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Great literary activity of all kinds was, after the third Punic war, liable to continual interruption from political struggles or revolutions. But between each two periods of disturbance there was generally an interval in which philosophy, law, and rhetoric were carefully studied. As, however, no work of this period has come down to us except the treatise to Herennius, our notice of it will be proportionately general and brief. We shall touch on the principal studies in order. First in time as in importance comes Law, the earliest great representative of which is P. MUCIUS SCAEVOLA, consul in 133 B.C. but better known as Pontifex Maximus. In this latter office, which he held for several years, Mucius did good service to literature. He united a high technical training with a liberal mind, and superintended the publication of theAnnales Pontificum from the earliest period to his own date. This was a great boon to historians. He gave another to jurists. His responsa were celebrated for their insight into the principles of Law, and for the minute knowledge they displayed. He was conscientious enough to study the law of every case before he undertook to plead it, a practice which, however commendable, was rare even with advocates of the highest fame, as, for example, M. Antonius.

The jurisconsult of this period used to offer his services without payment to any who chose to consult him. At first he appeared in the forum, but as his fame and the number of applicants increased, he remained at home and received all day. His replies were always oral, but when written down were considered as authoritative, and often quoted by the orators. In return for this laborious occupation, he expected the support of his clients in his candidature for the offices of state. An anecdote is preserved of C. Figulus, a jurisconsult, who, not having been successful for the consulship, addressed his consultores thus, “You know how to consult me, but not (it seems) how to make me consul.” [1] In addition to the parties in a suit, advocates in other causes often came to a great jurisconsult to be coached in the law of their case. For instance, Antonius, who, though a ready speaker, had no knowledge of jurisprudence, often went to Scaevola for this purpose. Moreover there were always one or two regular pupils who accompanied the jurisconsult, attended carefully to his words, and committed them assiduously to memory or writing. Cicero himself did this for the younger Scaevola, and thus laid the foundation of that clear grasp on the civil law which was so great a help to him in his more difficult speeches. It was not necessary that the pupil should himself intend to become a consultus; it was enough that he desired to acquire the knowledge for public purposes, although, of course, it required great interest to procure for a young man so high a privilege. Cicero was introduced to Scaevola by the orator Crassus. The family of the Mucii, as noticed by Cicero, were traditionally distinguished by their legal knowledge, as that of the Appii Claudii were by eloquence. The Augur Q. MUCIUS SCAEVOLA who comes midway between Publius and his son Quintus was somewhat less celebrated than either, but he was nevertheless a man of eminence. He died probably in 87 B.C., and Cicero mentions that it was in consequence of this event that he himself became a pupil of his nephew. [2]

The great importance of Religious Law must not be forgotten in estimating the acquirements of these men. Though to us the Jus Augurale and Jus Pontificium are of small interest compared with the Jus Civile; yet to the Romans of 120 B.C., and especially to an old and strictly aristocratic family, they had all the attraction of exclusiveness and immemorial authority. In all countries religious law exercises at first a sway far in excess of its proper province, and Rome was no exception to the rule. The publication of civil law is an era in civilization. Just as the chancellorship and primacy of England were often in the hands of one person and that an ecclesiastic, so in Rome the pontifices had at first the making of almost all law. What a canonist was to Mediaeval Europe, a pontifex was to senatorial Rome. In the time of which we are now speaking (133-63 B.C.), the secular law had fully asserted its supremacy on its own ground, and it was the dignity and influence, not the power of the post, that made the pontificate so great an object of ambition, and so inaccessible to upstart candidates. Even for Cicero to obtain a seat in the college of augurs was no easy task, although he had already won his way to the consulship and been hailed as the saviour of his country.

The younger Scaevola (Q. MUCIUS SCAEVOLA), who had been his father's pupil, [3] and was the most eloquent of the three, was born about 135 B.C., was consul 95 with Licinius Crassus for his colleague, and afterwards Pontifex Maximus. He was an accomplished Greek scholar, a man of commanding eloquence, deeply versed in the Stoic philosophy, and of the highest nobility of character. As Long well says, “He is one of those illustrious men whose fame is not preserved by his writings, but in the more enduring monument of the memory of all nations to whom the language of Rome is known.” His chief work, which was long extant, and is highly praised by Cicero, was a digest of the civil law. Rudorff says of it, [4] “For the first time we meet here with a comprehensive, uniform, and methodical system, in the place of the old interpretation of laws and casuistry, of legal opinions and prejudices.” Immediately on its publication it acquired great authority, and was commented upon within a few years of the death of its author. It is quoted in the Digest, and is the earliest work to which reference is there made. [5] He was especially clear in definitions and distinctions, [6] and the grace with which he invested a dry subject made him deservedly popular. Though so profound a lawyer, he was quite free from the offensive stamp of the mere professional man. His urbanity, unstained integrity, and high position, fitted him to exercise a widespread influence. He had among his hearers Cicero, as we have already seen, and among jurists proper, Aquillius Gallus, Balbus Lucilius, and others, who all attained to eminence. His virtue was such that his name became proverbial for probity as for legal eminence. In Horace he is coupled with Gracchus as the ideal of a lawyer, as the other of an orator.

  “Gracchus ut hic illi foret, huic ut Mucius ille.” [7]

The great oratorical activity of this age produced a corresponding interest in the theory of eloquence. We have seen that many of the orators received lessons from Greek rhetoricians. We have seen also the deep attraction which rhetoric possessed over the Roman mind. It was, so to speak, the form of thought in which their intellectual creations were almost all cast. Such a maxim as that attributed to Scaevola,Fiat iustitia: ruat caelum, is not legal but rhetorical. The plays of Attius owed much of their success to the ability with which statement was pitted against counter-statement, plea against plea. The philosophic works of Cicero are coloured with rhetoric. Cases are advanced, refuted, or summed up, with a view to presentability (veri simile), not abstract truth. The history of Livy, the epic of Virgil, are eminently rhetorical. A Roman when not fighting was pleading. It was, then, important that he should he well grounded in the art. Greek rhetoricians, in spite of Cato's opposition, had been steadily making way, and increasing the number of their pupils; but it was not until about 93 B.C. that PLOTIUS GALLUS taught the principles of Rhetoric in Latin. Quintilian says, [8] “Latinos dicendi praeceptores extremis L. Crassi temporibus coepisse Cicero auctor est: quorum insignis maxime Plotius fuit.” He was the first of that long list of writers who expended wit, learning, and industry, in giving precepts of a mechanical character to produce what is unproduceable, namely, a successful style of speaking. Their treatises are interesting, for they show on the one hand the severe technical application which the Romans were always willing to bestow in order to imitate the Greeks; and on the other, the complex demands of Latin rhetoric as contrasted with the simpler and more natural style of modern times.

The most important work on the subject is the treatise dedicated to Herennius (80 B.C.), written probably in the time of Sulla, and for a long time reckoned among Cicero's works. The reason for this confusion is twofold. First, the anonymous character of the work; and, secondly, the frequent imitations of it by Cicero in his De Inventione, an incomplete essay written when he was a young man. Who the author was is not agreed; the balance of probability is in favour of CORNIFICIUS. Kayser [9] points out several coincidences between Cornificius's views, as quoted by Quintilian, and the rhetorical treatise to Herennius. The author, whoever he may be, was an accomplished man, and, while a warm admirer of Greek eloquence, by no means disposed to concede the inferiority of his own countrymen. His criticism upon the inanitas [10] of the Greek manuals is thoroughly just. They were simply guides to an elegant accomplishment, and had no bearing on real life. It was quite different with the Roman manuals. These were intended to fit the reader for forensic contests, and, we cannot doubt, did materially help towards this result. It was only in the imperial epoch that empty ingenuity took the place of activity, and rhetoric sunk to the level of that of Greece. There is nothing calling for special remark in the contents of the book, though all is good. The chief points of interest in this subject will be discussed in a later chapter. The style is pure and copious, the Latin that finished idiom which is the finest vehicle for Roman thought, that spoken by the highest circles at the best period of the language.

The science of Grammar was now exciting much attention. The Stoic writers had formulated its main principles, and had assigned it a place in their system of general philosophy. It remained for the Roman students to apply the Greek treatment to their own language. Apparently, the earliest labours were of a desultory kind. The poet Lucilius treated many points of orthography, pronunciation, and the like; and he criticised inaccuracies of syntax or metre in the poets who had gone before him. A little later we find the same mine further worked. Quintilian observes that grammar began at Rome by the exegesis of classical authors. Octavius Lampadio led the van with a critical commentary on the Punica of Naevius, and Q. Vargunteius soon after performed the same office for the annals of Ennius. The first scientific grammarian, was AELIUS STILO, a Roman knight (144-70 B.C.). His name was L. Aelius Praeconinus; he received the additional cognomen Stilo from the facility with which he used his pen, especially in writing speeches for others to deliver. At the same time he was no orator, and Cicero implies that better men often used his compositions through mere laziness, and allowed them to pass as their own. [11] Cicero mentions in more than one place that he himself had been an admiring pupil of Aelius. And Lucilius addressed some of his satires to him, probably those on grammar,

  “Has res ad te scriptas Luci misimus Aeli;”

so that he is a bond of connection between the two epochs. His learning was profound and varied. He dedicated his investigations to Varro, who speaks warmly of him, but mentions that his etymologies are often incorrect. He appears to have bestowed special care on Plautus, in which department he was followed by Varro, some of the results of whose criticism have been already given.

The impulse given by Stilo was rapidly extended. Grammar became a favourite study with the Romans, as indeed it was one for which they were eminently fitted. The perfection to which they carried the analysis of sentences and the practical rules for correct speech as well as the systematization of the accidence, has made their grammars a model for all modern school-works. It is only recently that a deeper scientific knowledge has reorganised the entire treatment, and substituted for superficial analogy the true basis of a common structure, not only between Greek and Latin, but among all the languages of the Indo-European class. Nevertheless, the Roman grammarians deserve great praise for their elaborate results in the sphere of correct writing. No defects of syntax perplex the reader of the classical authors. Imperfect and unpliable the language is, but never inexact. And though the meaning is often hard to settle, this is owing rather to the inadequacy of the material than the carelessness of the writer.

Side by side with rhetoric and grammar, Philosophy made its appearance at Rome. There was no importation from Greece to which a more determined resistance was made from the first by the national party. In the consulship of Strabo and Messala (162 B.C.) a decree was passed banishing philosophers and rhetoricians from Rome. Seven years later took place the embassy of the three leaders of the most celebrated schools of thought, Diogenes the Stoic, Critolaus the Peripatetic, and Carneades the New Academician. The subtilty and eloquence of these disputants rekindled the interest in philosophy which had been smothered, not quenched, by the vigorous measures of the senate. There were two reasons why an interest in these studies was dreaded. First, they tended to spread disbelief in the state religion, by which the ascendency of the oligarchy was in great measure maintained; secondly, they distracted men's minds, and diverted them from that exclusive devotion to public life which the old regime demanded. Nevertheless, some of the greatest nobles ardently espoused the cause of free thought. After the war with Perseus, and the detention of the Achaean hostages in Rome, many learned Greeks well versed in philosophical inquiries were brought into contact with their conquerors in a manner well calculated to promote mutual confidence. The most eminent of these was Polybius, who lived for years on terms of intimacy with Scipio and Laelius, and imparted to them his own wide views and varied knowledge. From them may be dated the real study of Philosophy at Rome. They both attained the highest renown in their lifetime and after their death for their philosophical eminence, [12] but apparently they left no philosophical writings. The spirit, however, in which they approached philosophy is eminently characteristic of their nation, and determined the lines in which philosophic activity afterwards moved.

In no department of thought is the difference between the Greek and Roman mind more clearly seen; in none was the form more completely borrowed, and the spirit more completely missed. The object of Greek philosophy had been the attainment of absolute truth. The long line of thinkers from Thales to Aristotle had approached philosophy in the belief that they could by it be enabled to understand the cause of all that is. This lofty anticipation pervades all their theories, and by its fruitful influence engenders that wondrous grasp and fertility of thought [13] which gives their speculations an undying value. It is true that in the later systems this consciousness is less strongly present. It struggles to maintain itself in stoicism and epicureanism against the rising claims of human happiness to be considered as the goal of philosophy. In the New Academy (which in the third century before Christ was converted to scepticism) and in the sceptical school, we see the first confession of incapacity to discover truth. Instead of certainties they offer probabilities sufficient to guide us through life; the only axiom which they assert as incontrovertible being the fact that we know nothing. Thus instead of proposing as the highest activity of man a life of speculative thought, they came to consider inactivity and impassibility [13] the chief attainable good. Their method of proof was a dialectic which strove to show the inconsistency or uncertainty of their opponent's positions, but which did not and could not arrive at any constructive result. Philosophy (to use an ancient phrase) had fallen from the sphere of knowledge to that of opinion. [15]

Of these opinions there were three which from their definiteness were well calculated to lay hold on the Roman mind. The first was that of the Stoics, that virtue is the only good; the second that of the Epicureans, that pleasure is the end of man; the third that of the Academy, that nothing can be known. [16] These were by no means the only, far less the exclusive characteristics of each school; for in many ways they all strongly resembled each other, particularly stoicism and the New Academy; and in their definition of what should be the practical result of their principles all were substantially agreed. [17]

But what to the Greeks was a speculative principle to be drawn out by argument to its logical conclusions, to the Romans was a practical maxim to be realized in life. The Romans did not understand the love of abstract truth, or the charm of abstract reasoning employed for its own sake without any ulterior end. To profess the doctrines of stoicism, and live a life of self-indulgence, was to be false to one's convictions; to embrace Epicurus's system without making it subservient to enjoyment, was equally foreign to a consistent character. In Athens the daily life of an Epicurean and a Stoic would not present any marked difference; in discussion they would be widely divergent, but the contrast ended there. In Rome, on the contrary, it was the mode of life which made the chief distinction. Men who laboured for the state as jurists or senators, who were grave and studious, generally, if not always, adopted the tenets of Zeno; if they were orators, they naturally turned rather to the Academy, which offered that balancing of opinions so congenial to the tone of mind of an advocate. Among public men of the highest character, very few espoused Epicurus's doctrines.

The mere assertion that pleasure was the summum bonum for man was so repugnant to the old Roman views that it could hardly have been made the basis of a self-sacrificing political activity. Accordingly we find in the period before Cicero only men of the second rank representing epicurean views. AMAFINIUS is stated to have been the first who popularised them. [18] He wrote some years before Cicero, and from his lucid and simple treatment immediately obtained a wide circulation for his books. The multitude (says Cicero), hurried to adopt his precepts, [19] finding them easy to understand, and in harmony with their own inclinations. The second writer of mark seems to have been RABIRIUS. He also wrote on the physical theory of Epicurus in a superficial way. He neither divided his subject methodically, nor attempted exact definitions, and all his arguments were drawn from the world of visible things. In fact, his system seems to have been a crude and ordinary materialism, such as the vulgar are in all ages prone to, and beyond which their minds cannot go. The refined Catulus was also an adherent of epicureanism, though he also attached himself to the Academy. Among Greeks resident at Rome the best known teachers were Phaedrus and Zeno; a book by the former on the gods was largely used by Cicero in the first book of his De Natura Deorum. A little later Philodemus of Gadara, parts of whose writings are still extant, seems to have risen to the first place. In the time of Cicero this system obtained more disciples among the foremost men. Both statesmen and poets cultivated it, and gained it a legitimate place among the genuine philosophical creeds. [20]

Stoicism was far more congenial to the national character, and many great men professed it. Besides Laelius, who was a disciple of Diodes and Panactius, we have the names of Rutilius Rufus, Aelius Stilo, Balbus, and Scaevola. But during the tumultuous activity of these years it was not possible for men to cultivate philosophy with deep appreciation. Political struggles occupied their minds, and it was in their moments of relaxation only that the questions agitated by stoicism would he discussed. We must remember that as yet stoicism was one of several competing systems. Peripateticism and the Academy, as has been said, attracted the more sceptical or argumentative minds, for their dialectics were far superior to those of stoicism; it was in its moral grandeur that stoicism towered not only above these but above all other systems that have been invented, and the time for the full recognition of this moral grandeur had not yet come. At present men were occupied in discussing its logical quibbles and paradoxes, and in balancing its claims to cogency against those of its rivals. It was not until the significance of its central doctrine was tried to the uttermost by the dark tyranny of the Empire, that stoicism stood erect and alone as the sole representative of all that was good and great. Still, the fact that its chief professors were men of weight in the state, lent it a certain authority, and Cicero, among the few definite doctrines that he accepts, numbers that of stoicism that virtue is sufficient for happiness.

We shall close this chapter with one or two remarks on the relation of philosophy to the state religion. It must be observed that the formal and unpliable nature of the Roman cult made it quite unable to meet the requirements of advancing enlightenment. It was a superstition, not a religion; it admitted neither of allegoric interpretation nor of poetical idealisation. Hence there was no alternative but to believe or disbelieve it. There can be no doubt that all educated Romans did the latter. The whole machinery of ritual and ceremonies was used for purely political ends; it was no great step to regard it as having a purely political basis. To men with so slight a hold as this on the popular creed, the religion and philosophy of Greece were suddenly revealed. It was a spiritual no less than an intellectual revolution. Their views on the question of the unseen were profoundly changed. The simple but manly piety of the family religion, the regular ceremonial of the state, were confronted with the splendid hierarchy of the Greek Pantheon and the subtle questionings of Greek intellect. It is no wonder that Roman conviction was, so to speak, taken by storm. The popular faith received a shock from which it never rallied. Augustus and others restored the ancient ritual, but no edict could restore the lost belief. So deep had the poison penetrated that no sound place was left. With superstition they cast off all religion. For poetical or imaginative purposes the Greek deities under their Latin dress might suffice, but for a guide of life they were utterly powerless. The nobler minds therefore naturally turned to philosophy, and here they found, if not certainty, at least a reasonable explanation of the problems they encountered. Is the world governed by law? If so, is that law a moral one? If not, is the ruler chance? What is the origin of the gods? of man? of the soul? Questions like these could neither be resolved by the Roman nor by the Helleno-Roman systems of religion, but they were met and in a way answered by Greek philosophy. Hence it became usual for every thinking Roman to attach himself to the tenets of some sect, which ever best suited his own comprehension or prejudices. But this adhesion did not involve a rigid or exclusive devotion. Many were Eclectics, that is, adopted from various systems such elements as seemed to them most reasonable. For instance, Cicero was a Stoic more than anything else in his ethical theory, a New Academician in his logic, and in other respects a Platonist. But even he varied greatly at different times. There was, however, no combination among professors of the same sect with a view to practical work or dissemination of doctrines. Had such been attempted, it would at once have been put down by the state. But it never was. Philosophical beliefs of whatever kind did not in the least interfere with conformity to the state religion. One Scaevola was Pontifex Maximus, another was Augur; Cicero himself was Augur, so was Caesar. The two things were kept quite distinct. Philosophy did not influence political action in any way. It was simply a refuge for the mind, such as all thinking men must have, and which if not supplied by a true creed, will inevitably be sought in a false or imperfect one. And the noble doctrines professed by the great Greek schools were certainly far more worthy of the adhesion of such men as Scaevola and Laelius, than the worn-out cult which the popular ceremonial embodied.