolo) and upper class, with a populace held in pupilage.

Sismondi, in his Short History, pp. 147, 148, seems to represent the episode as wholly one of wanton popular caprice and venality, even representing that Duke Gaultier was only by chance in the city. The narrative of Machiavelli explicitly sets forth how he came through the appeal of the Commission of Twenty; how the nobility and some of the bourgeoisie conspired with him; and how the populace were worked upon by the conspirators. The public acclamation, bad as it was, had been carefully subsidised. The middle class, whose war policy, however, had brought the city into such danger, were far more guilty than the mostly unenfranchised populace. Sismondi had latterly an undue faith in the principle of middle-class rule. (Cp. Mr. Boulting's Memoir in his recast of the Républiques, p. xxiv.) In his Histoire des républiques italiennes (v, 329-53) he sets forth the financial corruption of the middle-class rulers (p. 330), and recognises that they and the aristocrats were alike dangerous to liberty. Cp. as to his change of front, F. Morin, Origines de la démocratie, 3e édit. 1865, introd. pp. 17-18.

Within a year, partly on the sudden pressure of a scarcity, the tyrant was overthrown, after having wrung from Florence 400,000 florins and infuriated all classes against him and his race. Not the least of his offences was his conclusion of a peace with Pisa, by which she for a given period was to rule over Lucca. The rising[Pg 245] against him was universal. Three of his henchmen were literally torn to pieces with hands and teeth: a madness of fury which was only too profoundly in keeping with the self-abandonment that had placed the tyrant in power. The political organism was beginning to disintegrate. A new constitution was set up, with a leaning to aristocracy, which was soon upset by the middle class, who in turn established yet another. The nobles, believing the populace to be hostile to the bourgeoisie, attempted anew a revolution, and were utterly crushed. And now began, according to the greatest of the publicists of the Renaissance, the final enfeeblement of Florence, in that the ruin of the nobility, whose one merit had been their fighting power, led to the abandonment of all military exercise.[617] Yet Florence a generation later made vigorous war under a "committee," and in the meantime at least the city tasted domestic peace and grew in civilisation. And though we doubtless exaggerate when we conceive of a transition from what we are apt to figure as the fierce and laughterless Florence of Dante to the gay Florence of the Medici, it is hard to hold that life was worsened when men changed the ways which made them collectively capable of rending with their teeth the carcases of those they hated, and which left the Viscontis of Milan capable of torturing their political prisoners to death through forty days.

Still the process of disintegration and reintegration proceeded. The tyrants of the smaller cities usually established themselves by the aid of professional mercenaries, German and other, whom, when their funds failed, they turned loose to shift for themselves, having in the meantime disarmed the citizens. These companies, swelled by others disbanded after the English wars in France, ravaged and plundered Italy from Montferrat to Naples, and were everywhere bought off save by Florence. Only the Pope and the greater tyrants could keep them regularly in pay; and by their means the Viscontis became lords of sixteen cities of Lombardy, while the Papacy began to build up a military power. Naples, on the other hand, continuously degenerated; while Genoa and Venice exhausted each other in deadly strife for the commercial monopoly of the East; and Pisa leaned to the Viscontis, who ultimately obtained its headship.

Rome, popeless, and domineered over by warring nobles, had its brief vision of a republic under the dreamer Cola di Rienzi, who at last fell by the hand of the masses whom he had for a brief space hypnotised. Neither he nor they were meet for the destiny they fain[Pg 246] would have fulfilled; and had people and leader alike been worthier, they would ultimately have failed to master the forces joined against them. Rienzi's brief, and on some sides remarkably vigorous, administration in 1346-47 was not wholly unworthy of his ideal of "the good estate"; he seems, indeed, to have ruled the Roman territory with an efficiency that recalled the ancient State; and his early successes against the nobles tell of unexpected weakness on their side and energy on that of the people. His dream of an Italian federation, too, remains to prove that he was no mere mob-leader. But had he been as stable in purpose and policy as he was heady and capricious, and had the Roman populace been as steadfast as it was turbulent, the forces of division represented by the nobles and the Papacy would ultimately have overthrown any republican polity. What Florence could not compass, Rome could not maintain. Two centuries before, Arnold of Brescia had fallen, after fifteen years of popularity, as soon as pope and emperor joined hands against him; and the papalism of Rienzi was as fatal to him as anti-papalism had been to Arnold. Had Rienzi had his way, the Pope would have at once returned to Rome; and where the Papacy was, no republic could endure, however strong and sober were its head. And Rienzi was not sober. After his overthrow in 1347 and his seven years of wandering exile, he was restored solely by the choice and as the agent of the Pope at Avignon; and his death in a tumult after four months of renewed office was the end of his cause.

In Florence the disintegration went on apace. A new emperor, Charles IV, charged the city 100,000 florins (1355) for her immunities, leaving all men hopeless as ever of the Empire as a political solution; and when the crimes of the Viscontis drove cities and Papacy to call Charles in against them (1368), he did but use the opportunity to levy blackmail wherever he went. Later (1375), the Papacy combined with Florence against the reigning Visconti, but only to betray its ally. And now occurred what for a time must have seemed a vital revolution in Italian affairs; the infuriated Florentines suddenly allying themselves with Visconti, the enemy of the day before, against the treacherous Pope, and framing a league with Siena, Lucca, and Pisa against the Church that Florence had so long sustained. Eighty towns in ten days drove out their legates; and furious reprisals broke out on all hands, till the very Pope at Avignon was fain to come to stay the universal warfare. Now, however, an aristocratic and papalist party in Florence bitterly opposed "The Eight" who managed the war, the aristocracy having gravitated to the papal side; and at length exhaustion and the[Pg 247] absolute instability of all alliances brought about a peace in which most of the cities, freed from the Papacy—now become an affair of two mutually anathematising heads—fell once more under local tyrants. In the hour of extreme need the Papacy was, if possible, a worse influence than the emperor; nowhere was to be found a force of stability save in the tyrannies, which were merely unstable with a difference.

Florence, still republican and still obstinately prosperous, stood as a strange anomaly in the general transformation. But she had now reached the stage when the long-ignored populace—the multitude beneath the popolo—made up of handworkers with no nominal incorporation or franchise, was able to press its claims as against the other orders, which in turn were divided, as of old, by the jealousies between the major and minor middle-class guilds and between the new nobility of capital and their former equals. Refused the status of incorporation, the ciompi ("chums" or "mates," from the French compère) made their insurrection in turn, finding for the nonce in a wool-carder a leader of the best quality the time could show, who carried his point, was chosen head magistrate, enforced order among his own partisans, and established a new magistracy, with three representatives of the major arts, three of the minor (1378).

Among other things, the ciompi demanded that interest should no longer be paid on the public debt; that the principal be paid off in twelve years, and that no "small people" should be sued for debts under fifty florins for the next two years (see Trollope, ii, 216). The trouble was that the brains in the movement, good as they were, could not permanently control the spirit of riot. Sismondi, after arguing (Short History, p. 182) in the Whig manner that "those who have not learnt to think, those to whom manual labour leaves no time for meditation, ought not to undertake the guidance of their fellow-citizens," amusingly proceeds (p. 185) to point to the capacity of Lando as showing "how much a free government spreads sound sense and elevated sentiments among even the lowest classes of society." Immediately afterwards he has to record how the upper classes fell into fresh disorders.

But where the educated burgesses and nobles had failed in the science of self-government, the mass of untrained toilers[618] could not succeed. Suborned doubtless by the other classes, they rebelled against the man whom they had made leader, and were by him promptly and capably suppressed, many being exiled; whereupon[Pg 248] in due course he was himself deprived of his post by the old parties, and the new order was annulled (1382). After fresh strifes and proscriptions among the aristocracy themselves, all traces of the popular rising were effaced, and the aristocracy of wealth was definitely re-established.

What had happened was the attainment of the capitalistic stage and the enthronement of capital in the republican State. In place of strifes between wealth and nobility there had arisen the strife of capital and labour, the new aristocracy of wealth having in large part taken the place of that of descent. The latter transition had occurred nearly simultaneously in the other remaining Republics. Genoa had substituted factions with the names of new wealthy families for the old. In Siena, where the bourgeoisie dispossessed the nobles, they were in turn assailed by "reformers" of the lower class, who were finally defeated in battle and exiled wholesale (1385). Meantime the hereditary tyrants of Milan, the Visconti, with their singular continuity of capacity, had grown stronger than ever, had built up a native and scientific military system, and more than ever menaced all their neighbours. Florence called in aid successively from Germany and France (1390-91); but the Milanese army triumphed over all; and the skilled adventurer Sir John Hawkwood, the hired general of the Florentine troops, could not hold his ground. The Emperor, as usual, was satisfied to take payment for non-intervention; and the reigning Visconti, Gian Galeazza, invested by the Emperor with the titles of Duke of Mantua and Count of Pavia, and the lordship of twenty-six cities, had by the year 1402 further compassed, by all manner of fraud and force, the mastery of Pisa, Perugia, Genoa, Siena, Lucca, and Bologna, dying of the plague at the height of his power. His sons being boys, his power broke up among his generals, to be in large part recovered later, however, by his second son, who first assassinated the elder.

At this stage Venice once more intervenes, taking up the cause of Verona against the tyrant of Padua, whom, having defeated him by her carefully-chosen and supervised mercenaries, she put to death (1406). He had been the ally of Florence; but Florence let him fall, being now wholly bent on reconquering Pisa, her natural seaport. Pisa, in turn, always invincibly opposed to Florentine rule, was on commercial grounds backed by Genoa, now under the nominal rule of a representative of the King of France, who, however, sought to sell Pisa to the Florentines, and did receive from them 200,000 florins. Still resisting, the Pisans recalled an exile to lead them; and he in turn sold them for 50,000 florins, this[Pg 249] time to their complete undoing. Refusing all Florentine favours, the bulk of the ruling middle-class abandoned the city for ever, taking much of its special commerce with them. Meantime, the kingdom of Naples, under an energetic king, Ladislaus, had acquired most of the States of the distracted Church, menaced Florence, and was pressing her hard, despite French support, when Ladislaus died (1414). By this time the new Visconti was establishing himself at Milan by means of mercenaries, commanded for him by well-chosen captains. Six times were the Florentines defeated by his forces; till his capable general, Carmagnola, whom he had disgraced, revealed to the Council of Venice his master's intention to attack them; and Venice joined Florence to crush the tyrant. Carmagnola, acting slackly, met ill success, and was therefore executed by his Venetian masters. But the Visconti too finally died defeated, leaving his power to a new adventurer, Francesco Sforza, who had married his daughter, and had fought both for and against him in the endless imbroglio of Italian conspiracy.

Florentine republicanism was now near its euthanasia. By the fatal law of empire, the perpetual enterprise of destroying other men's freedom left Florence unfit to use or to defend her own; and the tyrants of Pisa became meet for the yoke of tyranny. The family of Medici, growing rapidly rich, began to use the power of capital as elsewhere less astute adventurers used the power of the sword. From the overthrow of the ciompi party in 1382 to 1434, the Republic had been ruled by a faction of the new commercial aristocracy with substantial unity; and the period is claimed as the most prosperous, intellectually and materially, though not the most progressive, in Florentine history.

See above, p. 226-27. Perrens (Histoire de Florence, trans. cited, pp. 171-72, 202) thinks otherwise, but does not blame the oligarchy. Sismondi, in his larger and earlier work (Républiques, ed. 1826, xi, 2), represents that Florence ceased to be great under the Medici; cp. however, xii, 52, and the different note in the reactionary Short History (p. 224), where he deems that in this period were born and formed "all those great men" whose glory is credited to the Medici. This holds good of Brunelleschi the architect, Masallio the artist, and Ghiberti the sculptor, as well as of Poggio and other scholars. Cp. Zeller, Histoire d'Italie, 1853, p. 309, and the list given by Perrens, Histoire de Florence, trans. cited, p. 456. M. Perrens pronounces that under Lorenzo "the decadence of sculpture is visible, and still more that of architecture," both being too rapidly produced from motives of gain (La civilisation [Pg 250]florentine du 13e siècle au 16e, 1893, p. 190). Here he follows Romohr (see Histoire de Florence, last cited). Lorenzo, he notes, had the reactionary belief, odd on the part of a merchant, that only nobles could produce perfect work, they only having the necessary leisure. He accordingly ignored all plebeian genius, such as that of Leonardo da Vinci.

Cosimo de' Medici, descendant of a democrat, was grown too rich to be one in his turn; and between him and the Albizzi, who led the ruling faction, there grew up one of the old and typical jealousies of power-seekers. Exiled by a packed balia, Cosimo's wealth enabled him to turn the tables in a year and exile his exilers, taking their place and silently absorbing their power. "The moment was come when the credit of the Medici was to prevail over the legal power of the Florentine signoria." Thus when the Visconti died, Cosimo and the doge of Venice combined their forces to prevent the recovery of the republican independence of Milan, whose middle class, divided by their own jealousies, speedily succumbed to the fraud and force of Sforza, the Visconti's heir.

For thirty years Cosimo maintained at Florence, by the power of capital, prosperity and peace under the semblance of the old constitution, the richer of the ever-renewed capitalist class accepting his primacy, while the populace, being more equitably governed than of yore under the old nobility, and being steadily prosperous, saw no ground for revolt. Capital as "tyrant" had in fact done what the tyrants of early Greece and Rome are presumed to have often done—favoured the people as against the aristocracy; Cosimo's liberality giving employment and pay at the same time to the artisans and to the scholars. Under Cosimo and his political colleagues, doubtless, the subject cities were corruptly governed; but Florence seems to have been discreetly handled. Attempts to break the capitalistic domination came to nothing, save the exile or at a pinch the death of the malcontents.

[Under all of the Medici, it appears, "the fiscal legislation adhered to the principle of burdening the old nobility of the city" (Von Reumont, Lorenzo de' Medici, Eng. tr. i, 33). They however built up a fresh public debt, and their finance had very crooked aspects, especially under Lorenzo, who lacked the mercantile faculty of his grandfather (id. pp. 31-33. Cp. Perrens, Histoire de Florence, trans. cited, pp. 55-60, 288, 408-13, 416-17). Lorenzo was even accused of appropriating the dowries of orphan girls; and it seems clear that he defrauded the monte delle doti, or dowry bank.

As regards fiscal policy, it may be interesting to note that [Pg 251]in Florence taxes had been imposed alternately on capital or income from the thirteenth century onwards, both being taken at the lowest values, and rated at from one-half to three per cent. according to the estimo (Esquiron de Parieu, Traité des impôts, 2e édit. 1866, i, 417). These taxes in turn were probably suggested by the practice of ancient Athens, where extraordinary revenue for war purposes was obtained "partly from voluntary contributions, partly from a graduated income or property tax." In 1266 a fresh income-tax of ten per cent. on an already heavily taxed city incited the decisive rising against the rule of the Ghibelline Count Guido. The earlier historians of Florence, like most others, pay little attention to the history of taxation; but details emerge for the later period.

In 1427 Giovanni de' Medici imposed on Florence a tax called the catasto—apparently not, like earlier taxes of the same name, based on a survey of land, but on disposable or movable capital—and also one of ½ per cent. on income over what was necessary to support life. Further, he levied a super-tax, which was paid by 1,400 citizens out of the 10,000 who came under the catasto. At a pinch, the catasto was levied several times in the year. Yet further, a regularly graduated income-tax was imposed by Cosimo de' Medici, in 1441, and raised in 1443; but, in this case, the salutary principle of sparing the amount of income necessary to sustain life seems to have been departed from, since incomes of from one to fifty florins paid 4 per cent., the rate gradually rising thereafter to 331/3 per cent. for incomes over 1,500 florins. By reason of bad finance, further, taxes had now to be levied even ten and fifteen times a year. Cp. Perrens, as last cited. It is yet further noteworthy that, from 1431 to 1458, traders were required to show their books to the revenue officers for the purpose of fair assessment. The abandonment of this provision seems to have been partly due to the evasions practised by the traders, partly to the irritation and the abuses set up by it.]

At Cosimo's death there was dynastic strife of capital, as elsewhere of blood; but the blundering financier Pitti went to the wall, and the invalid Piero de' Medici kept his father's power. At his death the group of his henchmen kept their hold on it; and in time his son Lorenzo ousted them and engrossed all, escaping the plot which was fatal to his brother. The failure of that and other plots, in Florence and elsewhere, sufficed to prove that the artisans, well employed and protected by the laws, had no concern to upset the orderly and business-like "tyranny" either of one great capitalist or of a prince, in the interest of an oligarchy which would rule no better, which gave them no more of political privilege than did he, and which was less ready than he with public gifts. Thus he had[Pg 252] little difficulty in cutting down every institution that restricted his power, whether popular or oligarchic.[619] Italian republicanism had always been a matter of either upper-class or middle-class rule; and when the old upper class of feudal descent was superseded by one of commercial descent, the populace had nothing to gain by supporting the bourgeoisie. A capitalistic "lord," most of whose wealth was in its nature unseizable, was thus a more stable power than any mere swordsman among swordsmen; and Lorenzo de' Medici not only crushed all the conspiracies against him, but held his own against the dangerous alliance of the republican Pope Sixtus IV and the King of Naples—the menace of Turkish invasion helping him. When, early in his reign, he joined in and carried through the plot for the confiscation of Volterra, chiefly in order to secure a hold on its rich alum mines, his popularity at Florence was in the ratio of the baseness of his triumph. As always, imperialism and corruption went hand in hand, and the Florentines ensured their own servitude by their eagerness to compass the fall of others.[620]

After Lorenzo's death (1492) only the incompetence of his son Piero at the hazardous juncture of the new French invasion under Charles VIII could upset the now hereditary power of the house; but such incompetence at such a crisis was sufficient, Savonarola having now set up a new democratic force, partly analogous to that of Puritanism in the England of a later age. The new party, however, brought no new political science.[621] Republican Florence in its interim of self-government proceeded as of old to make war on indomitable Pisa, with which it could never consent to live on terms of equality. Time after time, vanquished by force and treachery, the Pisans had again cast loose, fighting for independence as fiercely as did their fathers of a previous generation. Savonarola, who had no better light for this problem than was given to the other Florentines of his age, "staked the truth of his inspiration on the recovery of Pisa"; he had not a grain of sympathy for the Pisans, and punished those who had;[622] and though his party had the wisdom to proclaim a general amnesty for Florence (1495), the war against Pisa went on, with the French king insensately admitted as a Florentine ally. Savonarola in his turn fell, on his plain failure to evoke the miraculous aid on the wild promise of which he had so[Pg 253] desperately traded; his party of pietists went to pieces; and the upper-class party which succeeded carried on the war, destroying the Pisan harvests every year, till, under the one-man command of Loderini, Florence triumphed (1507), and the staunch sea-city fell once more. Even now the conquering city consented to pay great bribes to the kings of France and Aragon for leave to take her prey. And once more multitudes of Pisans emigrated, refusing to live in subjection, despite all attempts at conciliation.[623]

Slowly the monarchic powers closed in; France, after several campaigns, decisively defeated and captured Lodovico Sforza, lord of Milan, and proceeded by a secret treaty with Spain to partition the kingdom of Naples—a rascals' bargain, which ended in a quarrel and in the destruction of two French armies; Spain remaining master of Naples and the Sicilies, while France held the Milanese and Liguria, including Genoa. For a few years Cesare Borgia flared across the Italian sky, only to fall with his great purposes unfulfilled; and still the foreign powers encroached. France, with Swiss support, proceeded in turn to make war on Venice; and the emperor, the pope, Spain, and the smaller neighbouring despots, joined in the attack. Against these dastardly odds the invincible oligarchy of Venice held out, till Pope Julius, finding his barbarian friends worse than his Italian enemies, changed sides, joined the republic, and after many reverses got together an anti-French league of English, Swiss, and Spanish. Finally the emperor betrayed his French allies, who were once more driven out of Italy, leaving their ally, Florence, to fall into the hands of the Spaniards (1512).

Now came the restoration of the family of Medici, soon followed by the elevation of Giovanni de' Medici to the Papacy as Leo X; whence came yet more wars, enough to paralyse Italy financially had there been no other impoverishing cause. But Leo X, now the chief Italian power, misgoverned in secular affairs as badly as in ecclesiastical; and the wars, so barbarous in themselves, were waged upon dwindling resources. Venice, pressed afresh by Maximilian, made alliance with Louis, who was defeated by the Swiss, as defenders and "lords" of Milan; whereupon the Spanish, papal, and German forces successively ravaged the Venetian territories. Francis I zealously renewed the war, grappled with the Swiss in the desperate battle of Marignano in such sort as to get them to come to terms,[Pg 254] and compassed the sovereignty of Milan. On the succession of Charles V to the throne of Spain and the Empire (1519), war between him and Francis set in systematically, and continued under Adrian and Clement VII as under Leo, both combatants feeding on and plundering Italy. The defeat of Francis at Pavia (1525) brought no cessation to the drain; a new league was formed between France, the Papacy, Venice, and Sforza; and soon, besides the regular armies, a guerilla horde of Germans on the imperial side, receiving no pay, was living by the plunder of Lombardy. At length, in 1527, came the sack of Rome by the imperial forces, Germans and Spanish combining for nine miserable months to outdo the brutalities and the horrors of all previous conquests, Christian or heathen. Two years' more fighting "only added to the desolation of Italy, and destroyed alike in all the Italian provinces the last remains of prosperity."[624] When a fresh German army entered Lombardy, in 1529, there was "nothing more to pillage."[625]

The curtain now falls rapidly on every form of "independence" in Italy. Pope Clement VII, freed of his barbarian conquerors, sent them against Florence, which fell in a fashion not unworthy of its great republican tradition, after tasting three final years of its ancient and thrice-forfeited "freedom." With the dying Machiavelli to frame the ordinances of her revived military system, and Michel Angelo to construct her last fortifications, she had in her final effort bound up with her name as a republic two of the greatest Italian names of the age of the Renaissance. Then came the vengeance of the Medicean Pope, Clement VII, the ducal tyranny, and the end of a great period.

The prolonged life of the maritime and commercial-aristocratic republics of Genoa and Venice, interesting as a proof of the defensive powers of communities so placed and so ordered, was no prolongation of Italian civilisation, save in so far as a brilliant art survived at Venice till the close of the sixteenth century. It is sufficient to note that what of artistic and intellectual life Venice and Genoa had was dependent first on Venetian contact with Byzantium, and later on the fecundity of freer Italy. The mere longer duration of Venice was due as much to her unique situation as to her system. On the other hand, it seems substantially true that the Venetian oligarchy did rule its subjects, both at home and on the mainland, with greater wisdom and fairness than was shown by any other Italian power. When[Pg 255] Castruccio Castracani drove nine hundred families out of Lucca in 1310, thus destroying some of its chief manufactures, Venice gave the silk-weavers among them a politic encouragement, and so widened her commercial basis.[626] Her rulers, in short, had the common sense of men of business, who knew the value of goodwill. There is thus an unwarrantable extravagance in the verdict of the young Macaulay, that in Venice "aristocracy had destroyed every seed of genius and virtue";[627] and in his outburst: "God forbid that there should ever again exist a powerful and civilised State which, after existing through thirteen hundred eventful years, shall not bequeath to mankind the memory of one great name or one generous action." Such actions are not rife in any history, and in mere civic selfishness of purpose the rulers of Venice were on a par with most others.[628] As citizens, or as a caste, they seem to have been not more but less self-seeking as against the rest of the community, despite their determined exclusiveness, than the same class in other States.[629] Their history does but prove that an astute oligarchy, protectively governing a commercial and industrial State, is not helpful to civilisation in the ratio of its power and stability, and that the higher political wisdom is not the appanage of any class.

When all is said, the whole Italian civilisation of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance represents a clear political gain over that of ancient Hellas in that it had transcended slavery, while failing to attain or to aim at the equality and fraternity which alone realise liberty. Despite, too, all the scandals of the Renaissance in general, and of papal Rome in particular, the life of such a city as Florence was morally quite on a par with that of any northern city.[630] But the later States and civilisations which, while so much more fortunate in their political conditions, are still so far from the moral liberation of their labouring masses—these are not entitled to plume themselves on their comparative success. "The petty done" is still dwarfed by "the undone vast."

What they and we may truly claim is that in the modern State, freed from the primal curse of fratricidal strife between cities and provinces, the totality of "good life," no less than of industrial and commercial life, is far greater than of old, even if signal genius be less common. To contrast the Genoa of to-day with the old City-State[Pg 256] is to realise how peace can liberate human effort. The city of Petrarch, Columbus, and Mazzini has no recent citizen of European fame; but since a wealthy son bequeathed to her his huge fortune (1875), she has become the chief port of Italy, passing some forty per cent. of the total trade of the country. The fact that half her imports, in weight, consist of coal, tells of the main economic disadvantage of modern Italy as compared with the chief northern countries; but the modern development of industry is all the more notable. Under a system of general free trade, it might go much further.

The fact remains that modern Italy is no such intellectual beacon-light among the nations as she was in the "old, unhappy, far-off times"; and upon this the historical sentimentalist is prone to moralise. But there is no perceptible reason why the new life, well managed, should not yield new intellectual glories; and the latterday intellectual Renaissance of Italy may one day take its place in the historic retrospect as no less notable than that of the days of strife.


[598] Burckhardt (as cited, p. 94) agrees with Ranke that, if Italy had escaped subjugation by the Spaniards, she would have fallen into the hands of the Turks.

[599] Burckhardt, p. 82. Freeman, from whom one looks for details (History of Federal Government in Greece and Italy, ed. 1893, pp. 558, 615), gives none.

[600] Purgatorio, canto vi, 91-93.

[601] Machiavelli, however, had special schemes of constitutional compromise (see Burckhardt, p. 85, and Roscoe, Life of Leo X, ed. 1846, ii, 204, 205); and there were many framers of paper constitutions for Florence (Burckhardt, p. 83).

[602] See Gibbon, ch. 70. Bohn ed. vii, 398, 404.

[603] Cp. Burckhardt, pp. 6, 7.

[604] Lea, Historical Sketch of Sacerdotal Celibacy, 2nd ed. pp. 145-47, 212-20, 224-36, 242-43.

[605] Sismondi, Short History, p. 20.

[606] Trollope notes (History of the Commonwealth of Florence, i, 31) how Dante and Villani caught at the theory of an intermixture of alien blood as an explanation of the strifes which in Florence, as elsewhere, grew out of the primordial and universal passions of men in an expanding society. Villari (Two First Centuries, p. 73) endorses the old theory without asking how civil strifes came about in the cities of early Greece and in those of the Netherlands.

[607] Which, however, was probably already being weakened by the silting up of the Pisan harbour. This seems to have begun through the action of the Genoese in blocking it with huge masses of stone in 1290. Bent, Genoa, pp. 86-87. Sismondi notes that, after the great defeat of 1284, "all the fishermen of the coast quitted the Pisan galleys for those of Genoa." Short History, p. 111. As to the Pisan harbour, whose very site is now uncertain, see Pignotti, Hist. of Tuscany, Eng. tr. iii, 258, note.

[608] After destroying Ugolino, the Pisans chose as leader Guido de Montefeltro, who made their militia a formidable power.

[609] Pignotti, as cited, iii, 283-84.

[610] Heeren, as cited, pp. 69, 120, etc.

[611] Cp. Trollope, History of Florence, i, 105; Villari, Two First Centuries, pp. 95, 100.

[612] Cp. Sismondi, Short History, pp. 88-90.

[613] Podestà, as we have seen, was an old imperialist title. In Florence it became communal, and in 1200 it was first held by a foreigner, chosen, it would seem, as likely to be more impartial than a native. Cp., however, the comments of Villari, First Two Centuries, p. 157, and Trollope, i, 84, 94; and the mention by Plutarch, De amore prolis, § 1, as to the same development among the Greeks. In the memoirs of Fra Salimbene (1221-90) there is mention that in 1233 the Parmesans "made a friar their podestà, who put an end to all feuds" (trans. by T.K. L. Oliphant, in The Duke and the Scholar, 1875, p. 90). The Florentine institution of the priori delle arti, mentioned below, is traced back as far as 1204 (Cantù, as cited, viii, 465, note). The anziani, during their term of office, slept at the public palace, and could not go out save together.

[614] Thus Dante and Lorenzo de' Medici belonged to the craft of apothecaries.

[615] See Trollope, ii, 179, as to the endless Florentine devices to check special power and to vary the balance of the constitution.

[616] Two years before a feebler attempt had been made to set up a military tool, named Gabrielli.

[617] Machiavelli, Istorie, end of 1. ii and beginning of 1. iii.

[618] According to Giovanni Villani, in the fourteenth century there were schools only for 8,000 children, and only 1,200 were taught arithmetic.

[619] Details in Perrens' Histoire de Florence, Eng. trans. of vol. viii, pp. 268, 284-88, 291, 307, 310.

[620] Cp. Perrens, trans. cited, pp. 276-80.

[621] M. Perrens indeed pronounces the two Councils set up by Savonarola's party to be much superior to the former bodies (La civilisation florentine, p. 61); but he admits that "at bottom and from the start the system was vitiated by the theocracy which presided over it."

[622] Cp. Armstrong, in Cambridge Modern History, 1902, i, 171.

[623] The constancy of Pisa in resisting the yoke of Florence, and the repeated self-expatriation of masses of the inhabitants, is hardly intelligible in view of the submission of so many other cities to worse tyrannies. It would seem that the sting lay in the idea that the rule of the rival city was more galling to pride than any one-man tyranny, foreign or other.

[624] Sismondi, Républiques, xvi, 71-76, 158, 159, 170, 217; Short History, p. 336.

[625] As to the misery of Florence after the siege, see Napier, Florentine History, iv, 533, 534.

[626] Smith, Wealth of Nations, bk. iii, ch. iii. citing Sandi.

[627] Review of Mitford, Miscellaneous Writings, ed. 1868, p. 74.

[628] Macaulay doubtless proceeded on the history of Daru, now known to be seriously erroneous. Compare that of W.C. Hazlitt, above cited, pref.

[629] Cp. Brown, in Cambridge Modern History, 1902, vol. i, The Renaissance, p. 285.

[630] Cp. Armstrong, in Cambridge History, i, 150-51.



Chapter I


It lies on the face of the foregoing surveys that the principle which gives mass-form to all politics—to wit, the principle of nationality—makes at once for peace and war, co-operation and enmity. As against the tendency to atomism, the tribal principle supplies cohesion; as against tribalism, the principle of the State plays the same part; and as against oppression the instinct of race or nationality inspires and sustains resistance. But in every aggregate, the force of attraction tends to generate a correlative repulsion to other aggregates, and—save for the counterplay of class repulsions—the fundamental instinct of egoism takes new extensions in pride of family, pride of clan, pride of nation, pride of race. Until the successive extensions have all been rectified by the spirit of reciprocity, politics remains so far unmoralised and unrationalised.

The nullity of the conception of "race genius" has been forced on us at every meeting with it. No less clear, on a critical analysis, is the irrationality of the instinct of racial pride which underlies that conception, and which is involved in perhaps half of the strifes of tribes, States, and nations. Yet perhaps most of the reflections made by historical writers in the way of generalisations of the history of States and peoples are in terms of the fallacy and the irrationality in question. And the instinctive persistence of both reveals itself when we come to reflect on the fortunes of what we usually call the little nations—employing a term which at once sets up a whole series of partial hallucinations.[Pg 258]

The main distinction between civilised nations being difference of language, there has spontaneously arisen the habit of identifying language with "race," and regarding a dwindling tongue as implying a dwindling people. In the British Islands, for instance, the decline in the numbers of the people speaking Celtic dialects—the Erse, the Welsh, and the Gaelic—leads many persons, including some of the speakers of those tongues, to regard the "Celtic stock" as in course of diminution; and statesmen speak quasi-scientifically of "the Celtic fringe" as representing certain political tendencies in particular. Yet as soon as we substitute the comparatively real test of name-forms for the non-test of language, we find that the Welsh and Gaelic-speaking stocks have enormously extended within the English-speaking population, so that "Welsh blood" is very much commoner in Britain than "Saxon," relatively to the proportions between the areas and populations of Wales and England, while "Highland blood" is relatively predominant in "Saxon"-speaking Scotland; and "Irish blood" is almost similarly abundant even in England, to say nothing of its immense multiplication in the United States.

Enthusiasm for one's nation as such thus begins on scrutiny to resolve itself into enthusiasm for one's speech; and as our English speech is a near variant of certain others held alien, as Dutch and Scandinavian and German, with a decisive control from French, enthusiasm for the speech-tie begins, on reflection, to assimilate to the enthusiasm of the district, the glen, the parish. Millions of us are at a given moment rapturous about the deeds of our non-ancestors, on the supposition that they were our ancestors, and in terms of a correlative aversion to the deeds of certain other ancients loosely supposed to have been the ancestors of certain of our contemporaries. Thus the ostensible entity which plays so large a part in the common run of thought about history—the nation, considered as a continuous and personalised organism—is in large measure a metaphysical dream, and the emotion spent on it partakes much of the nature of superstition.

How hard it is for anyone trained in such emotion to transcend it is seen from the form taken by the sympathy which is bestowed by considerate members of a large community on members of a small one. "Gallant little Wales" is a phrase in English currency; and a contemporary poet, who had actually written pertinently and well in prose on the spurious conception of greatness attached to membership in a large population, has also written in verse a plea for "little peoples" in terms of the assumption of an entity conscious[Pg 259] of relative smallness. Some of these more sympathetic pictures of the lesser States obscurely recall the anecdote of the little girl who, contemplating a picture of martyrs thrown to the lions, sorrowed for the "poor lion who hadn't any Christian." The late Sir John Seeley, on the other hand, wrote in the more normal Anglo-Saxon manner that "some countries, such as Holland and Sweden, might pardonably (sic) regard their history as in a manner wound up; ... the only practical lesson of their history is a lesson of resignation."[631] The unit in a population of three millions is implicitly credited with the consciousness of a dwarf or a cripple facing a gigantic rival when he thinks of the existence of a community of thirty or sixty millions. Happily, the unit of the smaller community has no such consciousness;[632] and, inasmuch as his state is thus intellectually the more gracious, there appears to be some solid psychological basis for the paradox, lately broached by such a one, that "the future lies with the small nations." That is to say, it seems likely that a higher level of general rationality will be attained in the small than in the large populations, in virtue of their escaping one of the most childish and most fostered hallucinations current in the latter.

Certain patriots of the wilful sort are wont to flout reason in these matters, blustering of "false cosmopolitanism" and "salutary prejudice." To all such rhetoric the fitting answer is the characterisation of it as false passion. Those who indulge in it elect wilfully to enfranchise from the mass of detected and convicted animal passions one which specially chimes with their sentiment, as if every other might not be allowed loose with as good reason. Matters are truly bad enough without such perverse endorsement of vulgar ideals by those who can see their vulgarity. Ordinary observation makes us aware that the most commonplace and contracted minds are most prone to the passion of national and racial pride; whereas the men of antiquity who first seem to have transcended it are thereby marked out once for all as a higher breed. It is in fact the proof of incapacity for any large or deep view of human life to be habitually and zealously "patriotic" in the popular sense of the term. Yet, in the civilisations which to-day pass for being most advanced, the majority of the units habitually batten on that quality of feeling, millions of adults for ever living the political life of the schoolboy; and, as no polity can[Pg 260] long transcend the ideals of the great mass, national fortunes and institutions thus far tend to be determined by the habit of the lower minds.

It is pure paralogism to point to the case of a large backward population without a national-flag idea—for instance, the Chinese[633]—as showing that want of patriotic passion goes with backwardness in culture. There is an infinity of the raw material of patriotism among precisely the most primitive of the Chinese population, whose hatred of "foreign devils" is the very warp of "imperialism." The ideal of cosmopolitanism is at the other end of the psychological scale from that of the ignorance which has gone through no political evolution whatever; its very appearance implies past patriotism as a stepping-stone; and its ethic is to that of patriotism what civil law is to club law. If "salutary prejudice" is to be the shibboleth of future civilisation, the due upshot will be the attainment of it one day by the now semi-civilised races, and the drowning out of European patriotisms by Mongolian.

If a saner lesson is to be widely learned, one way to it, if not the best way, may be an effort on the part of the units of the "great nations" to realise the significance of the fortunes of the "little nations," in terms, not of the imagined consciousness of metaphysical entities, but of actual human conditions—material, passional, and intellectual. We have seen how erudite specialists can express themselves in terms of the fallacy of racial genius. Specialists perhaps as erudite, and certainly multitudes of educated people, seem capable of thinking as positively in terms of the hallucinations of racial entity, national consciousness, political greatness, national revenue, and imperial success. Thus we have publicists speaking of Holland as an "effete nation," of Belgium as "doomed to absorption," of the Scandinavian peoples as "having failed in the race," and of Switzerland as "impotent"; even as they call Spain "dying" and Turkey "decomposing."

Nearly every one of those nations, strictly speaking, has a fairer chance of ultimate continuance without decline of wealth and power than England, whose units in general show as little eye for the laws of decline as Romans did in the days of Augustus. Spain has large potentialities of rich agricultural life; Turkey needs only new habits to develop her natural resources; the life of Belgium, indeed, is, like that of England, in part founded on exhaustible minerals; but Switzerland and Scandinavia, with their restrained populations, may[Pg 261] continue to maintain, as they do, a rather higher average of decent life and popular culture than that of the British Islands,[634] though they, too, have at all times a social problem to deal with. British greatness, on dissection, consists in the aggregation of much greater masses of wealth and much greater masses of poverty, larger groups of idlers and larger swarms of degenerates, with much greater maritime power, than are to be seen in the little nations; certainly not in a higher average of manhood and intelligence and well-being. Sir John Seeley, in a moment of misgiving, avowed that "bigness is not necessarily greatness"; adding, "if by remaining in the second rank of magnitude we can hold the front rank morally and intellectually, let us sacrifice mere material magnitude."[635] But he had before used the term "greatness" without reserve as equivalent to "mere material magnitude"; and even in revising his doctrine, it seems, he must needs crave some sort of supremacy, some sense of the inferiority of the mass of mankind. Without any such constant reversion to the instinct of racial pride, let us say that "the things that are most excellent" have no dependence on mere material magnitude. Given a saner and juster distribution of wealth and culture-machinery, each one of the smaller States may be more civilised, more worth living in, than the larger, even as Athens was better worth living in than Rome, and Goethe's Weimar than the Berlin of 1800. It was a poet of one of the larger nations—though it had to be a poet—who saw not hardship but happiness in the thought of "leaving great verse unto a little clan." And it was a Christian bishop, looking on the break-up of a great empire, who asked, An congruat bonis latius velle regnare?—Doth it beseem the good to seek to widen their rule?—and gave the judgment that if human things had gone in the happier way of righteousness, all States had remained small, happy in peaceful neighbourhood.[636]

As for the sentiment of a national greatness that is measured by acreage and census and quantity of war material, it is hard to distinguish ethically between it and that individual pride in lands and wealth which all men save those who cherish it are agreed to pronounce odious. Even the snobs of nationality have, as a rule, a saving sense which withholds them from flaunting their pride in the eyes of their "poorer" neighbours, the members of the less numerous[Pg 262] communities. Yet the note which is thus tacitly admitted to be vulgarly jarring for alien ears is habitually struck for domestic satisfaction; few newspapers let many days pass without sounding it; and certain poets and writers of verse appear to find their chief joy in its vibrations. The men of some of the lesser States, then, stand a fair chance of becoming ethically and æsthetically, as well as intellectually, superior in the average to those of the larger aggregates, in that their moral codes are not vitiated nor their literary taste vulgarised by national purse-pride and the vertigo of the higher dunghill; though they, too, have their snares of "patriotism," with its false ideals and its vitiation of true fraternity.

To some degree, no doubt, the habit of mind of our megalophiles connects with the vague but common surmise that a small aggregate is more liable to unscrupulous aggression than a large one. If, however, there be any justice in that surmise, there is obviously implied a known disposition in the larger aggregates to commit such aggression; so that to act or rest upon it is simply to prefer being the wronger to being the wronged. Thus to glory in being rather on the side of the bully than on the side of the bullied is only to give one more proof of the unworthiness of the instinct at work. All the while, there is no real ground for the hope; and as regards the small nations themselves, the apprehension does not appear to prevail. There has indeed been a recrudescence of the barbaric ethic of the Napoleonic period in the Bismarckian period; but there is no present sign of a serious fear of national suppression on the part of Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, and the Scandinavian States; while, apart from Bismarck's early aggression upon Denmark, and the ill-fortune of Greece in attacking Turkey, it is not small but large aggregates—to wit, Austria, France, Russia, Turkey, Spain—that have suffered any degree of military humiliation during the past half century; and it is precisely the large aggregates that avowedly live in the most constant apprehension either of being outnumbered in their armies and navies by single rivals or coalitions, or of losing their "prestige" by some failure to punish a supposed slight. It is a matter of historic fact that the "patriotic" consciousness in England had its withers wrung during a long series of years by the remembrance of such military disasters as the fall of Gordon at Khartoum, and the defeat of an incompetent general at Majuba Hill.[637] No "little nation" could exhibit a more wincing[Pg 263] sense of humiliation and disgrace than is thus visibly felt by multitudes of a great aggregate over military repulses at the hands of extremely small and primitive groups. Politically speaking, then, the future of the small nations seems rather brighter than that of the large; and thus in the last analysis the pride of the unit of the latter is found to be still a folly.


[631] The Expansion of England, 1883, p. 1.

[632] This though it be true, as remarked by Sismondi (Histoire des républiques italiennes, ed. 1826, i, 100, 101), that all nations spontaneously desire to be large and powerful, in disregard of all experience.

[633] This, it need hardly be repeated, was written before 1900.

[634] Compare the remarks of Freeman, History of Federal Government, 2nd ed. p. 41.

[635] Expansion of England, p. 16. Compare the further vacillations in pp. 132-37, 301, 304, 306. In the concluding chapter (p. 294) comes the avowal that "we know no reason in the nature of things why a State should be any the better for being large."

[636] Augustine, De Civitate Dei, iv, 15.

[637] This was written before 1900. The disasters of the South African War confirmed the proposition.

Chapter II


§ 1

When the early history of Scandinavia is studied as a process of social evolution rather than as a chronicle of feuds and of the exploits of heroes of various grades,[638] it is found to constitute a miniature norm of a simple and instructive sort. Taken as it emerges from the stage of myth, about the time of Charlemagne, it presents a vivid phase of barbarism, acted on by powerful conditions of change. The three sections of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden stand in a certain natural gradation as regards their possibilities of political development. All alike were capable only of a secondary or tertiary civilisation, being at once geographically disrupted and incapable, on primitive methods, of feeding an abundant population. In their early piratical stage, the Scandinavians are not greatly different from the pre-Homeric Greeks as these were conceived by Thucydides; but whereas the Greeks came in contact with the relatively high civilisations which had preceded them, the Scandinavians of the Dark Ages had no contacts save with the primitive life of the pre-Christian Slavs, the premature and arrested cross-civilisations of Carlovingian France and Anglo-Saxon England, and, in a fuller and more fruitful degree, with the similarly arrested semi-Christian civilisation of Celtic Ireland, which latter counted for so much in their literature.[Pg 265]

But in barbarian conditions certain main laws of social evolution operate no less clearly than in later stages; and we see sections of the Norsemen passing from tribal anarchy to primitive monarchy, and thence to military "empire," afterwards returning to their stable economic basis, as every military empire sooner or later must. Of the Scandinavian sections, Denmark and the southern parts of Sweden (round the Maelar) are the least disrupted and most fertile; and these were respectively the most readily reducible to a single rule. In all, given to begin with the primordial bias to royalism in any of its forms,[639] the establishment of a supreme and hereditary military rule was only a question of time; every successive attempt, however undone by the forces of barbaric independence, being a lead and stimulus to others. It is important to note how the process was promoted by, and in its turn promoted, the establishment of Christianity. The incomplex phenomena in Scandinavia throw a new light on the more complex evolution of other parts of Christendom. Primitive polytheism is obviously unpropitious to monarchic rule; and in every ancient religion it can be seen to have undergone adaptations where such rule arose. In the widely varying systems of Homeric Greece, Babylonia, Egypt, and Rome, the same tendency is visibly at work in different degrees, the ascendent principle of earthly government being more or less directly duplicated in theological theory. Under the Roman Empire, all cults were in a measure bent to the imperial service, and it was only the primary exclusiveness of Christianity that put it in conflict with the State. Once the emperor accepted it, recognising its political use, and conceded its exclusive claims, it became a trebly effective political instrument,[640] centralising as it did the whole machinery of religion throughout the Empire, and co-ordinating all to the political system. To use a modern illustration, it "syndicated" the multifold irregular activities of worship, and was thus the ideal system for a centralised and imperial State.[641] This was as readily seen by Theodoric and Charlemagne as by the rulers at Constantinople; and to such a perception, broadly speaking, is to be attributed the forcing of Christianity on the northern races by their kings.

[Pg 266]

Compare the explicit admissions of Mosheim, Eccles. Hist. 8 cent., pt. ii, ch. ii, § 5 and note, following on the testimony of William of Malmesbury as to Charlemagne. Other ecclesiastical historians coincide. "Numbers of the earliest and most active converts, both in Germany and England, were connected with the royal households; and in this way it would naturally occur that measures which related to the organising of the Church would emanate directly from the King.... It is indeed remarkable that so long as kings were esteemed the real patrons of the Church, she felt no wish to define exactly her relations to the civil power; the two authorities ... laboured to enforce obedience to each other" (Hardwick, Church History: Middle Age, 1853, pp. 56-57). The same historian (p. 127) describes the Wends of the eleventh century as seeing in the missionary a means for their subjection to Germany, and as "constantly attempting to regain their independence and extinguish the few glimmerings of truth that had been forced into their minds."

Northern paganism, more than the semi-cosmopolitan polytheism of the south in the period of Augustus, was a local and domestic faith, lending itself to separateness and independence, as did the civic and family religions of early Greece and Rome. While there were communal assemblies with specially solemn sacrifices, the popular beliefs were such that every district could have its holy places, and every family or group its special rites;[642] and in primitive Scandinavia a priesthood could still less develop than even in primitive Germany, whose lack of any system corresponding to the Druidism of Gaul is still empirically ascribed to some anti-sacerdotal element in the "national character," whereas it is plainly a result of the nomadic life-conditions of the scattered people. In germ the Teutonic priesthood was extremely powerful, being the judiciary power from which there was no appeal.[643] But an organised priestly system can arise only on the basis of some measure of political levelling or centralisation, involving some peaceful inter-communication. Romanised Christianity, coming ready-made from its centre, permitted of no worship save that of the consecrated church, and no ministry save that of the ordained priest.[644] Only the most obstinately conservative kings or chieftains, therefore, could fail to see their immediate advantage in adopting it.[645]

[Pg 267]Naturally the early Christian records gloss the facts. Thus it is told in the life of Anskar (Ancharius) that "the Swedes" sent messengers to the Emperor Ludovic the Pious (circa 825) telling that "many" of them "longed to embrace the Christian faith"—a story for which the only possible basis would be the longings and perhaps the propaganda of Christian captives of some western European nationality. (Cp. Hardwick, Church History: Middle Age, 1853, p. 110, notes, and p. 111.) Still it is admitted that the king was avowedly willing to listen; and the tale of the first acceptance of Christianity in Sweden, even if true in detail, would plainly point to a carefully rehearsed plan under the king's supervision. The admission that afterwards there was a return to heathenism for nearly a century consists entirely with the view that the first tentative was one of kingly policy. See Geijer, c. iii, pp. 34, 35. It was the people who drove out the missionaries; and Hardwick's statement that after seven years Anskar "was able to regain his hold on the affections of the Swedes" is confuted by his own narrative. All that Anskar obtained was a toleration of his mission; and this was given after a trial by lots, on heathen principles (Hardwick, pp. 112, 113; cp. p. 115). The account in Crichton and Wheaton's Scandinavia, 1837, i, 122, brings the king's initiative into prominence. (Cp. Otté, Scandinavian History, 1874, p. 34.) They also note that Charlemagne, in treating with the Danes, "did not attempt to impose his religion" upon them; but they do not glimpse the true explanation, which is that he could gain nothing by helping to organise a hostile kingdom. In point of fact he refused to let Lindger pursue his purpose of converting the Northmen. (Hardwick, p. 108, note 2, citing Vit. S. Lindger.) He had not developed the devotion or the subservience to the Church which in later ages led emperors to force the acceptance of Christianity on a defeated State that remained otherwise independent.

When in a later age Christianity was definitely established in Sweden under Olaf the Lap (or Tribute) King (circa 1000), whose father Erik is said to have been murdered in a tumult for his destruction of a pagan temple, the process was again strictly monarchic, the Diet resisting; but Olaf's substantial success was such as to permit of his annexing Gothland, temporarily conquering Norway, and styling himself king of all Sweden; and his son, Anund Jakob, continuing the profitable policy, earned the title of Most Christian Majesty (Crichton and Wheaton, i, 111; Geijer, p. 39). Even after this the attempt of a bishop (1067) to destroy the old temple at Upsala, resisted by the Christian King Stenkil, but supported by his rasher son Inge, caused the expulsion of the latter by the pagan party under Svend. Only after Inge's restoration by Danish help (1075) was the heathen worship suppressed (Hardwick, p. 116).

[Pg 268]As regards Denmark, the historians incidentally make it clear that Harald Klak, usurping king of Jutland (circa 820), wanted to Christianise his turbulent subjects in order to subordinate them, having learned the wisdom of the policy from Louis the Pious; and it is no less clear that the same motive swayed Erik I, who, after having in his days of piratical adventure, as usurper of the Jute crown, destroyed the Christian settlement of Charlemagne at Hamburg, entirely changed his attitude and favoured Christianity when, on the death of King Horda-Knut, he became king of all Denmark (Crichton and Wheaton, pp. 120-23).

So plain was the political tendency of the new creed that after the Christianisation of Denmark by Erik I the nobility forced Erik II to restore the pagan system; but the triumph of the Church, like that of monarchy, was only a question of time. Even kings who, being caught late in life, did not renounce their paganism, are found ready to favour the missionaries; and in Denmark such tolerance on the part of Gorm the Old (d. 941), successor of Erik II, is followed by the official Christianity of his son Harald Bluetooth. Danish "empire" duly follows; and in the next century we find Knut the Great (1014-1035) utterly reversing[646] the pagan policy of his father, Svend[647] (who had been enabled to dethrone his Christian father, Harald, by the pagan malcontents), and dying in the odour of sanctity, "lord" of six kingdoms—Denmark, Sweden, Norway, England, Scotland, and Wales.

The principle is established from another side in the case of Norway. There the first notable monarchic unification had been wrought by the pagan Harold Fairhair (875), without the aid of Christianity; and the pagan resistance was so irreducible that revolters sailed off in all directions, finding footing in Scotland and Ireland, and in particular in Northern France and Iceland.[648] In the next generation the monarchy relapsed to the old position; and Harold's Christian son Hakon (educated in England) had to cede to the determined demands of the pagan majority, who forced him to join in the old heathen rites, and murdered the leading Christians;[649] a course followed by the further weakening of the power of the crown. The Danish Harald Bluetooth, son of Gorm, who then conquered Norway, sought to re-establish the Church by the sword; but Hakon Jarl, who followed, gave up Christianity in order to reign[Pg 269] and again put it down by violence.[650] The next king to restore it, Olaf Tryggvason, who had met with Christianity in his wanderings in Greece, Russia, England, and Germany,[651] established that creed by brute force when he attained the throne (977), and again the spirit of local independence, abnormally conserved in Norway by the special separateness set up by the geographical conditions, fiercely resisted the new system as it had done the rule of Harold Fairhair, many defeated pagans withdrawing to remote glens and fastnesses, where to this day their mythology thrives.[652] On Olaf's final defeat and death (1000), his immediate successors, jarls supported by Denmark and Sweden, were content to leave paganism alone, as representing a too dangerous spirit of independence; and when St. Olaf, in turn, again undertook to crush it, he found he had but beaten down and alienated the forces that would have enabled him to resist Knut.[653] Danish "imperialism" had been evolved while the Norwegian kings were striving towards it; and St. Olaf was exiled, defeated, and slain (1030). His subsequent popularity is a mere posthumous Church-made cult of the Christian period.

The spread of Christianity among the Franks; in England; in Saxony by Charlemagne; in North Germany later; and among the Wends, Poles, Hungarians, and Bohemians, constantly exhibits the same phenomena. Always it is the duke or king who is "converted"; whereupon the people are either baptised in mass or dragooned for generations. A powerful king like Clovis could secure obedience; others, as in Scandinavia, Bohemia, and Wendland, lost life and kingdom in the attempt to crush at once paganism and local independence. Prussia was almost depopulated by sixty years of war before the Order of Teutonic Knights, who undertook to convert it on being awarded the territory, could extinguish by savagery its staunch paganism. The Christianisation of almost the whole of Northern Europe was thus a purely political process, accomplished in great part by the sword. See Hardwick, passim, and cp. the author's Short History of Christianity, pp. 211-16.

§ 2

The ultimate arrest of all aggression by the Scandinavian peoples is to be explained as a simple redressing of the balance between them and the States they had formerly plundered. To begin with, all the[Pg 270] Scandinavian groups alike practised piracy[654] as against the more civilised States of Northern Europe; and piracy showed them the way to conquest and colonisation. At home their means of subsistence were pasturage, fishing, the chase, and an agriculture which cannot have been easily extensible beyond the most fertile soils; hence a constant pressure of population, promoting piracy and aggressive emigration. How the pressure was purposively met is not clear; but as the Scandinavian father, like the Greek and Roman, was free either to expose or bring up a new-born child,[655] there is a presumption that at some periods exposure was not uncommon.[656] There is even testimony, going back to the eighth century and recurring frequently as late as the twelfth, to the effect that a certain number of men were periodically sent away by lot when the mouths had visibly multiplied beyond the meat.

See, for instance, the Roman de Rou (1160), ed. Andresen, 1877-79, i, 18, 19, verses 208-25 of prologue. Pluquet, in a note on the passage in his edition (1827, i, 10), remarking that the usage is often mentioned, not only by Norman but by English and French annalists of the Middle Ages, adds that the oldest mention of all, in the Tractatus of Abbot Odo (d. 942), must be rejected, the document being apocryphal. That, however, is not the oldest mention by a long way. Paulus Diaconus (740-99) gives the statement in a very circumstantial form (cited by Rydberg, Teutonic Mythology, Eng. tr. p. 68) in his history of the Longobardians, his own stock, who he says came from Scandinavia. He testifies that he had actually talked with persons who had been in Scandinavia—his descriptions pointing to Scania. M. Pluquet notes (so also Crichton and Wheaton, i, 166-67) that no northern saga mentions the usage in question. But it was likely to be commemorated only by the stocks forced in that fashion to emigrate. The saga-making Icelanders were not among these. The old statement, finally, is in some measure corroborated by the testimony of Geijer, p. 84, as to the long subsistence of the Swedish practice of sending forth sons to seek their fortune by sea.

But without any such organised exodus there were adventurers enough.[657] Hence colonisations and conquests in Scotland, the Hebrides, Ireland, Iceland, Russia, England, and remote plundering[Pg 271] expeditions by land and river, some getting as far south as Italy; one conquering expedition passing from Gaul through Arab Spain (827) and along the Mediterranean coasts, north and south; another passing through Russia to Constantinople. Thus the Norwegian and Danish stocks must have rooted in nearly every part of the British Islands; and the settlement in Gaul of a colony of revolters from Norway, in the reign of Harold Fairhair, built up one of the great provinces of France. Only in Iceland did the colonists preserve their language; hence, in terms of the hallucination of race, the assumption that the others "failed," when in reality they helped to constitute new races; no more "failing" in these cases than did the British stock in its North American colonies. It may be said, indeed, that the Teutonic stocks which overran Italy, Spain, and North Africa did in large part physically disappear thence, their physiological type having failed to survive as against the southern types. Even on that view, however, the impermanent type must in some degree have affected that which survived. In any case, the amalgamated Norse stock in Normandy, grown French-speaking, in turn overran England and part of Italy and Sicily, and, in the Crusades, formed new kingdoms in the East; while in the case of England, turning English-speaking, they again modified the stock of the nation. As against the notion that in this case there was "failure" either for French or for Normans, we might almost adopt the mot of M. Clémenceau and call England "a French colony gone wrong."[658] In terms of realities there has been no racial decease; it is but names and languages that have changed with the generations.

But there was an arrest of military exodus from Scandinavia; and thenceforward the Norse-speaking stocks figure as more or less small and retiring communities. They gave up piracy and conquest only because they had to, Danish imperialism causing the arrest on a wide scale, as every monarchic unification had done on a small.[659] When Knut reigned over six kingdoms, piracy was necessarily checked as among these; and when Knut's empire broke up after his death through the repulsive powers of its component parts and the relative lack of resources in Denmark, the various States of north-western Europe, in the terms of the case, were more able than before to resist Norse attacks in general. In England, William the Conqueror was fain to keep them off by bribery and intrigue; but the States with the greater natural resources grew in strength, while[Pg 272] those of Scandinavia could not. When the pirates began to get the worst of it, and when the Scandinavian kings had cause to dread reprisals from those of the west, piracy began to dwindle. The last regular practitioners were the pagan Wends, and the republican pagans of the city of Jomsborg, who plundered the Scandinavians as they had of yore plundered others; and after the Christianised Danish people had for a time defended themselves by voluntary associations, both sets of pirates were overthrown by an energetic Danish king. The suppression was under Christian auspices; but it is a conventional fallacy to attribute it to the influence of Christianity. It was simply an act of necessary progressive polity, like the suppression of the Cilician pirates by Pompeius.

Messrs. Crichton and Wheaton make the regulation statement that when Christianity was introduced into Scandinavia, "it corrected the abuses of an ill-regulated freedom; it banished vindictive quarrels and bloody dissensions; it put a restraint upon robberies and piracies; it humanised the public laws and softened the ferocity of public manners; it emancipated the peasantry from a miserable servitude, restored to them their natural rights, and created a relish for the blessings of peace and the comforts of life" (Scandinavia, i, 196). For the general and decisive disproof of these assertions it is necessary only to follow Messrs. Crichton and Wheaton's own narrative, pp. 201, 213, 216, 219, 230, 240, 244, 247, 275, 278, 280, 308, 312, 322, etc., and note their contrary generalisation at pp. 324, 325. It was his "Most Christian Majesty" Anund Jakob who got the nickname of Coal-burner for his law that the houses and effects of malefactors should be burned to the value of the harm they had done. The Swedes, polygamous before Christianity, continued to be so for generations as Christians (Crichton and Wheaton, i, 197, 198, citing Adam of Bremen. Cp. Grimm, Geschichte der deutschen Sprache, i, 18, 188.) Civil wars and ferocious feuds greatly multiplied in the early Christian period, apart altogether from pagan insurrections. Geijer, while erroneously attributing to Christianity the lessening of war between Scandinavia and the rest of the world, admits that the passions of strife, "hitherto turned in an external direction, now spent themselves in a domestic field of action, generating civil discord and war. Christianity, besides, dissolved the effective bond of the old social institutions" (p. 40). In that case it clearly cannot have been religious feeling that checked external war. As to piracy, that was later practised by Elizabethan Protestants and by the Huguenots of La Rochelle, when the opportunities were tempting. As to popular misery, it is told in the life of Anskar that the poor in ancient Sweden wore so few that the first Christians could find a use for their [Pg 273]alms only in foreign countries (Geijer, p. 33). That difficulty has not prevailed since. Messrs. Crichton and Wheaton later admit that the Danish peasantry, free as pagans, "gradually sunk under the increasing power and influence of the feudal chiefs and the Romish hierarchy" (p. 227), and that the Crusades did not forward the emancipation of the serfs in Denmark as elsewhere, the peasantry on the contrary sinking into "a state of hopeless bondage" (pp. 251, 252).

§ 3

From the period of arrest of aggression, the economic and political history of the Scandinavian States is that of slightly expansible communities with comparatively small resources; and their high status to-day is the illustration of what civilisation may come to under such conditions. In the feudal period they made small material or intellectual progress. It is not probable that the Norse population was ever greater than in the eighteenth century, though Malthus had a surmise that it might anciently have been so:[660] the old belief that Scandinavia was the great officina gentium, the nursery of the races which overran the Roman Empire, is a delusion; but it is certain that the increase since the twelfth century has been even slower than the European average. In the absence of emigration, this meant for past centuries constant restraint of marriage through lack of houses and livelihoods—the preventive check in its most stringent form. Emigration there must have been; but the check must also have been strong. Thus, while the lot of the common people, in so far as it remained free, was likely to be comparatively comfortable, the land-owning classes, in the absence of industry and commerce, tended to become nearly all-powerful; and the Church, which inherits and does not squander, would engross most of the power if not specially checked. The conditions were thus as unfavourable to intellectual as to material progress.

Denmark was the first of the Scandinavian States to develop a considerable commerce, beginning as did Holland on the footing of the fishery;[661] and on that basis there was a certain renewal of Danish empire. But this again could not hold out against the neighbouring forces; and in the thirteenth century, the herring[Pg 274] fishery in the Baltic failing, it had to yield its hold on the mainland cities of Hamburg and Lübeck, which began a new career of commercial power as the nucleus of the great trading federation of the Hansa cities, while Denmark itself was riven by the struggles of six claimants of the throne. The result was a "feudal and sacerdotal oligarchy,"[662] leading to an era of "the complete triumph of the Romish clergy over the temporal power in Denmark," in which the peasantry were reduced to absolute predial slavery.[663] Similar evolution took place in Norway,[664] though with less depression of the peasantry,[665] by reason of the small scope there for capitalistic agriculture; and there too the now nascent commerce was appropriated by the Hansa.[666] In Sweden, where industry remained so primitive that down till the sixteenth century there was hardly any attempt to work up the native iron,[667] Germans greatly predominated in the cities and controlled trade,[668] even before the accession of Albert of Mecklenburg (1363), who further depressed the native nobility in the German interest.[669] On the other hand, the clergy were less plenipotent than in the sister kingdoms, the people having retained more of their old power.

Cp. Schweitzer, Geschichte der skandinavischen Literatur, i, 129. The Swedish peasantry, like the Norwegian, were less easy to enslave than the Danish by reason of the natural conditions; those of the remote mountain and mining districts in particular retaining their independence (Crichton and Wheaton, i, 375, 376; Geijer, pp. 50, 81, 89, 97, 103), so that they ultimately enabled Gustavus Vasa to throw off the Danish yoke. Yet they had at first refused to recognise him, being satisfied with their own liberties; and afterwards they gave him much serious trouble (Otté, Scandinavian History, 1874, pp. 228, 235; Geijer, pp. 109, 112, 115, 116, 118, 120-24). Slavery, too, was definitely abolished in Sweden as early as 1335 (Geijer, pp. 57, 86; Crichton and Wheaton, i, 316, 333). As regards the regal power, the once dominant theory that the Swedish kings in the thirteenth century obtained a grant of all the mines, and of the province of the four great lakes (Crichton and Wheaton, i, 332), appears to be an entire delusion (Geijer, pp. 51, 52). Such claims were first enforced by Gustavus Vasa (id. p. 129). As regards the clergy, they appear from the first, quâ churchmen, to have been kept in check by the nobles, who kept the great Church offices largely in the hands of their [Pg 275]own order (Geijer, p. 109), though Magnus Ladulas strove to strengthen the Church in his own interest (id. pp. 52-53). Thus the nobles became specially powerful (id. pp. 50, 56, 108); and when in the fifteenth century Sweden was subject to Denmark, they specially resented the sacerdotal tyranny (Crichton and Wheaton, i, 356).

In Sweden, as in the other Scandinavian States, however, physical strife and mental stagnation were the ruling conditions. Down till the sixteenth century her history is pronounced "a wretched detail of civil wars, insurrections, and revolutions, arising principally from the jealousies subsisting between the kings and the people, the one striving to augment their power, the other to maintain their independence."[670] The same may be said of the sister kingdoms, all alike being torn and drained by innumerable strifes of faction and wars with each other. The occasional forcible and dynastic unions of crowns came to nothing; and the Union of Calmar (1397), an attempt to confederate the three kingdoms under one crown, repeatedly collapsed. The marvel is that in such an age even the attempt was made. The remarkable woman who planned and first effected it, Queen Margaret of Norway, appealed in the first instance with heavy bribes for the co-operation of the clergy,[671] who, especially in Sweden, where they preferred the Danish rule to the domination of the nobles,[672] were always in favour of it for ecclesiastical reasons.

Had such a union permanently succeeded, it would have eliminated a serious source of positive political evil; but to carry forward Scandinavian civilisation under the drawbacks of the medieval difficulty of inter-communication (involving lack of necessary culture-contacts), the natural poverty of the soil, and the restrictive pressure of the Catholic Church, would have been a task beyond the power of a monarchy comprising three mutually jealous sections. As it was, the old strifes recurred almost as frequently as before, and moral union was never developed. If historical evidence is to count for anything, the experience of the Scandinavian stocks should suffice to discredit once for all the persistent pretence that the "Teutonic races" have a faculty for union denied to the Celtic, inasmuch as they, apparently the most purely Teutonic of all, were even more irreconcilable, less fusible, than the Anglo-Saxons before the Norman Conquest and the Germans down till our own day, and much more mutually jealous than the quasi-Teutonic provinces of[Pg 276] the Netherlands, which, after the severance of Belgium, have latterly lost their extreme repulsions, while those of Scandinavia are not yet dead.[673] The explanation, of course, is not racial in any case; but it is for those who affirm that capacity for union is a Teutonic gift to find a racial excuse.

With the Reformation, though that was nowhere more clearly than in Scandinavia a revolution of plunder, there began a new progress, in respect not of any friendliness of the Lutheran system to thought and culture, but of the sheer break-up of the intellectual ice of the old regimen. In Denmark the process is curiously instructive. Christian II, personally a capable and reformative but cruel tyrant, aimed throughout his life at reducing the power alike of the clergy and the nobles, and to that end sought on the one hand to abolish serfdom and educate the poor and the burghers,[674] and on the other to introduce Lutheranism (1520). From the latter attempt he was induced to desist, doubtless surmising that the remedy might for him be a new disease: but on his enforcing the reform of slavery he was rebelled against and forced to fly by the nobility, who thereupon oppressed the people more than ever.[675] His uncle and successor, Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein, accepted the mandate of the nobles to the extent of causing to be publicly burned in his presence all the laws of the last reign in favour of the peasants, closing the poor schools throughout the kingdom, burning the new books,[676] and pledging himself to expel Lutheranism. He seems, however, to have been secretly a Protestant, and to have evaded his pledge; and the rapid spread of the new heresy, especially in the cities, brought about a new birth of popular literature in the vernacular, despite the suppression of the schools.[677] In a few years' time, Frederick, recognising the obvious interest of the crown, and finding the greater nobles in alliance with the clergy, made common cause with the smaller nobility, and so was able (1527) to force on the prelates, who could hope for no better terms from the exiled king, the toleration of Protestantism, the permission of marriage to the clergy, and a surrender of a moiety of the tithes.[678] A few years later (1530) the monasteries were either stormed by the populace or abandoned by the monks, their houses and lands being divided[Pg 277] among the municipalities, the king and his courtiers, and the secular clergy.[679] After a stormy interregnum, in which the Catholic party made a strenuous reaction, the next king, Christian III, taking the nobles and commons-deputies into partnership, made with their help an end of the Catholic system; the remaining lands, castles, and manors of the prelates going to the crown, and the tithes being parcelled among the landowners, the king, and the clergy. Naturally a large part of the lands, as before, was divided among the nobles,[680] who were in this way converted to Protestantism. Thus whereas heathen kings had originally embraced Christianity to enable them to consolidate their power, Christian kings embraced Protestantism to enable them to recover wealth and power from the Catholic Church. Creed all along followed interest;[681] and the people had small concern in the change.[682]

Norway, being under the same crown, followed the course of Denmark. In Sweden the powerful Gustavus Vasa saw himself forced at the outset of his reign to take power and wealth from the Church if he would have any of his own; and after the dramatic scene in the Diet of Westeras (1527), in which he broke out with a passionate vow to renounce the crown if he were not better supported,[683] he carried his point. The nobles, being "squared"[684] by permission to resume such of their ancestral lands as had been given to churches and convents since 1454, and by promise of further grants, forced the bishops to consent to surrender to the king their castles and strongholds, and to let him fix their revenues; all which was duly done. The monasteries were soon despoiled of nearly all their lands, many of which were seized by or granted in fief to the barons;[685] and the king became head of the Church in as full a degree as Henry VIII in England;[686] sagaciously, and in part unscrupulously, creating for the first time in Scandinavia a strong yet not wholly despotic monarchy, with such revenues from many sources[687] as made possible[Pg 278] the military power and activity of Gustavus Adolphus, and later the effort of Charles XII to create an "empire"—an effort which, necessarily failing, reduced Sweden permanently to her true economic basis.

Apart from those remarkable episodes, the development of the Scandinavian States since the sixteenth century has been, on their relatively small scale, that of the normal monarchic community with a variously vigorous democratic element; shaken frequently by civil strife; wasting much strength in insensate wars; losing much through bad kings and gaining somewhat from the good; passing painfully from bigotry to tolerance; getting rid of their old aristocracies and developing new; exhibiting in the mass the northern vice of alcoholism, yet maintaining racial vigour; disproportionately taxing their producers as compared with their non-producers; aiming, nevertheless, at industry and commerce, and suffering from the divisive social influences they entail; meddling in international strifes, till latterly the surrounding powers preponderated too heavily; disunited and normally jealous of each other, even when dynastically united, through stress of crude patriotic prejudice and lack of political science; frequently retrograding, yet in the end steadily progressing in such science as well as in general culture and well-being. Losses of territory—as Finland and Schleswig-Holstein—at the hands of stronger rivals, and the violent experiences and transitions of the Napoleonic period, have left them on a relatively stable and safe basis, albeit still mutually jealous and unable to pass beyond the normal monarchic stage. To-day their culture is that of all the higher civilisations, as are their social problems.

§ 4

In the history of Scandinavian culture, however, lie some special illustrations of sociological law. The remarkable fact that the first great development of old Norse literature occurred in the poor and remote colonial settlement of Iceland is significant of much. To the retrospective yearning of an exiled people, the desire to preserve every memory of the old life in the fatherland, is to be attributed the grounding of the saga-cult in Iceland; and the natural conditions, enforcing long spells of winter leisure, greatly furthered the movement. But the finest growth of the new literature, it turns out, is due to culture-contacts—an unexpected confirmation, in a most unlikely quarter, of a general principle arrived at on other data. The vigilant study of our own day has detected, standing out from[Pg 279] the early Icelandic literature, "a group of poems which possess the very qualities of high imagination, deep pathos, fresh love of nature, passionate dramatic power, and noble simplicity of language, which [other] Icelandic poetry lacks. The solution is that these poems do not belong to Iceland at all. They are the poetry of the 'Western Islands'"[688]—that is, the poetry of the meeting and mixing of the "Celtic" and Scandinavian stocks in Ireland and the Hebrides—the former already much mixed, and proportionally rich in intellectual variations. It was in this area that "a magnificent school of poetry arose, to which we owe works that for power and beauty can be paralleled in no Teutonic language till centuries after their date.... This school, which is totally distinct from the Icelandic, ran its own course apart and perished before the thirteenth century."[689]

Compare Messrs. Vigfusson and Powell's Corpus Poeticum Boreale, 1883, vol. i, Introd. pp. lxii, lxiii; and, as regards the old Irish civilisation, the author's Saxon and Celt, pp. 127, 128, 131-33.

The theory of Celtic influence, though established in its essentials, is not perfectly consistent as set forth in the Britannica article. Thus, while the Celticised literature is remarked for "noble simplicity of language," the true Icelandic, primarily like the Old English, is said to develop a "complexity of structure and ornament, an elaborate mythological and enigmatical phraseology, and a regularity of rhyme, assonance, luxuriance, quantity, and syllabification which it caught up from the Latin and Celtic poets." Further, while the Celticised school is described as "totally distinct from the Icelandic," Celtic influence is also specified as affecting Norse literature in general. The first generations of Icelandic poets were men of good birth, "nearly always, too, of Celtic blood on one side at least"; and they went to Norway or Denmark, where they lived as kings' or chiefs' henchmen. The immigration of Norse settlers from Ireland, too, affected the Iceland stock very early. "It is to the west that the best sagas belong: it is to the west that nearly every classic writer whose name we know belongs; and it is precisely in the west that the admixture of Irish blood is greatest" (ib.). The facts seem decisive, and the statements above cited appear the more clearly to need modification. It is to be noted that Schweitzer's Geschichte der skandinavischen Literatur gives no hint of the Celtic influence.

But the Icelandic civilisation as a whole could not indefinitely progress on its own basis any more than the Irish. Beyond a[Pg 280] certain point both needed new light and leading; for the primeval spirit of strife never spontaneously weakened; the original Icelandic stock being, to begin with, a selection of revolters from over-rule. So continual domestic feuds checked mental evolution in Iceland as in old Scandinavia; and the reduction of the island to Norwegian rule in the thirteenth century could not do more for it than monarchy was doing for Norway. Mere Christianity without progressive conditions of culture availed less for imaginative art than free paganism had done; and when higher culture-contacts became possible, the extreme poverty of Iceland tended more than ever to send the enterprising people where the culture and comfort were. It is in fact not a possible seat for a relatively flourishing civilisation in the period of peaceful development. The Reformation seems there to have availed for very little indeed. It was vehemently resisted,[690] but carried by the preponderant acquisitive forces: "nearly all who took part in it were men of low type, moved by personal motives rather than religious zeal."[691] "The glebes and hospital lands were a fresh power in the hands of the crown, and the subservient Lutheran clergy became the most powerful class in the island; while the bad system of underleasing at rack-rent and short lease with unsecured tenant-right extended in this way over at least a quarter of the better land, stopping any possible progress." For the rest, "the Reformation had produced a real poet [Hallgrim Petersen], but the material rise of Iceland"—that is, the recent improvements in the condition of the people—"has not yet done so,"[692] though poetry is still cultivated in Iceland very much as music is elsewhere.

Thus this one little community may be said to have reached the limits of its evolution, as compared with others, simply because of the strait natural conditions in which its lot was cast. But to think of it as a tragically moribund organism is merely to proceed upon the old hallucinations of race-consciousness. Men reared in Iceland have done their part in making European civilisation, entering the more southerly Scandinavian stocks as these entered the stocks of western Europe; and the present population, who are a remnant, have no more cause to hang their heads than any family that happens to have few members or to have missed wealth. Failure is relative only to pretension or purpose.

The modern revival of Scandinavian culture, as must needs be, is the outcome of all the European influences. At the close of the[Pg 281] sixteenth century, in more or less friendly intercourse with the other Protestant countries of north Europe, Denmark began effectively to develop a literature such as theirs, imaginative and scientific, in the vernacular as well as in Latin; and so the development went on while Sweden was gaining military glory with little enlightenment. Then a rash attack upon Sweden ended in a loss of some of the richest Danish provinces (1658); whereafter a sudden parliamentary revolution, wrought by a league of king and people against the aristocracy, created not a constitutional but an absolute and hereditary monarchy (1660), enthroning divine right at the same instant in Denmark and Norway as in England. Thereafter, deprived of their old posts and subjected to ruinous taxes, the nobility fell rapidly into poverty;[693] and the merchant class, equally overtaxed, withdrew their capital; the peasantry all the while remaining in a state of serfdom.[694] Then came a new series of wars with Sweden, recurring through generations, arresting, it is said, literature, law, philosophy, and medicine,[695] but not the natural sciences, then so much in evidence elsewhere: Tycho Brahe being followed in astronomy by Horrebow, while chemistry, mathematics, and even anatomy made progress. But to this period belongs the brilliant dramatist and historian Holberg, the first great man of letters in modern Scandinavia (d. 1754); and in the latter half of the eighteenth century the two years of ascendency of the freethinking physician Struensee as queen's favourite (1770-72) served partially to emancipate the peasants, establish religious toleration, abolish torture, and reform the administration. Nor did his speedy overthrow and execution wholly undo his main work,[696] which outdid that of many generations of the old régime. Still, the history of his rise and fall, his vehement speed of reconstruction and the ruinous resistance it set up, is one of the most dramatic of the many warnings of history against thinking suddenly to elevate a nation by reforms imposed wholly from without.[697]

Thenceforward, with such fluctuations as mark all culture-history, the Scandinavian world has progressed mentally nearly[Pg 282] step for step with the rest of Europe, producing scholars, historians, men of science, artists, and imaginative writers in more than due proportion. Many names which stand for solid achievement in the little-read Scandinavian tongues are unknown save to specialists elsewhere; but those of Holberg, Linnæus, Malte-Brun, Rask, Niebuhr, Madvig, Œhlenschläger, Thorwaldsen, and Swedenborg tell of a comprehensive influence on the thought and culture of Europe during a hundred years in which Europe was being reborn; and in our own day some of the greatest imaginative literature of the modern world comes from Norway, long the most backward of the group. Ibsen, one of a notable company of masters, stood at the head of the drama of the nineteenth century; and the society which sustained him, however he may have satirised it, is certificated abreast of its age.

§ 5

In one aspect the Scandinavian polities have a special lesson for the larger nations. They have perforce been specially exercised latterly, as of old, by the problem of population; and in Norway there was formerly made one of the notable, if not one of the best, approaches to a practical solution of it. Malthus long ago[698] noted the Norwegian marriage-rate as the lowest in Europe save that of Switzerland; and he expressed the belief that in his day Norway was "almost the only country in Europe where a traveller will hear any apprehension expressed of a redundant population, and where the danger to the happiness of the lower classes of people is in some degree seen and understood."[699] This state of things having long subsisted, there is a presumption that it persists uninterruptedly from pagan times, when, as we have seen, there existed a deliberate population-policy; for Christian habits of mind can nowhere be seen to have set up such a tendency, and it would be hard to show in the history of Norway any great political change which might effect a rapid revolution in the domestic habits of the peasantry, such as occurred in France after the Revolution. Broadly speaking, the mass of the Norwegian people had till the last century continued to live under those external or domiciliary restraints on multiplication which were normal in rural Europe in the Middle Ages, and which elsewhere have been removed by industrialism; yet without suffering latterly from a continuance of the severer medieval destructive[Pg 283] checks. They must, therefore, have put a high degree of restraint on marriage, and probably observed parental prudence in addition.

When it is found that in Sweden, where the conditions and usages were once similar, there was latterly at once less prudential restraint on marriage and population, and a lower standard of material well-being, the two cases are seen to furnish a kind of experimentum crucis. The comparatively late maintenance of a powerful military system in Sweden having there prolonged the methods of aristocratic and bureaucratic control while they were being modified in Denmark-Norway, Swedish population in the eighteenth century was subject to artificial stimulus. From about the year 1748, the Government set itself, on the ordinary empirical principle of militarism, to encourage population.[700] Among its measures were the variously wise ones of establishing medical colleges and lying-in and foundling hospitals, the absolute freeing of the internal trade in grain, and the withdrawal in 1748 of an old law limiting the number of persons allowed to each farm. The purpose of that law had been to stimulate population by spreading tillage; but the spare soil being too unattractive, the young people emigrated. On the law being abolished, population did increase considerably, rising between 1751 and 1800 from 1,785,727 to 2,347,308,[701] though some severe famines had occurred within the period. But in the year 1799, when Malthus visited the country, the increased population suffered from famine very severely indeed, living mainly and miserably on bark bread.[702] It was one of Malthus's great object-lessons in his science. On one side a poor country was artificially over-populated; on the other, the people of Norway, an even poorer country, directly and indirectly[703] restrained their rate of increase, while the Government during a long period wrought to the same end by the adjustment of its military system and by making a certificate of earning power or income necessary for all marriages.[704] The result was that, save in the fishing districts, where speculative conditions encouraged early marriages and large families, the Norwegian population were better off than the Swedish.[Pg 284][705]

Already in Malthus' youth the Norwegian-Danish policy had been altered, all legal and military restrictions on marriage having been withdrawn; and he notes that fears were expressed as to the probable results. It is one of his shortcomings to have entirely abstained from subsequent investigation of the subject; and in his late addendum as to the state of Sweden in 1826 he further fails to note that as a result of a creation there after 1803 of 6,000 new farms from land formerly waste, the country ceased to need to import corn and was able to export a surplus.[706] It still held good, however, that the Norwegian population, being from persistence of prudential habit[707] much the slower in its rate of increase, had the higher standard of comfort, despite much spread of education in Sweden.

Within the past half-century the general development of commerce and of industry has tended broadly to equalise the condition of the Scandinavian peoples. As late as 1835 a scarcity would suffice to drive the Norwegian peasantry to the old subsistence of bark bread, a ruinous resort, seeing that it destroyed multitudes of trees of which the value, could the timber have found a market, would have far exceeded that of a quantity of flour yielding much more and better food. At that period the British market was closed by duties imposed in the interest of the Canadian timber trade.[708] Since the establishment of British free trade, Norwegian timber has become a new source of wealth; and through this and other and earlier commercial developments prudential family habits were affected. Thus, whereas the population of Sweden had all but doubled between 1800 and 1880, the population of Norway had grown even faster.[709] And whereas in 1834 the proportion of illegitimate to legitimate births in Stockholm was 1 to 2.26[710] (one of the results of foundling hospitals, apparently), in 1890 the total Swedish rate was slightly below 1 to 10, while in Norway it was 1 to 14. The modern facilities for emigration have further affected conjugal habits. Latterly, however, there are evidences of a new growth of intelligent control.

In recent years the statistics of emigration and population tell a fairly plain story. In Norway and Sweden alike the excess of births over deaths reached nearly its highest in 1887, the figures[Pg 285] being 63,942 for Sweden and 29,233 for Norway. In 1887, however, emigration was about its maximum in both countries, 50,786 leaving Sweden and 20,706 leaving Norway. Thereafter the birth-rate rapidly fell, and the emigration, though fluctuating, has never again risen in Sweden to the volume of 1887-88, though it has in Norway. But when, after falling to 43,728 in 1892, the excess of Swedish births over deaths rises to 60,231 in 1895, while the emigration falls from 45,000 in 1892 to 13,000 in 1894, it is clear that the lesson of regulation is still very imperfectly learned. Norway shows the same fluctuations, the excess of births rising from 23,600 in 1892 to nearly 32,000 in 1896, and again from 27,685 in 1908 to 29,804 in 1909, doubtless because of ups and downs in the harvests, as shown in the increase of marriages from 12,742 in 1892 to 13,962 in 1896.

In Denmark the progression has been similar. There the excess of births over deaths was so far at its maximum in 1886, the figures being 29,986 in a population of a little over 2,000,000; whereafter they slowly decreased, till in 1893 the excess was only 26,235. All the while emigration was active, gradually rising from 4,346 in 1885 to 10,382 in 1891; then again falling to 2,876 in 1896, when the surplus of births over deaths was 34,181—a development sure to force more emigration. In 1911 the population was 2,775,076—a rapid rise; and in 1910 the surplus of births over deaths was 40,110. The Scandinavians are thus still in the unstable progressive stage of popular well-being, though probably suffering less from it than either Germany or England.

Here, then, is a group of kindred peoples apparently at least as capable of reaching a solution of the social problem as any other, and visibly prospering materially and morally in proportion as they bring reason to bear on the vital lines of conduct, though still in the stage of curing over-population by emigration. Given continued peaceful political evolution in the direction first of democratic federation, and further of socialisation of wealth, they may reach and keep the front rank in civilisation, while the more unmanageably large communities face risks of dire vicissitude.


[638] As in Carlyle's Early Kings of Norway, the caput mortuum of his historical method. Much more instructive works on Scandinavian history are available to the English reader. The two volumes on Scandinavia by Crichton and Wheaton (1837) are not yet superseded, though savouring strongly of the conservatism of their period. Dunham, who rapidly produced, for Gardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia series, histories of Spain and Portugal (5 vols.), Europe during the Middle Ages (4 vols.), and the Germanic Empire (3 vols.), compiled also one of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway (3 vols. 1839-40), of inferior quality. But Geijer's History of Sweden, one of the standard modern national histories of Europe, is translated into English as far as the period of Gustavus Vasa (3 vols. of orig. in one of trans. 1845); and the competent History of Denmark by C.-F. Allen is available in a French translation (Copenhagen, 2 tom. 1878). Otté's Scandinavian History, 1874, is an unpretending and unliterary but well-informed work, which may be used to check Crichton and Wheaton. The more recent work of Mr. R. Nisbet Bain, Scandinavia: a Political History of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden from 1513 to 1900 (Camb. Univ. Press, 1905), is useful for the period covered, but has little sociological value. For the history of ancient Scandinavian literature, the introduction to Vigfusson and Powell's Corpus Poeticum Boreale (1883), and Prof. Powell's article on Icelandic Literature in the 10th ed. of the Encyclopædia Britannica, are preferable to Schweitzer's Geschichte der skandinavischen Literatur (1886, 2 Bde.), which, however, is useful for the modern period.

[639] See Geijer's History of the Swedes, Eng. tr. of pt. i, 1-vol. ed. p. 30, as to the special persistence in Scandinavia of the early religious conception of kingship. Cp. Crichton and Wheaton's Scandinavia, 1837, i, 157.

[640] Such New Testament passages as Rom. xiii, 1-7, and Titus iii, 1, seem to have been penned or interpolated expressly to propitiate the Roman government.

[641] It was by entirely overlooking this historic fact that M. Fustel de Coulanges, in the last chapter of his Cité antique, was able to propound a theory of historic Christianity as something extra-political. He there renounc