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PERIOD SECOND. FROM THE AGE OF CICERO TO THE DEATH OF AUGUSTUS (74 B.C.-14 A.D.)

1. DEVELOPMENT OF THE ROMAN LITERATURE.—Latin literature, at first rude, and, for five centuries, unable to reach any high excellence, was, as we have seen, gradually developed by the example and tendency of the Greek mind, which moulded Roman civilization anew. The earliest Latin poets, historians, and grammarians were Greeks. The metre which was brought to such perfection by the Latin poets was formed from the Greek, and the Latin language more and more assimilated to the Hellenic tongue.

As civilization advanced, the rude literature of Rome was compared with the great monuments of Greek genius, their superiority was acknowledged, and the study of them encouraged. The Roman youth not only attended the schools of the Greeks, in Rome, but their education was considered incomplete, unless they repaired to those of Athens, Rhodes, and Mytilene. Thus, whatever of national character existed in the literature was gradually obliterated, and what it gained in harmony and finish it lost in originality. The Roman writers imitated more particularly the writers of the Alexandrian school, who, being more artificial, were more congenial than the great writers of the age of Pericles.

Roman genius, serious, majestic, and perhaps more original than at a later period, was manifest even at the time of the Punic wars, but it had not yet taken form; and while thought was vigorous and powerful, expression remained weak and uncertain. But, under the Greek influence, and aided by the vigor imparted by free institutions, the union of thought and form was at length consummated, and the literature reached its culminating point in the great Roman orator. The fruits which had grown and matured in the centuries preceding were gathered by Augustus; but the influences that contributed to the splendor of his age belong rather to the republic than the empire, and with the fall of the liberties of Rome, Roman literature declined.

2. MIMES, MIMOGRAPHERS, AND PANTOMIME.—Amidst all the splendor of the Latin literature of this period, dramatic poetry never recovered from the trance into which it had fallen, though the stage had not altogether lost its popularity. Aesopus and Roscius, the former the great tragic actor, and the latter the favorite comedian, in the time of Cicero, enjoyed his friendship and that of other great men, and both amassed large fortunes. But although the standard Roman plays were constantly represented, dramatic literature had become extinct. The entertainments, which had now taken the place of comedy and tragedy, were termed mimes. These were laughable imitations of manners and persons, combining the features of comedy and farce, for comedy represents the characters of a class, farce those of individuals. Their essence was that of the modern pantomime, and their coarseness, and even indecency, gratified the love of broad humor which characterized the Roman people. After a time, when they became established as popular favorites, the dialogue occupied a more prominent position, and was written in verse, like that of tragedy and comedy. During the dictatorship of Caesar, a Roman knight named Laberius (107-45 B.C.) became famous for his mimes. The profession of an actor of mimes was infamous, but Laberius was a writer, not an actor. On one occasion, Caesar offered him a large sum of money to enter the lists in a trial of his improvisatorial skill. Laberius did not submit to the degradation for the sake of the money, but he was afraid to refuse. The only method of retaliation in his power was sarcasm. His part was that of a slave; and when his master scourged him, he exclaimed: “Porro, Quirites, libertatem perdimus!” His words were received with a round of applause, and all eyes were fixed on Caesar. The dictator restored him to the rank of which his act had deprived him, but he could never recover the respect of his countrymen. As he passed the orchestra, on his way to the stalls of the knights, Cicero cried out: “If we were not so crowded, I would make room for you here.” Laberius replied, alluding to Cicero's lukewarmness as a political partisan: “I am astonished that you should be crowded, as you generally sit on two stools.”

Another writer and actor of mimes was Publius Syrus, originally a Syrian slave. Tradition has recorded a bon mot of his which is as witty as it is severe. Seeing an ill-tempered man named Mucius in low spirits, he exclaimed: “Either some ill fortune has happened to Mucius, or some good fortune to one of his friends!”

The Roman pantomime differed somewhat from the mime. It was a ballet of action, performed by a single dancer, who not only exhibited the human figure in its most graceful attitudes, but represented every passion and emotion with such truth that the spectators could, without difficulty, understand the story. The pantomime was licentious in its character, and the actors were forbidden by Tiberius to hold any intercourse with Romans of equestrian or senatorial dignity.

These were the exhibitions which threw such discredit on the stage, which called forth the well-deserved attacks of the early Christian fathers, and caused them to declare that whoever attended them was unworthy of the name of Christian. Had the drama not been so abused, had it retained its original purity, and carried out the object attributed to it by Aristotle, they would have seen it, not a nursery of vice, but a school of virtue; not only an innocent amusement, but a powerful engine to form the taste, to improve the morals, and to purify the feelings of a people.

3. EPIC POETRY.—The epic poets of this period selected their subjects either from the heroic age and the mythology of Greece, or from their own national history. The Augustan age abounds in representatives of these two poetical schools, though possessing little merit. But the Romans, essentially practical and positive in their character, felt little interest in the descriptions of manners and events remote from their associations, and poetry, restrained within the limits of their history, could not rise to that height of imagination demanded by the epic muse. Virgil united the two forms by selecting his subject from the national history, and adorning the ancient traditions of Rome with the splendor of Greek imagination.

Virgil (70-19 B.C.) was born at Andes, near Mantua; he was educated at Cremona and at Naples, where he studied Greek literature and philosophy. After this he came to Rome, where, through Maecenas, he became known to Octavius, and basked in the sunshine of court favor. His favorite residence was Naples. On his return from Athens, in company with Augustus, he was seized with an illness of which he died. He was buried about a mile from Naples, on the road to Pozzuoli; and a tomb is still pointed out to the traveler which is said to be that of the poet. Virgil was deservedly popular both as a poet and as a man. The emperor esteemed him and people respected him; he was constitutionally pensive and melancholy, temperate, and pure-minded in a profligate age, and his popularity never spoiled his simplicity and modesty. In his last moments he was anxious to burn the whole manuscript of the Aeneid, and directed his executors either to improve it or commit it to the flames.

The idea and plan of the Aeneid are derived from Homer. As the wrath of Achilles is the mainspring of the Iliad, so the unity of the Aeneid results from the anger of Juno. The arrival of Aeneas in Italy after the destruction of Troy, the obstacles that opposed him through the intervention of Juno, and the adventures and the victories of the hero form the subject of the poem. Leaving Sicily for Latium, Aeneas is driven on the coast of Africa by a tempest raised against him by Juno; at Carthage he is welcomed by the queen, Dido, to whom he relates his past adventures and sufferings. By his narrative he wins her love, but at the command of Jupiter abandons her. Unable to retain him, Dido, in the despair of her passion, destroys herself. After passing through many dangers, under the guidance of the Sibyl of Cumae, he descends into the kingdom of the dead to consult the shade of his father. There appear to him the souls of the future heroes of Rome. On his return, he becomes a friend of the king of Latium, who promises to him the hand of his daughter, which is eagerly sought by King Turnus. A fearful war ensues between the rival lovers, which ends in the victory of Aeneas.

Though the poem of Virgil is in many passages an imitation from the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Roman element predominates in it, and the Aeneid is the true national poem of Rome. There was no subject more adapted to flatter the vanity of the Romans, than the splendor and antiquity of their origin. Augustus is evidently typified under the character of Aeneas; Cleopatra is boldly sketched as Dido; and Turnus as the popular Antony. The love and death of Dido, the passionate victim of an unrequited love, give occasion to the poet to sing the victories of his countrymen over their Carthaginian rivals; the Pythagorean metempsychosis, which he adopts in the description of Elysium, affords an opportunity to exalt the heroes of Rome; and the wars of Aeneas allow him to describe the localities and the manners of ancient Latium with such truthfulness as to give to his verses the authority of historical quotations. In style, the Aeneid is a model of purity and elegance, and for the variety and the harmony of its incidents, for the power of its descriptions, and for the interest of its plot and episodes, second only to the Iliad. It has been observed that Virgil's descriptions are more like landscape painting than those of any of his predecessors, whether Greek or Roman, and it is a remarkable fact, that landscape painting was first introduced in his time.

4. DIDACTIC POETRY.—The poems, which first established the reputation of Virgil as a poet, belong to didactic poetry. They are his Bucolics and Georgics. The Bucolics are pastoral idyls; the characters are Italian in all their sentiments and feelings, acting, however, the unreal and assumed part of Greek shepherds. The Italians never possessed the elements of pastoral life, and could not furnish the poet with originals and models from which to draw his portraits. When represented as Virgil represents them in his Bucolics, they are in masquerade, and the drama in which they form the characters is of an allegorical kind. Even the scenery is Sicilian, and does not truthfully describe the tame neighborhood of Mantua. In fact, these poems are imitations of Theocritus; but, divesting ourselves of the idea of the outward form which the poet has chosen to adopt, we are touched by the simple narrative of disappointed loves and childlike woes; we appreciate the delicately-veiled compliments paid by the poet to his patron; we enjoy the inventive genius and poetical power which they display, and we are elevated by the exalted sentiments which they sometimes breathe.

The Georgics are poems on the labors and enjoyments of rural life, a subject for which Rome offered a favorable field. Though in this style Hesiod was the model of Virgil, his system is perfectly Italian, so much so, that many of his rules may be traced in modern Italian husbandry, just as the descriptions of implements in the Greek poet are frequently found to agree with those in use in modern Greece. The great merit of the Georgics consists in their varied digressions, interesting episodes, and in the sublime bursts of descriptive vigor which are interspersed throughout them. They have frequently been taken as models for imitation by the didactic poets of all nations, and more particularly of England. The “Seasons,” for instance, is a thoroughly Virgilian poem.

Lucretius (95-51 B.C.) belongs to the class of didactic poets. He might claim a place among philosophers as well as poets, for his poem marks an epoch both in poetry and philosophy. But his philosophy is a mere reflection from that of Greece, while his poetry is bright with the rays of original genius. His poem on “The Nature of Things” is in imitation of that of Empedocles. Its subject is philosophical and its purpose didactic; but its unity of design gives to it almost the rank of an epic. Its structure prevents it from being a complete and systematic survey of the whole Epicurean philosophy, but as far as the form of the poem permitted, it presents an accurate view of the philosophy which then enjoyed the highest popularity.

The object of the poem of Lucretius is to emancipate mankind from the debasing effects of superstition by an exposition of philosophy, and though a follower of Epicurus, he is not entirely destitute of the religious sentiment, for he deifies nature and has a veneration for her laws. His infidelity must be viewed rather in the light of a philosophical protest against the results of heathen superstition, than a total rejection of the principles of religious faith.

Lucretius valued the capabilities of the Latin language. He wielded at will its power of embodying the noblest thoughts, and showed how its copious and flexible properties could overcome the hard technicalities of science. The great beauty of his poetry is its variety; his fancy is always lively, his imagination has always free scope. He is sublime, as a philosopher who penetrates the secrets of the natural world, and discloses to the eyes of man the hidden causes of its wonderful phenomena. His object was a lofty one; for although the absurdities of the national creed drove him into skepticism, his aim was to set the intellect free from the trammels of superstition. But besides grandeur and sublimity, we find the totally different qualities of softness and tenderness. Rome had long known nothing but war, and was now rent by civil dissension. Lucretius yearned for peace; and his prayer, that the fabled goddess of all that is beautiful in nature would heal the wounds which discord had made, is distinguished by tenderness and pathos even more than by sublimity. He is superior to Ovid in force, though inferior in facility; not so smooth or harmonious as Virgil, his poetry always falls upon the ear with a swelling and sonorous melody. Virgil appreciated his excellence, and imitated not only single expressions, but almost entire verses and passages; and Ovid exclaims, that the sublime strains of Lucretius shall never perish until the world shall be given up to destruction.

5. LYRIC POETRY.—The Romans had not the ideality and the enthusiasm which are the elements of lyric poetry, and in all the range of their literature there are only two poets who, greatly inferior to the lyric poets of Greece, have a positive claim to a place in this department, Catullus and Horace. Catullus (86-46 B.C.) was born near Verona. At an early age he went to Rome, where he plunged into all the excesses of the capital, and where his sole occupation was the cultivation of his literary tastes and talents. A career of extravagance and debauchery terminated in the ruin of his fortune, and he died at the age of forty. The works of Catullus consist of numerous short pieces of a lyrical character, elegies and other poems. He was one of the most popular of the Roman poets, because he possessed those qualities which the literary society at Rome most valued, polish and learning, and because, although an imitator, there was a truly Roman nationality in all that he wrote. His satire was the bitter resentment of a vindictive spirit; his love and his hate were both purely selfish, but his excellences were of the most alluring and captivating kind. He has never been surpassed in gracefulness, melody, and tenderness.

Horace (65-8 B.C.), like Virgil and other poets of his time, enjoyed the friendship and intimacy of Maecenas, who procured for him the public grant of his Sabine farm, situated about fifteen miles from Tivoli. At Rome he occupied a house on the beautiful heights of the Esquiline. The rapid alternation of town and country life, which the fickle poet indulged in, gives a peculiar charm to his poetry. His “Satires” were followed by the publication of the “Odes” and the “Epistles.” The satires of Horace occupied the position of the fashionable novel of our day. In them is sketched boldly, but good-humoredly, a picture of Roman social life, with its vices and follies. They have nothing of the bitterness of Lucilius, the love of purity and honor that adorns Persius, or the burning indignation of Juvenal at the loathsome corruption of morals. Vice, in his day, had not reached that appalling height which it attained in the time of the emperors who succeeded Augustus. Deficient in moral purity, nothing would strike him as deserving censure, except such excess as would actually defeat the object which he proposed to himself, namely, the utmost enjoyment of life. In the “Epistles,” he lays aside the character of a moral teacher or censor, and writes with the freedom with which he would converse with an intimate friend. But it is in his inimitable “Odes” that the genius of Horace as a poet is especially displayed; they have never been equaled in beauty of sentiment, gracefulness of language, and melody of versification; they comprehend every variety of subject suitable to the lyric muse; they rise without effort to the most elevated topics; and they descend to the simplest joys and sorrows of every-day life.

The life of Horace is especially instructive, as a mirror in which is reflected a faithful image of the manners of his day. He is the representative of Roman refined society, as Virgil is of the national mind. His morals were lax, but not worse than those of his contemporaries. He looked at virtue and vice from a worldly, not from a moral point of view, and with him the one was prudence and the other folly.

In connection with Horace, we may mention Maecenas, who, by his good taste and munificence, exercised a great influence upon literature, and literary men of Rome were much indebted to him for the use he made of his friendship with Augustus, to whom, probably, his love of literature and of pleasure and his imperturbable temper recommended him as an agreeable companion. He had wealth enough to gratify his utmost wishes, and his mind was so full of the delights of refined society, of palaces, gardens, wit, poetry, and art, that there was no room in it for ambition. All the most brilliant men of Rome were found at his table,—Virgil, Horace, Propertius, and Varius were among his friends and constant associates. He was a fair specimen of the man of pleasure and society,—liberal, kind- hearted, clever, refined, but luxurious, self-indulgent, indolent, and volatile, with good impulses, but without principle.

6. ELEGY.—Tibullus (b. 54 B.C.) was the father of the Roman elegy. He was a contemporary of Virgil and Horace. The style of his poems and their tone of thought are like his character, deficient in vigor and manliness, but sweet, smooth, polished, tender, and never disfigured by bad taste. He passed his short life in peaceful retirement, and died soon after Virgil. The poems ascribed to Tibullus consist of four books, of which only two are genuine.

Propertius (b. 150 B.C.), although a contemporary and friend of the Augustan poets, may be considered as belonging to a somewhat different school of poetry. While Horace, Virgil, and Tibullus imitated the noblest poets of the Greek age, Propertius, like the minor Roman poets, aspired to nothing more than the imitation of the graceful, but feeble strains of the Alexandrian poets. If he excels Tibullus in vigor of fancy, expression, and coloring, he is inferior to him in grace, spontaneity, and delicacy; he cannot, also, be compared with Catullus, who greatly surpasses him in his easy and effective style.

Ovid (43 B.C.-6 A.D.), the most fertile of the Latin poets, not only in elegy, but also in other kinds of poetry, was enabled by his rank, fortune, and talents to cultivate the society of men of congenial tastes. A skeptic and an epicurean, he lived a life of continual indulgence and intrigue. He was a universal admirer of the female sex, and a favorite among women. He was popular as a poet, successful in society, and possessed all the enjoyments that wealth could bestow; but later in life he incurred the anger of Augustus, and was banished to the very frontier of the Roman empire, where he lingered for a few years and died in great misery. The “Epistles to and from Women of the Heroic Age” are a series of love-letters; with the exception of the “Metamorphoses,” they have been greater favorites than any other of his works. Love, in the days of Ovid, had in it nothing pure or chivalrous. The age in which he lived was morally polluted, and he was neither better nor worse than his contemporaries; hence grossness is the characteristic of his “Art of Love.” His “Metamorphoses” contain a series of mythological narratives from the earliest times to the translation of the soul of Julius Caesar from earth to heaven, and his metamorphosis into a star. In this poem especially may be traced that study and learning by which the Roman poets made all the treasures of Greek literature their own. “The Fasti,” a poem on the Roman calendar, is a beautiful specimen of simple narrative in verse, and displays, more than any of his works, his power of telling a story without the slightest effort, in poetry as well as prose. The five books of the “Tristia,” and the “Epistles from Pontus,” were the outpourings of his sorrowful heart during the gloomy evening of his days.

7. ORATORY AND PHILOSOPHY.—As oratory gave to Latin prose-writing its elegance and dignity, Cicero (106-43 B.C.) is not only the representative of the flourishing period of the language, but also the instrumental cause of its arriving at perfection. He gave a fixed character to the Latin tongue; showed his countrymen what vigor it possessed, and of what elegance and polish it was susceptible. The influence of Cicero on the language and literature of his day was not only extensive, but permanent, and it survived almost until the language was corrupted by barbarism. After traveling in Greece and Asia, and holding a high office in Sicily, he returned to Rome, resumed his forensic practice, and was made consul. The conspiracy of Catiline was the great event of his consulship. The prudence and tact with which he crushed this gained him the applause and gratitude of his fellow-citizens, who hailed him as the father of his country; but he was obliged, by the intrigues of his enemies, to fly from Rome; his exile was decreed, and his town and country houses given up to plunder. He was, however, recalled, and appointed to a seat in the college of Augurs. In the struggle between Pompey and Caesar, he followed the fortunes of the former; but Caesar, after his triumph, granted him a full and free pardon. After the assassination of Caesar, Cicero delivered that torrent of indignant and eloquent invective, his twelve Philippic orations, and became again the popular idol; but when the second triumvirate was formed, and each member gave up his friends to the vengeance of his colleagues, Octavius did not hesitate to sacrifice Cicero. Betrayed by a treacherous freedman, he would not permit his attendants to make any resistance, but courageously submitted to the sword of the assassins, who cut off his head and hands, and carried them to Antony, whose wife, Julia, gloated with inhuman delight upon the pallid features, and in petty spite pierced with a needle the once eloquent tongue. Cicero had numerous faults; he was vain, vacillating, inconstant, timid, and the victim of morbid sensibility; but he was candid, truthful, just, generous, pure-minded, and warm-hearted. Gentle, sympathizing, and affectionate, he lived as a patriot and died as a philosopher.

The place which Cicero occupies in the history of Roman literature is that of an orator and philosopher. The effectiveness of his oratory was mainly owing to his knowledge of the human heart, and of the national peculiarities of his countrymen. Its charm was owing to his extensive acquaintance with the stores of literature and philosophy, which his sprightly wit moulded at will; to the varied learning, which his unpedantic mind made so pleasant and popular; and to his fund of illustration, at once interesting and convincing. He carried his hearers with him; senate, judges, and people understood his arguments, and felt his passionate appeals. Compared with the dignified energy and majestic vigor of Demosthenes, the Asiatic exuberance of some of his orations may be fatiguing to the more sober and chaste taste of modern scholars; but in order to form a just appreciation, we must transport ourselves mentally to the excitements of the thronged forum, to the senate, composed of statesmen and warriors in the prime of life, maddened with the party- spirit of revolutionary times. Viewed in this light, his most florid passages will appear free from affectation—the natural flow of a speaker carried away with the torrent of his enthusiasm. Among his numerous orations, in which, according to the criticisms of Quintilian, he combined the force of Demosthenes, the copiousness of Plato, and the elegance of Isocrates, we mention the six celebrated Verrian harangues, which are considered masterpieces of Tullian eloquence. In the speech for the poet Archias, he had evidently expended all his resources of art, taste, and skill; and his oration in defense of Milo, for force, pathos, and the externals of eloquence, deserves to be reckoned among his most wonderful efforts. The oratory of Cicero was essentially judicial; even his political orations are rather judicial than deliberative. He was not born for a politician; he did not possess that analytical character of mind which penetrates into the remote causes of human action, nor the synthetical power which enables a man to follow them out to their farthest consequences. Of the three qualities necessary for a statesman, he possessed only two,—honesty and patriotism; he had not political wisdom. Hence, in the finest specimens of his political orations, his Catilinarians and Philippics, we look in vain for the calm, practical weighing of the subject which is necessary in addressing a deliberative assembly. Nevertheless, so irresistible was the influence which he exercised upon the minds of his hearers, that all his political speeches were triumphs. His panegyric on Pompey carried his appointment as commander-in-chief of the armies of the East; he crushed in Catiline one of the most formidable traitors that had ever menaced the safety of the republic, and Antony's fall followed the complete exposure of his debauchery in private life, and the factiousness of his public career.

In his rhetorical works, Cicero left a legacy of practical instruction to posterity. The treatise “On Invention” is merely interesting as the juvenile production of a future great man. “The Orator,” “Brutus, or the illustrious Orators,” and “The Orator to Marius Brutus,” are the results of his matured experience. They form together one series, in which the principles are laid down, and their development carried out and illustrated; and in the “Orator” he places before the eyes of Brutus the model of ideal perfection. In his treatment of that subject, he shows a mind imbued with the spirit of Plato; he invests it with dramatic interest, and transports the reader into the scene which he so graphically describes.

Roman philosophy was neither the result of original investigation, nor the gradual development of the Greek system. It arose rather from a study of ancient philosophical literature, than from an emanation of philosophical principles. It consisted in a kind of eclecticism with an ethical tendency, bringing together doctrines and opinions scattered over a wide field in reference to the political and social relations of man. Greek philosophy was probably first introduced into Rome 166 B.C. But although the Romans could appreciate the majestic dignity and poetical beauty of the style of Plato, they were not equal to the task of penetrating his hidden meaning; neither did the peripatetic doctrines meet with much favor. The philosophical system which first arrested the attention of the Romans, and gained an influence over their minds, was the Epicurean. That of the Stoics also, the severe principles of which were in harmony with the stern old Roman virtues, had distinguished disciples. The part which Cicero's character qualified him to perform in the philosophical instruction of his countrymen was scarcely that of a guide; he could give them a lively interest in the subject, but he could not mould and form their belief, and train them in the work of original investigation. Not being devoutly attached to any system of philosophical belief, he would be cautious of offending the philosophical prejudices of others. He was essentially an eclectic in accumulating stores of Greek erudition, while his mind had a tendency, in the midst of a variety of inconsistent doctrines, to leave the conclusion undetermined. He brought everything to a practical standard; he admired the exalted purity of stoical morality, but he feared that it was impractical. He believed in the existence of one supreme creator, in his spiritual nature, and the immortality of the soul; but his belief was rather the result of instinctive conviction, than of proof derived from philosophy.

The study of Cicero's philosophical works is invaluable, in order to understand the minds of those who came after him. Not only all Roman philosophy after his time, but a great part of that of the Middle Ages, was Greek philosophy filtered through Latin, and mainly founded on that of Cicero. Among his works on speculative philosophy are “The Academics, or a history and defense of the belief of the new Academy;" “Dialogues on the Supreme Good, the end of all moral action;” “The Tusculan Disputations,” containing five treatises on the fear of death, the endurance of pain, power of wisdom over sorrow, the morbid passions, and the relation of virtue to happiness. His moral philosophy comprehends the “Duties,” a stoical treatise on moral obligations, and the unequaled little essays on “Friendship and Old Age.” His political works are “The Republic” and “The Law;” but these remains are fragmentary.

The extent of Cicero's correspondence is almost incredible. Even those epistles which remain number more than eight hundred. In them we find the eloquence of the heart, not of the rhetorical school. They are models of pure Latinity, elegant without stiffness, the natural outpourings of a mind which could not give birth to an ungraceful idea. In his letters to Atticus he lays bare the secret of his heart; he trusts his life in his hands; he is not only his friend but his confidant, his second self. In the letters of Cicero we have the description of the period of Roman history, and the portrait of the inner life of Roman society in his day.

8. HISTORY.—In their historical literature the Romans exhibited a faithful transcript of their mind and character. History at once gratified their patriotism, and its investigations were in accordance with their love of the real and the practical. In this department, they were enabled to emulate the Greeks and to be their rivals, and sometimes their superiors. The elegant simplicity of Caesar is as attractive as that of Herodotus; none of the Greek historians surpasses Livy in talent for the picturesque and in the charm with which he invests his spirited and living stories; while for condensation of thought, terseness of expression, and political and philosophical acumen, Tacitus is not inferior to Thucydides. The catalogue of Roman historians contains many writers whose works are lost; such as L. Lucretius, the friend and correspondent of Cicero, L. Lucullus, the illustrious conqueror of Mithridates, and Cornelius Nepos, of whom only one work was preserved, the “Lives of Eminent Generals.” The authenticity of this work is, however, disputed. But at the head of this department, as the great representatives of Roman history, stand Julius Caesar, Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus, all of whom, except the last, belong to the Augustan age.

Julius Caesar (100-44 B.C.) was descended from one of the oldest among the patrician families of Rome. He attached himself to the popular party, and his good taste, great tact, and pleasing manners contributed, together with his talents, to insure his popularity. He became a soldier in the nineteenth year of his age, and hence his works display all the best qualities which are fostered by a military education—frankness, simplicity, and brevity. His earliest literary triumph was as an orator, and, according to Quintilian, he was a worthy rival of Cicero. When he obtained the office of Pontifex Maximus, he diligently examined the history and nature of the Roman belief in augury, and published his investigations. When his career as a military commander began, whatever leisure his duties permitted him to enjoy he devoted to the composition of his memoirs, or commentaries of the Gallic and civil wars. He wrote, also, some minor works on different subjects, and he left behind him various letters, some of which are extant.

But by far the most important of the works of Caesar is his “Commentaries,” which have come down to us in a tolerably perfect state. They are sketches taken on the spot, in the midst of action, while the mind was full, and they have all the graphic power of a master-mind and the vigorous touches of a master-hand. The Commentaries are the materials for history, notes jotted down for future historians. The very faults which may justly be found with the style of Caesar are such as reflect the man himself. The majesty of his character consists chiefly in the imperturbable calmness and equanimity of his temper; he had no sudden bursts of energy and alternations of passion and inactivity. The elevation of his character was a high one, but it was a level table-land. This calmness and equability pervades his writings, and for this reason they have been thought to want life and energy. The beauty of his language is, as Cicero says, statuesque rather than picturesque. Simple and severe, it conveys the idea of perfect and well-proportioned beauty, while it banishes all thoughts of human passion. In relating his own deeds, he does not strive to add to his own reputation by detracting from the merits of those who served under him. He is honest, generous, and candid, not only towards them, but also towards his brave enemies. He recounts his successes without pretension or arrogance, though he has evidently no objection to be the hero of his own tale. His Commentaries are not confessions, although he is the subject of them; not a record of a weakness appears, nor even a defect, except that which the Romans would readily forgive, cruelty. His savage waste of human life he recounts with perfect self-complacency. Vanity, the crowning error in his career as a statesman, though hidden by the reserve with which he speaks of himself, sometimes discovers itself in the historian.

The Commentaries of Caesar have been compared with the work of the great soldier-historian of Greece, Xenophon. Both are eminently simple and unaffected, but there the parallel ends. The severe contempt of ornament, which characterizes the stern Roman, is totally unlike the mellifluous sweetness of the Attic writer.

Sallust (85-35 B.C.) was born of a plebeian family, but, having filled the offices of tribune and quaestor, attained senatorial rank. He was expelled from the Senate for his profligacy, but restored again to his rank through the influence of Caesar, whose party he espoused. He accompanied his patron in the African war, and was made governor of Numidia. While in that capacity, he accumulated by rapacity and extortion enormous wealth, which he lavished in expensive but tasteful luxury. The gardens on the Quirinal which bore his name were celebrated for their beauty; and there, surrounded by the choicest works of art, he devoted his retirement to composing the historical records which survived him. As a politician, he was a mere partisan of Caesar, and therefore a strenuous opponent of the higher classes and of the supporters of Pompey. The object of his hatred was not the old patrician blood of Rome, but the new aristocracy, which had of late years been rapidly rising up and displacing it. That new nobility was utterly corrupt, and its corruption was encouraged by the venality of the masses, whose poverty and destitution tempted them to be the tools of unscrupulous ambition. Sallust strove to place that party in the unfavorable light which it deserved; but, notwithstanding the truthfulness of the picture which he draws, selfishness and not patriotism was the mainspring of his politics; he was not an honest champion of popular rights, but a vain and conceited man, who lived in an immoral and corrupt age, and had not the strength of principle to resist the force of example and temptation. If, however, we make some allowance for the political bias of Sallust, his histories have not only the charms of the historical romance, but are also valuable political studies. His characters are vigorously and naturally drawn, and the more his histories are read, the more obvious it is that he always writes with an object, and uses his facts as the means of enforcing a great political lesson.

His first work is on the “Jugurthine War;” the next related to the period from the consulship of Lepidus to the praetorship of Cicero, and is unfortunately lost. This was followed by a history of the conspiracy of Catiline, “The War of Catiline,” in which he paints in vivid colors the depravity of that order of society which, bankrupt in fortune and honor, still plumes itself on its rank and exclusiveness. To Sallust must be conceded the praise of having first conceived the notion of a history, in the true sense of the term. He was the first Roman historian, and the guide of future historians. He had always an object to which he wished all his facts to converge, and he brought them forward as illustrations and developments of principles. He analyzed and exposed the motives of parties, and laid bare the inner life of those great actors on the public stage, in the interesting historical scenes which he describes. His style, although ostentatiously elaborate and artificial, is, upon the whole, pleasing, and almost always transparently clear. Following Thucydides, whom he evidently took as his model, he strives to imitate his brevity; but while this quality with the Greek historian is natural and involuntary, with the Roman it is intentional and studied. The brevity of Thucydides is the result of condensation, that of Salust is elliptical expression.

Livy (59-18 B.C.) was born in Padua, and came to Rome during the reign of Augustus, where he resided in the enjoyment of the imperial favor and patronage. He was a warm and open admirer of the ancient institutions of the country, and esteemed Pompey as one of its greatest heroes; but Augustus did not allow political opinions to interfere with the regard which he entertained for the historian. His great work is a history of Rome, which he modestly terms “Annals,” in one hundred and forty-two books, of which thirty-five are extant. Besides his history, Livy is said to have written treatises and dialogues, which were partly philosophical and partly historical.

The great object of Livy's history was to celebrate the glories of his native country, to which he was devotedly attached. He was a patriot: his sympathy was with Pompey, called forth by the disinterestedness of that great man, and perhaps by his sad end. He delights to put forth his powers in those passages which relate to the affections. He is a biographer quite as much as a historian; he anatomizes the moral nature of his heroes, and shows the motive springs of their noble exploits. His characters stand before us like epic heroes, and he tells his story like a bard singing his lay at a joyous festive meeting, checkered by alternate successes and reverses, though all tending to a happy result at last. But while these features constitute his charm as a narrator, they render him less valuable as a historian. Although he would not be willfully inaccurate, if the legend he was about to tell was interesting, he would not stop to inquire whether or not it was true. Taking upon trust the traditions which had been handed down from generation to generation, the more flattering and popular they were, the more suitable would he deem them for his purposes. He loved his country, and he would scarcely believe anything derogatory to the national glory. Whenever Rome was false to treaties, unmerciful in victory, or unsuccessful in arms, he either ignores the facts or is anxious to find excuses. He does not appear to have made researches into the many original documents which were extant at his time, but he trusted to the annalists, and took advantage of the investigations of preceding historians. His descriptions of military affairs are often vague and indistinct, and he often shows himself ignorant of the localities which he describes. Such are the principal defects of Livy, who otherwise charms his readers with his romantic narratives, and his lively, fresh, and fascinating style.

9. OTHER PROSE WRITERS.—Though the grammarians of this period were numerous, they added little or nothing to its literary reputation. The most conspicuous among them were Atteius, a friend of Sallust; Epirota, the correspondent of Cicero; Julius Hyginus, a friend of Ovid; and Nigidius Figulus, an orator as well as grammarian. M. Vitruvius Pollio, the celebrated architect, deserves to be mentioned for his treatise on architecture. He was probably native of Verona, and served under Julius Caesar in Africa, as a military engineer. Notwithstanding the defects of his style, the language of Vitruvius is vigorous, and his descriptions bold; his work is valuable as exhibiting the principles of Greek architectural taste and beauty, of which he was a devoted admirer.