CHAPTER I. THE CONQUESTS OF THE ROMANS.
The heroic period of Roman history begins really with the expulsion of the kings; also the growth of aristocratical power. It is not under kings nor democratic influences and institutions that Rome reaches preeminence, but under an aristocracy. All that is most glorious in Roman annals took place under the rule of the Patricians.
[Rome struggles for existence for 150 years.]
[Beautiful legends of the heroic period.]
[They indicate the existence of great virtues.]
[Petty wars with neighboring states develop patriotism.]
During the one hundred and fifty years - when the future mistress of the world struggled for its existence with the cities and inhabitants of Latium, Samnium, and Etruria, whose united territories scarcely extended fifty miles from Rome, were developed the virtues of a martial aristocracy. Our minds kindle with the contemplation of their courage, fortitude, patience, hope, perseverance, energy, self-devotion, patriotism, and religious faith. They deserved success. The long and bitter struggle of one hundred and fifty years had more of the nature of self-preservation than military ambition. The history of those petty wars is interesting, because it is romantic. Beautiful legends of early patriotism and heroism have been reproduced in all the histories from Livy to our times, like those of the knights of King Arthur and the paladins of Charlemagne in the popular literature of Europe. Poets have made them the themes of their inspiration. Painters have chosen them as favorite subjects of art. We love to ponder on the bitter exile of Coriolanus, his treasonable revenge, and the noble patriotism of his weeping and indignant mother, who saved her country but lost her son; on Cincinnatus, taken from the plow and sent as general and dictator against the Acquians; on the Fabian gens, defending Rome a whole year from the attacks of the Veientines until they were all cut off, like the Spartan band at Thermopylae; on Siccius Dentatus, the veteran captain of one hundred and twenty battles, who was only slain by rolling a stone from a high rock upon his head; on Cossos, slaying the king of Veii with his own hand; on the siege of Veii, itself, a city as large as Rome, lasting ten years, and only finally taken by draining the Alban lake; on the pride and avarice of the banished Camillus, and his subsequent rescue of Rome from the Gauls; on the sacred geese of the capitol, and Manlius who slew its assailants; on the siege of the capitol for seven months by these Celtic invaders, and the burning and sack of the city, and its deliverance by the great Camillus. These legends are not legitimate history, but they show the self-devotion and bravery, the simplicity and virtue of those primitive ages, when luxury was unknown and crime was severely punished. It was in those days of danger and hardship that the foundation of the future military strength of the empire was laid. We do not read of military science, of war as an art or trade, or even of great military ambition, for the sphere of military operations was narrow and obscure, but of preparation for victories, under men of genius, in the time to come. That part of Roman history bears the same relation to the age of Marius and Sulla, that the conquests of the Puritans over the Indians, and the difficulties with which they contended, do to the gigantic warfare of the North and South in the late rebellion. The Puritans laid the foundation of the military virtues of the Americans, in their colonial state, as the Patricians of Rome did for one hundred and fifty years after the expulsion of the kings. Those petty wars with Volscians and Acquians brought out the Roman character, and are the germ of subsequent greatness. They took place in the infancy of the republic, under the rule of Patricians, who were not then great nobles, but brave and poor citizens, animated with patriotic zeal and characterized, like the Puritans, for stern and lofty virtues and religious faith, - superstitious and unenlightened, yet elevated and grand, - qualities on which the strength of man is based. It is not puerile to dwell with delight on the legends of that heroic age, for the philosopher sees in those little struggles the germs of imperial power. They were small and insignificant, like the battles of the American Revolution, when measured with the marshaling of vast armies on the plains of Pharsalia or Waterloo, but they were great in their inherent heroism, and in their future results. Who shall say which is greater to the eye of the Infinite - the battle of Leipsic, or the fight on Bunker Hill? It is the cause, the principles involved, the spirit of a contest, which give dignity and importance to the battle-field. Hence all nations and ages have felt great interest in the early struggles of Rome. They are full of poetry and philosophical importance. The Roman historians themselves dwelt upon them with peculiar enthusiasm; and the record of them lives in the school-books of all generations, and has not been deemed unworthy of the critical genius of Niebuhr, of Arnold, or of Mommsen.
[The complete independence of Rome.]
[The Gaulish Invasion.]
The result of this protracted warfare with petty cities and states for one hundred and fifty years was the complete independence of the City of the Seven Hills, the regaining of the conquests lost by the expulsion of Tarquin, the conquest of Latium, the dissolution of the Latin League, the possession of the Pontine district, and the extension of Roman power to the valleys of the Apennines. The war with the Gauls was not a systematic contest. It was a raid of these Celts across the Apennines, and the temporary humiliation of the Roman capital. The Gauls burned and sacked the city, but soon retreated, and Rome was never again invaded by a foreign foe until the hordes of Alaric appeared. The disaster was soon recovered, and the Romans made more united by the lesson.