B.C. 753 – The Foundation of Rome by Barthold Georg Niebuhr
THE FOUNDATION OF ROME
BARTHOLD GEORGE NIEBUHR
*Brooksy Note: the whole of this text is exactly as written. We have added only titles and boldened sentences in an effort to make the text more reader-friendly and easier to comprehend. It wouldn’t be a stretch to consider this a modestly annotated version of The Foundation of Rome; which is considered to be in the public domain along with the entirety of The Great Events By Famous Historians series.
Introduction by Charles F. Horne, Ph.D. & John Rudd, LL.D.
Rome occupies a unique position in the history of the world. The whole Mediterranean basin was at one time merely a Roman lake, and the adjacent countries were Roman in letters, law, religion and the practice of war. Roman roads crossed the continents east and west and penetrated to the depths of Asia and Africa. Roman garrisons were stationed in every important city of the provinces, and when the great city on the banks of the Tiber at last fell before successive irruptions of northeasterly barbarians and Roman power was at its extreme ebb, the spirit of Roman institutions still survived in the civilization of Spain, France, Italy, Britain, even in Greece and Asia. Roman law had become the code of the world. Iberian, Gaul, and Italian had modified in varying degree their native dialects in conformity with the more copious and logical idiom of Latium.
A group of legends gathers round the birthplace of the Eternal City. It is Æneas who escapes from Troy and brings into the land of Italian Latinus his native gods. His son Ascanius conquers and slays Mezentius in a battle between Latins and Etruscans, and eleven kings of Alba, all surnamed Silvius, succeeded him on the throne. The last king of Alba Longa is Procas, whose usurping son Amulius drives his eldest brother Numitor from the throne. Numitor’s daughter, Silvia, becomes the mother of the immortal twins Romulus and Remus, by Mamers, the god of war; the children are exposed by cruel Amulius, suckled by a wolf, and become founders of Rome.
Such is the outline of the poem, or rather tissue of poetry in which the founding of Rome is embalmed.
The critical acumen of Niebuhr may have dispelled some of the clouds and contradictions in which early historians and poets have wrapped the record of this great event. But no critic can ever destroy the beauty and charm of the old Latin chronicles or diminish the glory of the day that saw the first walls rise about the seven hills of the most important of ancient European cities.
Barthold Georg Niebuhr
I believe that few persons, when Alba is mentioned, can get rid of the idea, to which I too adhered for a long time, that the history of Alba is lost to such an extent, that we can speak of it only in reference to the Trojan time and the preceding period, as if all the statements made concerning it by the Romans were based upon fancy and error; and that accordingly it must be effaced from the pages of history altogether. It is true that what we read concerning the foundation of Alba by Ascanius, and the wonderful signs accompanying it, as well as the whole series of the Alban kings, with the years of their reigns, the story of Numitor and Amulius and the story of the destruction of the city, do not belong to history; but the historical existence of Alba is not at all doubtful on that account, nor have the ancients ever doubted it. The Sacra Albana and the Albani tumuli atque luci, which existed as late as the time of Cicero, are proofs of its early existence; ruins indeed no longer exist, but the situation of the city in the valley of Grotta Ferrata may still be recognized. Between the lake and the long chain of hills near the monastery of Palazzuolo one still sees the rock cut steep down toward the lake, evidently the work of man, which rendered it impossible to attack the city on that side; the summit on the other side formed the arx. That the Albans were in possession of the sovereignty of Latium is a tradition which we may believe to be founded on good authority, as it is traced to Cincius. Afterward the Latins became the masters of the district and temple of Jupiter. Further, the statement that Alba shared the flesh of the victim on the Alban mount with the thirty towns, and that after the fall of Alba the Latins chose their own magistrates, are glimpses of real history. The ancient tunnel made for discharging the water of the Alban Lake still exists, and through its vault a canal was made called Fossa Cluilia: this vault, which is still visible, is a work of earlier construction than any Roman one. But all that can be said of Alba and the Latins at that time is, that Alba was the capital, exercising the sovereignty over Latium; that its temple of Jupiter was the rallying point of the people who were governed by it; and that the gens Silvia was the ruling clan.
It cannot be doubted that the number of Latin towns was actually thirty, just that of the Albensian demi; this number afterward occurs again in the later thirty Latin towns and in the thirty Roman tribes, and it is moreover indicated by the story of the foundation of Lavinium by thirty families, in which we may recognize the union of the two tribes. The statement that Lavinium was a Trojan colony and was afterward abandoned, but restored by Alba, and further that the sanctuary could not be transferred from it to Alba, is only an accommodation to the Trojan and native tradition, however much it may bear the appearance of antiquity. For Lavinium is nothing else than a general name for Latium, just as Panionium is for Ionia, Latinus, Lavinus, and Lavicus being one and the same name, as is recognized even by Servius. Lavinium was the central point of the Prisci Latini, and there is no doubt that in the early period before Alba ruled over Lavinium, worship was offered mutually at Alba and at Lavinium, as was afterward the case at Rome in the temple of Diana on the Aventine, and at the festivals of the Romans and Latins on the Alban mount.
The personages of the Trojan legend therefore present themselves to us in the following light. Turnus is nothing else but Turinus, in Dionysius [Greek: Turrênos]; Lavinia, the fair maiden, is the name of the Latin people, which may perhaps be so distinguished that the inhabitants of the coast were called Tyrrhenians, and those further inland Latins. Since, after the battle of Lake Regillus, the Latins are mentioned in the treaty with Rome as forming thirty towns, there can be no doubt that the towns, over which Alba had the supremacy in the earliest times, were likewise thirty in number; but the confederacy did not at all times contain the same towns, as some may afterward have perished and others may have been added. In such political developments there is at work an instinctive tendency to fill up that which has become vacant; and this instinct acts as long as people proceed unconsciously according to the ancient forms and not in accordance with actual wants. Such also was the case in the twelve Achæan towns and in the seven Frisian maritime communities; for as soon as one disappeared, another, dividing itself into two, supplied its place. Wherever there is a fixed number, it is kept up, even when one part dies away, and it ever continues to be renewed. We may add that the state of the Latins lost in the West, but gained in the East. We must therefore, I repeat it, conceive on the one hand Alba with its thirty demi, and on the other the thirty Latin towns, the latter at first forming a state allied with Alba, and at a later time under its supremacy.
According to an important statement of Cato preserved in Dionysius, the ancient towns of the Aborigines were small places scattered over the mountains. One town of this kind was situated on the Palatine hill, and bore the name of Roma, which is most certainly Greek. Not far from it there occur several other places with Greek names, such as Pyrgi and Alsium; for the people inhabiting those districts were closely akin to the Greeks; and it is by no means an erroneous conjecture, that Terracina was formerly called [Greek: Tracheinê] or the “rough place on a rock”; Formiæ must be connected with [Greek: hormos] “a roadstead” or “place for casting anchor.” As certain as Pyrgi signifies “towers,” so certainly does Roma signify “strength,” and I believe that those are quite right who consider that the name Roma in this sense is not accidental. This Roma is described as a Pelasgian place in which Evander, the introducer of scientific culture, resided. According to tradition, the first foundation of civilization was laid by Saturn, in the golden age of mankind. The tradition in Vergil, who was extremely learned in matters of antiquity, that the first men were created out of trees, must be taken quite literally; for as in Greece the [Greek: myrmêches] were metamorphosed into the Myrmidons, and the stones thrown by Deucalion and Pyrrha into men and women, so in Italy trees, by some divine power, were changed into human beings. These beings, at first only half human, gradually acquired a civilization which they owed to Saturn; but the real intellectual culture was traced to Evander, who must not be regarded as a person who had come from Arcadia, but as the good man, as the teacher of the alphabet and of mental culture, which man gradually works out for himself.
The Romans clung to the conviction that Romulus, the founder of Rome, was the son of a virgin by a god, that his life was marvellously preserved, that he was saved from the floods of the river and was reared by a she-wolf. That this poetry is very ancient cannot be doubted; but did the legend at all times describe Romulus as the son of Rea Silvia or Ilia? Perizonius was the first who remarked against Ryccius that Rea Ilia never occurs together, and that Rea Silvia was a daughter of Numitor, while Ilia is called a daughter of Æneas. He is perfectly right: Nævius and Ennius called Romulus a son of Ilia, the daughter of Æneas, as is attested by Servius on Vergil and Porphyrio on Horace; but it cannot be hence inferred that this was the national opinion of the Romans themselves, for the poets who were familiar with the Greeks might accommodate their stories to Greek poems. The ancient Romans, on the other hand, could not possibly look upon the mother of the founder of their city as a daughter of Æneas, who was believed to have lived three hundred and thirty-three or three hundred and sixty years earlier. Dionysius says that his account, which is that of Fabius, occurred in the sacred songs, and it is in itself perfectly consistent. Fabius cannot have taken it, as Plutarch asserts, from Diocles, a miserable unknown Greek author; the statue of the she-wolf was erected in the year A.U. 457, long before Diocles wrote, and at least a hundred years before Fabius. This tradition therefore is certainly the more ancient Roman one; and it puts Rome in connection with Alba. A monument has lately been discovered at Bovillæ: it is an altar which the Gentiles Julii erected lege Albana, and therefore expresses a religious relation of a Roman gens to Alba. The connection of the two towns continues down to the founder of Rome; and the well-known tradition, with its ancient poetical details, many of which Livy and Dionysius omitted from their histories lest they should seem to deal too much in the marvellous, runs as follows:
Numitor and Amulius were contending for the throne of Alba. Amulius took possession of the throne, and made Rea Silvia, the daughter of Numitor, a vestal virgin, in order that the Silvian house might become extinct. This part of the story was composed without any insight into political laws, for a daughter could not have transmitted any gentilician rights. The name Rea Silvia is ancient, but Rea is only a surname: rea femmina often occurs in Boccaccio, and is used to this day in Tuscany to designate a woman whose reputation is blighted; a priestess Rea is described by Vergil as having been overpowered by Hercules. While Rea was fetching water in a grove for a sacrifice the sun became eclipsed, and she took refuge from a wolf in a cave, where she was overpowered by Mars. When she was delivered, the sun was again eclipsed and the statue of Vesta covered its eyes. Livy has here abandoned the marvellous. The tyrant threw Rea with her infants into the river Anio: she lost her life in the waves, but the god of the river took her soul and changed it into an immortal goddess, whom he married. This story has been softened down into the tale of her imprisonment, which is unpoetical enough to be a later invention. The river Anio carried the cradle, like a boat, into the Tiber, and the latter conveyed it to the foot of the Palatine, the water having overflowed the country, and the cradle was upset at the root of a fig-tree. A she-wolf carried the babies away and suckled them; Mars sent a woodpecker which provided the children with food, and the bird parra which protected them from insects. These statements are gathered from various quarters; for the historians got rid of the marvellous as much as possible. Faustulus, the legend continues, found the boys feeding on the milk of the huge wild beast; he brought them up with his twelve sons, and they became the staunchest of all. Being at the head of the shepherds on Mount Palatine, they became involved in a quarrel with the shepherds of Numitor on the Aventine—the Palatine and the Aventine are always hostile to each other. Remus being taken prisoner was led to Alba, but Romulus rescued him, and their descent from Numitor being discovered, the latter was restored to the throne, and the two young men obtained permission to form a settlement at the foot of Mount Palatine where they had been saved.
Out of this beautiful poem the falsifiers endeavored to make some credible story: even the unprejudiced and poetical Livy tried to avoid the most marvellous points as much as he could, but the falsifiers went a step farther. In the days when men had altogether ceased to believe in the ancient gods, attempts were made to find something intelligible in the old legends, and thus a history was made up, which Plutarch fondly embraced and Dionysius did not reject, though he also relates the ancient tradition in a mutilated form. He says that many people believe in demons, and that such a demon might have been the father of Romulus; but he himself is very far from believing it, and rather thinks that Amulius himself, in disguise, violated Rea Silvia amid thunder and lightning produced by artifice. This he is said to have done in order to have a pretext for getting rid of her, but being entreated by his daughter not to drown her, he imprisoned her for life. The children were saved by the shepherd who was commissioned to expose them, at the request of Numitor, and two other boys were put in their place. Numitor’s grandsons were taken to a friend at Gabii, who caused them to be educated according to their rank, and to be instructed in Greek literature. Attempts have actually been made to introduce this stupid forgery into history, and some portions of it have been adopted in the narrative of our historians; for example, that the ancient Alban nobility migrated with the two brothers to Rome; but if this had been the case there would have been no need of opening an asylum, nor would it have been necessary to obtain by force the connubium with other nations.
But of more historical importance is the difference of opinion between the two brothers respecting the building of the city and its site. According to the ancient tradition, both were kings and the equal heads of the colony; Romulus is universally said to have wished to build on the Palatine, while Remus, according to some, preferred the Aventine; according to others, the hill Remuria. Plutarch states that the latter is a hill three miles south of Rome, and cannot have been any other than the hill nearly opposite St. Paul, which is the more credible, since this hill, though situated in an otherwise unhealthy district, has an extremely fine air: a very important point in investigations respecting the ancient Latin towns, for it may be taken for certain that where the air is now healthy it was so in those times also, and that where it is now decidedly unhealthy, it was anciently no better. The legend now goes on to say that a dispute arose between Romulus and Remus as to which of them should give the name to the town, and also as to where it was to be built. A town Remuria therefore undoubtedly existed on that hill, though subsequently we find the name transferred to the Aventine, as is the case so frequently. According to the common tradition, the auguries were to decide between the brothers: Romulus took his stand on the Palatine, Remus on the Aventine. The latter observed the whole night, but saw nothing until about sunrise, when he saw six vultures flying from north to south, and sent word of it to Romulus; but at that very time the latter, annoyed at not having seen any sign, fraudulently sent a messenger to say that he had seen twelve vultures, and at the very moment the messenger arrived there did appear twelve vultures, to which Romulus appealed. This account is impossible; for the Palatine and Aventine are so near each other that, as every Roman well knew, whatever a person on one of the two hills saw high in the air, could not escape the observation of any one who was watching on the other. This part of the story therefore cannot be ancient, and can be saved only by substituting the Remuria for the Aventine. As the Palatine was the seat of the noblest patrician tribe, and the Aventine the special town of the plebeians, there existed between the two a perpetual feud, and thus it came to pass that in after times the story relating to the Remuria, which was far away from the city, was transferred to the Aventine. According to Ennius, Romulus made his observations on the Aventine; in this case Remus must certainly have been on the Remuria, and it is said that when Romulus obtained the augury he threw his spear toward the Palatine. This is the ancient legend which was neglected by the later writers. Romulus took possession of the Palatine. The spear taking root and becoming a tree, which existed down to the time of Nero, is a symbol of the eternity of the new city, and of the protection of the gods. The statement that Romulus tried to deceive his brother is a later addition; and the beautiful poem of Ennius, quoted by Cicero, knows nothing of this circumstance. The conclusion which must be drawn from all this is, that in the earliest times there were two towns, Roma and Remuria, the latter being far distant from the city and from the Palatine.
Romulus now fixed the boundary of his town, but Remus scornfully leaped across the ditch, for which he was slain by Celer, a hint that no one should cross the fortifications of Rome with impunity. But Romulus fell into a state of melancholy occasioned by the death of Remus; he instituted festivals to honor him, and ordered an empty throne to be put up by the side of his own. Thus we have a double kingdom, which ends with the defeat of Remuria.
The question now is, What were these two towns of Roma and Remuria? They were evidently Pelasgian places: the ancient tradition states that Sicelus migrated from Rome southward to the Pelasgians, that is, the Tyrrhenian Pelasgians were pushed forward to the Morgetes, a kindred nation in Lucania and in Sicily. Among the Greeks it was, as Dionysius states, a general opinion that Rome was a Pelasgian, that is, a Tyrrhenian city, but the authorities from whom he learned this are no longer extant. There is, however, a fragment in which it is stated that Rome was a sister city of Antium and Ardea; here too we must apply the statement from the chronicle of Cumæ, that Evander, who, as an Arcadian, was likewise a Pelasgian, had his palatium on the Palatine. To us he appears of less importance than in the legend, for in the latter he is one of the benefactors of nations, and introduced among the Pelasgians in Italy the use of the alphabet and other arts, just as Damaratus did among the Tyrrhenians in Etruria. In this sense, therefore, Rome was certainly a Latin town, and had not a mixed but a purely Tyrrheno-Pelasgian population. The subsequent vicissitudes of this settlement may be gathered from the allegories.
Romulus now found the number of his fellow-settlers too small; the number of three thousand foot and three hundred horse, which Livy gives from the commentaries of the pontiffs, is worth nothing; for it is only an outline of the later military arrangement transferred to the earliest times. According to the ancient tradition, Romulus’s band was too small, and he opened an asylum on the Capitoline hill. This asylum, the old description states, contained only a very small space, a proof how little these things were understood historically. All manner of people, thieves, murderers, and vagabonds of every kind, flocked thither. This is the simple view taken of the origin of the clients. In the bitterness with which the estates subsequently looked upon one another, it was made a matter of reproach to the Patricians that their earliest ancestors had been vagabonds; though it was a common opinion that the Patricians were descended from the free companions of Romulus, and that those who took refuge in the asylum placed themselves as clients under the protection of the real free citizens. But now they wanted women, and attempts were made to obtain the connubium with neighboring towns, especially perhaps with Antemnæ, which was only four miles distant from Rome, with the Sabines and others. This being refused Romulus had recourse to a stratagem, proclaiming that he had discovered the altar of Consus, the god of counsels, an allegory of his cunning in general. In the midst of the solemnities, the Sabine maidens, thirty in number, were carried off, from whom the curiæ received their names: this is the genuine ancient legend, and it proves how small ancient Rome was conceived to have been. In later times the number was thought too small; it was supposed that these thirty had been chosen by lot for the purpose of naming the curiæ after them; and Valerius Antias fixed the number of the women who had been carried off at five hundred and twenty-seven. The rape is placed in the fourth month of the city, because the consualia fall in August, and the festival commemorating the foundation of the city in April; later writers, as Cn. Gellius, extended this period to four years, and Dionysius found this of course far more credible. From this rape there arose wars, first with the neighboring towns, which were defeated one after another, and at last with the Sabines. The ancient legend contains not a trace of this war having been of long continuance; but in later times it was necessarily supposed to have lasted for a considerable time, since matters were then measured by a different standard. Lucumo and Cælius came to the assistance of Romulus, an allusion to the expedition of Cæles Vibenna, which however belongs to a much later period. The Sabine king, Tatius, was induced by treachery to settle on the hill which is called the Tarpeian arx. Between the Palatine and the Tarpeian rock a battle was fought, in which neither party gained a decisive victory, until the Sabine women threw themselves between the combatants, who agreed that henceforth the sovereignty should be divided between the Romans and the Sabines. According to the annals, this happened in the fourth year of Rome.
But this arrangement lasted only a short time; Tatius was slain during a sacrifice at Lavinium, and his vacant throne was not filled up. During their common reign, each king had a senate of one hundred members, and the two senates, after consulting separately, used to meet, and this was called comitium. Romulus during the remainder of his life ruled alone; the ancient legend knows nothing of his having been a tyrant: according to Ennius he continued, on the contrary, to be a mild and benevolent king, while Tatius was a tyrant. The ancient tradition contained nothing beyond the beginning and the end of the reign of Romulus; all that lies between these points, the war with the Veientines, Fidenates, and so on, is a foolish invention of later annalists. The poem itself is beautiful, but this inserted narrative is highly absurd, as for example the statement that Romulus slew ten thousand Veientines with his own hand. The ancient poem passed on at once to the time when Romulus had completed his earthly career, and Jupiter fulfilled his promise to Mars, that Romulus was the only man whom he would introduce among the gods. According to this ancient legend, the king was reviewing his army near the marsh of Capræ, when, as at the moment of his conception, there occurred an eclipse of the sun and at the same time a hurricane, during which Mars descended in a fiery chariot and took his son up to heaven. Out of this beautiful poem the most wretched stories have been manufactured: Romulus, it is said, while in the midst of his senators was knocked down, cut into pieces, and thus carried away by them under their togas. This stupid story was generally adopted, and that a cause for so horrible a deed might not be wanting, it was related that in his latter years Romulus had become a tyrant, and that the senators took revenge by murdering him.
After the death of Romulus, the Romans and the people of Tatius quarrelled for a long time with each other, the Sabines wishing that one of their nation should be raised to the throne, while the Romans claimed that the new king should be chosen from among them. At length they agreed, it is said, that the one nation should choose a king from the other.
We have now reached the point at which it is necessary to speak of the relation between the two nations, such as it actually existed.
All the nations of antiquity lived in fixed forms, and their civil relations were always marked by various divisions and subdivisions. When cities raise themselves to the rank of nations, we always find a division at first into tribes; Herodotus mentions such tribes in the colonization of Cyrene, and the same was afterward the case at the foundation of Thurii; but when a place existed anywhere as a distinct township, its nature was characterized by the fact of its citizens being at a certain time divided into gentes [Greek: genê], each of which had a common chapel and a common hero. These gentes were united in definite numerical proportions into curiæ [Greek: phratrai]. The gentes are not families, but free corporations, sometimes close and sometimes open; in certain cases the whole body of the state might assign to them new associates; the great council at Venice was a close body, and no one could be admitted whose ancestors had not been in it, and such also was the case in many oligarchical states of antiquity.
All civil communities had a council and an assembly of burghers, that is, a small and a great council; the burghers consisted of the guilds or gentes, and these again were united, as it were, in parishes; all the Latin towns had a council of one hundred members, who were divided into ten curiæ; this division gave rise to the name of decuriones, which remained in use as a title of civic magistrates down to the latest times, and through the lex Julia was transferred to the constitution of the Italian municipia. That this council consisted of one hundred persons has been proved by Savigny, in the first volume of his history of the Roman law. This constitution continued to exist till a late period of the middle ages, but perished when the institution of guilds took the place of municipal constitutions. Giovanni Villani says, that previously to the revolution in the twelfth century there were at Florence one hundred buoni nomini, who had the administration of the city. There is nothing in the German cities which answers to this constitution. We must not conceive those hundred to have been nobles; they were an assembly of burghers and country people, as was the case in our small imperial cities, or as in the small cantons of Switzerland. Each of them represented a gens; and they are those whom Propertius calls patres pelliti. The curia of Rome, a cottage covered with straw, was a faithful memorial of the times when Rome stood buried in the night of history, as a small country town surrounded by its little domain.
The most ancient occurrence which we can discover from the form of the allegory, by a comparison of what happened in other parts of Italy, is a result of the great and continued commotion among the nations of Italy. It did not terminate when the Oscans had been pressed forward from Lake Fucinus to the lake of Alba, but continued much longer. The Sabines may have rested for a time, but they advanced far beyond the districts about which we have any traditions. These Sabines began as a very small tribe, but afterward became one of the greatest nations of Italy, for the Marrucinians, Caudines, Vestinians, Marsians, Pelignians, and in short all the Samnite tribes, the Lucanians, the Oscan part of the Bruttians, the Picentians, and several others were all descended from the Sabine stock, and yet there are no traditions about their settlements except in a few cases. At the time to which we must refer the foundation of Rome, the Sabines were widely diffused. It is said that, guided by a bull, they penetrated into Opica, and thus occupied the country of the Samnites. It was perhaps at an earlier time that they migrated down the Tiber, whence we there find Sabine towns mixed with Latin ones; some of their places also existed on the Anio. The country afterward inhabited by the Sabines was probably not occupied by them till a later period, for Falerii is a Tuscan town, and its population was certainly at one time thoroughly Tyrrhenian.
As the Sabines advanced, some Latin towns maintained their independence, others were subdued; Fidenæ belonged to the former, but north of it all the country was Sabine. Now by the side of the ancient Roma we find a Sabine town on the Quirinal and Capitoline close to the Latin town; but its existence is all that we know about it. A tradition states that there previously existed on the Capitoline a Siculian town of the name of Saturnia, which, in this case, must have been conquered by the Sabines. But whatever we may think of this, as well as of the existence of another ancient town on the Janiculum, it is certain that there were a number of small towns in that district. The two towns could exist perfectly well side by side, as there was a deep marsh between them.
The town on the Palatine may for a long time have been in a state of dependence on the Sabine conqueror whom tradition calls Titus Tatius; hence he was slain during the Laurentine sacrifice, and hence also his memory was hateful. The existence of a Sabine town on the Quirinal is attested by the undoubted occurrence there of a number of Sabine chapels, which were known as late as the time of Varro, and from which he proved that the Sabine ritual was adopted by the Romans. This Sabine element in the worship of the Romans has almost always been overlooked, in consequence of the prevailing desire to look upon everything as Etruscan; but, I repeat, there is no doubt of the Sabine settlement, and that it was the result of a great commotion among the tribes of middle Italy.
The tradition that the Sabine women were carried off because there existed no connubium, and that the rape was followed by a war, is undoubtedly a symbolical representation of the relation between the two towns, previous to the establishment of the right of intermarriage; the Sabines had the ascendancy and refused that right, but the Romans gained it by force of arms. There can be no doubt that the Sabines were originally the ruling people, but that in some insurrection of the Romans various Sabine places, such as Antemnæ, Fidenæ, and others, were subdued, and thus these Sabines were separated from their kinsmen. The Romans, therefore, reëstablished their independence by a war, the result of which may have been such as we read it in the tradition—Romulus being, of course, set aside—namely, that both places as two closely united towns formed a kind of confederacy, each with a senate of one hundred members, a king, an offensive and defensive alliance, and on the understanding that in common deliberations the burghers of each should meet together in the space between the two towns which was afterward called the comitium. In this manner they formed a united state in regard to foreign nations.
The idea of a double state was not unknown to the ancient writers themselves, although the indications of it are preserved only in scattered passages, especially in the scholiasts. The head of Janus, which in the earliest times was represented on the Roman as, is the symbol of it, as has been correctly observed by writers on Roman antiquities. The vacant throne by the side of the curule chair of Romulus points to the time when there was only one king, and represents the equal but quiescent right of the other people.
That concord was not of long duration is an historical fact likewise; nor can it be doubted that the Roman king assumed the supremacy over the Sabines, and that in consequence the two councils were united so as to form one senate under one king, it being agreed that the king should be alternately a Roman and a Sabine, and that each time he should be chosen by the other people: the king, however, if displeasing to the non-electing people, was not to be forced upon them, but was to be invested with the imperium only on condition of the auguries being favorable to him, and of his being sanctioned by the whole nation. The non-electing tribe accordingly had the right of either sanctioning or rejecting his election. In the case of Numa this is related as a fact, but it is only a disguisement of the right derived from the ritual books. In this manner the strange double election, which is otherwise so mysterious and was formerly completely misunderstood, becomes quite intelligible. One portion of the nation elected and the other sanctioned; it being intended that, for example, the Romans should not elect from among the Sabines a king devoted exclusively to their own interests, but one who was at the same time acceptable to the Sabines.
When, perhaps after several generations of a separate existence, the two states became united, the towns ceased to be towns, and the collective body of the burghers of each became tribes, so that the nation consisted of two tribes. The form of addressing the Roman people was from the earliest times Populus Romanus Quirites, which, when its origin was forgotten, was changed into Populus Romanus Quiritium, just as lis vindiciæ was afterward changed into lis vindiciaruum. This change is more ancient than Livy; the correct expression still continued to be used, but was to a great extent supplanted by the false one. The ancient tradition relates that after the union of the two tribes the name Quirites was adopted as the common designation for the whole people; but this is erroneous, for the name was not used in this sense till a very late period. This designation remained in use and was transferred to the plebeians at a time when the distinction between Romans and Sabines, between these two and the Luceres, nay, when even that between patricians and plebeians had almost ceased to be noticed. Thus the two towns stood side by side as tribes forming one state, and it is merely a recognition of the ancient tradition when we call the Latins Ramnes, and the Sabines Tities; that the derivation of these appellations from Romulus and T. Tatius is incorrect is no argument against the view here taken.
Dionysius, who had good materials and made use of a great many, must, as far as the consular period is concerned, have had more than he gives; there is in particular one important change in the constitution, concerning which he has only a few words, either because he did not see clearly or because he was careless. But as regards the kingly period, he was well acquainted with his subject; he says that there was a dispute between the two tribes respecting the senates, and that Numa settled it by not depriving the Ramnes, as the first tribe, of anything, and by conferring honors on the Tities. This is perfectly clear. The senate, which had at first consisted of one hundred and now two hundred members, was divided into ten decuries, each being headed by one, who was its leader; these are the decem primi, and they were taken from the Ramnes. They formed the college, which, when there was no king, undertook the government, one after another, each for five days, but in such a manner that they always succeeded one another in the same order, as we must believe with Livy, for Dionysius here introduces his Greek notions of the Attic prytanes, and Plutarch misunderstands the matter altogether.
After the example of the senate the number of the augurs and pontiffs also was doubled, so that each college consisted of four members, two being taken from the Ramnes and two from the Tities. Although it is not possible to fix these changes chronologically, as Dionysius and Cicero do, yet they are as historically certain as if we actually knew the kings who introduced them.
Such was Rome in the second stage of its development. This period of equalization is one of peace, and is described as the reign of Numa, about whom the traditions are simple and brief. It is the picture of a peaceful condition with a holy man at the head of affairs, like Nicolas von der Flue in Switzerland. Numa was supposed to have been inspired by the goddess.
Egeria, to whom he was married in the grove of the Camenæ, and who introduced him into the choir of her sisters; she melted away in tears at his death, and thus gave her name to the spring which arose out of her tears. Such a peace of forty years, during which no nation rose against Rome, because Numa’s piety was communicated to the surrounding nations, is a beautiful idea, but historically impossible in those times, and manifestly a poetical fiction.
The death of Numa forms the conclusion of the first sæculum, and an entirely new period follows, just as in the Theogony of Hesiod the age of heroes is followed by the iron age; there is evidently a change, and an entirely new order of things is conceived to have arisen. Up to this point we have had nothing except poetry, but with Tullus Hostilius a kind of history begins, that is, events are related which must be taken in general as historical, though in the light in which they are presented to us they are not historical. Thus, for example, the destruction of Alba is historical, and so in all probability is the reception of the Albans at Rome. The conquests of Ancus Martius are quite credible; and they appear like an oasis of real history in the midst of fables. A similar case occurs once in the chronicle of Cologne. In the Abyssinian annals, we find in the thirteenth century a very minute account of one particular event, in which we recognize a piece of contemporaneous history, though we meet with nothing historical either before or after.
The history which then follows is like a picture viewed from the wrong side, like phantasmata; the names of the kings are perfectly fictitious; no man can tell how long the Roman kings reigned, as we do not know how many there were, since it is only for the sake of the number that seven were supposed to have ruled, seven being a number which appears in many relations, especially in important astronomical ones. Hence the chronological statements are utterly worthless. We must conceive as a succession of centuries the period from the origin of Rome down to the times wherein were constructed the enormous works, such as the great drains, the wall of Servius, and others, which were actually executed under the kings and rival the great architectural works of the Egyptians. Romulus and Numa must be entirely set aside; but a long period follows, in which the nations gradually unite and develop themselves until the kingly government disappears and makes way for republican institutions.
But it is nevertheless necessary to relate the history, such as it has been handed down, because much depends upon it. There was not the slightest connection between Rome and Alba, nor is it even mentioned by the historians, though they suppose that Rome received its first inhabitants from Alba; but in the reign of Tullus Hostilius the two cities on a sudden appear as enemies: each of the two nations seeks war, and tries to allure fortune by representing itself as the injured party, each wishing to declare war. Both sent ambassadors to demand reparation for robberies which had been committed. The form of procedure was this: the ambassadors, that is the Fetiales, related the grievances of their city to every person they met, they then proclaimed them in the market-place of the other city, and if, after the expiration of thrice ten days no reparation was made, they said, “We have done enough and now return,” whereupon the elders at home held counsel as to how they should obtain redress. In this formula accordingly the res, that is, the surrender of the guilty and the restoration of the stolen property, must have been demanded. Now it is related that the two nations sent such ambassadors quite simultaneously, but that Tullus Hostilius retained the Alban ambassadors, until he was certain that the Romans at Alba had not obtained the justice due to them, and had therefore declared war. After this he admitted the ambassadors into the senate, and the reply made to their complaint was, that they themselves had not satisfied the demands of the Romans. Livy then continues: bellum in trigesimum diem dixerant. But the real formula is, post trigesimum diem, and we may ask, Why did Livy or the annalist whom he followed make this alteration? For an obvious reason: a person may ride from Rome to Alba in a couple of hours, so that the detention of the Alban ambassadors at Rome for thirty days, without their hearing what was going on in the mean time at Alba, was a matter of impossibility. Livy saw this, and therefore altered the formula. But the ancient poet was not concerned about such things, and without hesitation increased the distance in his imagination, and represented Rome and Alba as great states.
The whole description of the circumstances under which the fate of Alba was decided is just as manifestly poetical, but we shall dwell upon it for a while in order to show how a semblance of history may arise. Between Rome and Alba there was a ditch, Fossa Cluilia or Cloelia, and there must have been a tradition that the Albans had been encamped there; Livy and Dionysius mention that Cluilius, a general of the Albans, had given the ditch its name, having perished there. It was necessary to mention the latter circumstance, in order to explain the fact that afterward their general was a different person, Mettius Fuffetius, and yet to be able to connect the name of that ditch with the Albans. The two states committed the decision of their dispute to champions, and Dionysius says that tradition did not agree as to whether the name of the Roman champions was Horatii or Curiatii, although he himself, as well as Livy, assumes that it was Horatii, probably because it was thus stated by the majority of the annalists. Who would suspect any uncertainty here if it were not for this passage of Dionysius? The contest of the three brothers on each side is a symbolical indication that each of the two states was then divided into three tribes. Attempts have indeed been made to deny that the three men were brothers of the same birth, and thus to remove the improbability; but the legend went even further, representing the three brothers on each side as the sons of two sisters, and as born on the same day. This contains the suggestion of a perfect equality between Rome and Alba. The contest ended in the complete submission of Alba; it did not remain faithful, however, and in the ensuing struggle with the Etruscans, Mettius Fuffetius acted the part of a traitor toward Rome, but not being able to carry his design into effect, he afterward fell upon the fugitive Etruscans. Tullus ordered him to be torn to pieces and Alba to be razed to the ground, the noblest Alban families being transplanted to Rome. The death of Tullus is no less poetical. Like Numa he undertook to call down lightning from heaven, but he thereby destroyed himself and his house.
If we endeavor to discover the historical substance of these legends, we at once find ourselves in a period when Rome no longer stood alone, but had colonies with Roman settlers, possessing a third of the territory and exercising sovereign power over the original inhabitants. This was the case in a small number of towns, for the most part of ancient Siculian origin. It is an undoubted fact that Alba was destroyed, and that after this event the towns of the Prisci Latini formed an independent and compact confederacy; but whether Alba fell in the manner described, whether it was ever compelled to recognize the supremacy of Rome, and whether it was destroyed by the Romans and Latins conjointly, or by the Romans or Latins alone, are questions which no human ingenuity can solve. It is, however, most probable that the destruction of Alba was the work of the Latins, who rose against her supremacy; whether in this case the Romans received the Albans among themselves, and thus became their benefactors instead of destroyers, must ever remain a matter of uncertainty. That Alban families were transplanted to Rome cannot be doubted, any more than that the Prisci Latini from that time constituted a compact state; if we consider that Alba was situated in the midst of the Latin districts, that the Alban mount was their common sanctuary, and that the grove of Ferentina was the place of assembly for all the Latins, it must appear more probable that Rome did not destroy Alba, but that it perished in an insurrection of the Latin towns, and that the Romans strengthened themselves by receiving the Albans into their city.
Whether the Albans were the first that settled on the Cælian hill, or whether it was previously occupied, cannot be decided. The account which places the foundation of the town on the Cælius in the reign of Romulus suggests that a town existed there before the reception of the Albans; but what is the authenticity of this account? A third tradition represents it as an Etruscan settlement of Cæles Vibenna. This much is certain, that the destruction of Alba greatly contributed to increase the power of Rome. There can be no doubt that a third town, which seems to have been very populous, now existed on the Cælius and on a portion of the Esquiliæ: such a settlement close to other towns was made for the sake of mutual protection. Between the two more ancient towns there continued to be a marsh or swamp, and Rome was protected on the south by stagnant water; but between Rome and the third town there was a dry plain. Rome also had a considerable suburb toward the Aventine, protected by a wall and a ditch, as is implied in the story of Remus. He is a personification of the plebs, leaping across the ditch from the side of the Aventine, though we ought to be very cautious in regard to allegory.
The most ancient town on the Palatine was Rome; the Sabine town also must have had a name, and I have no doubt that, according to common analogy, it was Quirium, the name of its citizens being Quirites. This I look upon as certain. I have almost as little doubt that the town on the Cælian was called Lucerum, because when it was united with Rome, its citizens were called, Lucertes (Luceres). The ancients derive this name from Lucumo, king of the Tuscans, or from Lucerus, king of Ardea; the latter derivation probably meaning that the race was Tyrrheno-Latin, because Ardea was the capital of that race. Rome was thus enlarged by a third element, which, however, did not stand on a footing of equality with the two others, but was in a state of dependence similar to that of Ireland relatively to Great Britain down to the year 1782. But although the Luceres were obliged to recognize the supremacy of the two older tribes, they were considered as an integral part of the whole state, that is, as a third tribe with an administration of its own, but inferior rights. What throws light upon our way here is a passage of Festus, who is a great authority on matters of Roman antiquity, because he made his excerpts from Verrius Flaccus; it is only in a few points that, in my opinion, either of them was mistaken; all the rest of the mistakes in Festus may be accounted for by the imperfection of the abridgment, Festus not always understanding Verrius Flaccus. The statement of Festus to which I here allude is that Tarquinius Superbus increased the number of the Vestals in order that each tribe might have two. With this we must connect a passage from the tenth book of Livy, where he says that the augurs were to represent the three tribes. The numbers in the Roman colleges of priests were always multiples either of two or of three; the latter was the case with the Vestal Virgins and the great Flamines, and the former with the Augurs, Pontiffs, and Fetiales, who represented only the first two tribes. Previously to the passing of the Ogulnian law the number of augurs was four, and when subsequently five plebeians were added, the basis of this increase was different, it is true, but the ancient rule of the number being a multiple of three was preserved. The number of pontiffs, which was then four, was increased only by four: this might seem to contradict what has just been stated, but it has been overlooked that Cicero speaks of five new ones having been added, for he included the Pontifex Maximus, which Livy does not. In like manner there were twenty Fetiales, ten for each tribe. To the Salii on the Palatine Numa added another brotherhood on the Quirinal; thus we everywhere see a manifest distinction between the first two tribes and the third, the latter being treated as inferior.
The third tribe, then, consisted of free citizens, but they had not the same rights as the members of the first two; yet its members considered themselves superior to all other people; and their relation to the other two tribes was the same as that existing between the Venetian citizens of the mainland and the nobili. A Venetian nobleman treated those citizens with far more condescension than he displayed toward others, provided they did not presume to exercise any authority in political matters. Whoever belonged to the Luceres called himself a Roman, and if the very dictator of Tusculum had come to Rome, a man of the third tribe there would have looked upon him as an inferior person, though he himself had no influence whatever.
Tullus was succeeded by Ancus. Tullus appears as one of the Ramnes, and as descended from Hostus Hostilius, one of the companions of Romulus; but Ancus was a Sabine, a grandson of Numa. The accounts about him are to some extent historical, and there is no trace of poetry in them. In his reign, the development of the state again made a step in advance. According to the ancient tradition, Rome was at war with the Latin towns, and carried it on successfully. How many of the particular events which are recorded may be historical I am unable to say; but that there was a war is credible enough. Ancus, it is said, carried away after this war many thousands of Latins, and gave them settlements on the Aventine. The ancients express various opinions about him; sometimes he is described as a captator auræ popularis; sometimes he is called bonus Ancus. Like the first three kings, he is said to have been a legislator, a fact which is not mentioned in reference to the later kings. He is moreover stated to have established the colony of Ostia, and thus his kingdom must have extended as far as the mouth of the Tiber.
Ancus and Tullus seem to me to be historical personages; but we can scarcely suppose that the latter was succeeded by the former, and that the events assigned to their reigns actually occurred in them. These events must be conceived in the following manner: Toward the end of the fourth reign, when, after a feud which lasted many years, the Romans came to an understanding with the Latins about the renewal of the long-neglected alliance, Rome gave up its claims to the supremacy which it could not maintain, and indemnified itself by extending its dominion in another and safer direction. The eastern colonies joined the Latin towns which still existed: this is evident, though it is nowhere expressly mentioned; and a portion of the Latin country was ceded to Rome, with which the rest of the Latins formed a connection of friendship, perhaps of isopolity. Rome here acted as wisely as England did when she recognized the independence of North America.
In this manner Rome obtained a territory. The many thousand settlers whom Ancus is said to have led to the Aventine were the population of the Latin towns which became subject to Rome, and they were far more numerous than the two ancient tribes, even after the latter had been increased by their union with the third tribe. In these country districts lay the power of Rome, and from them she raised the armies with which she carried on her wars. It would have been natural to admit this population as a fourth tribe, but such a measure was not agreeable to the Romans: the constitution of the state was completed and was looked upon as a sacred trust in which no change ought to be introduced. It was with the Greeks and Romans as it was with our own ancestors, whose separate tribes clung to their hereditary laws, and differed from one another in this respect as much as they did from the Gauls in the color of their eyes and hair. They knew well enough that it was in their power to alter the laws, but they considered them as something which ought not to be altered. Thus when the emperor Otho was doubtful on a point of the law of inheritance, he caused the case to be decided by an ordeal or judgment of God. In Sicily, one city had Chalcidian, another Doric laws, although their populations, as well as their dialects, were greatly mixed; but the leaders of those colonies had been Chalcidians in the one case and Dorians in the others. The Chalcidians, moreover, were divided into four, the Dorians into three tribes, and their differences in these respects were manifested even in their weights and measures. The division into three tribes was a genuine Latin institution; and there are reasons which render it probable that the Sabines had a division of their states into four tribes. The transportation of the Latins to Rome must be regarded as the origin of the plebs.