CHAPTER I. THE CONQUESTS OF THE ROMANS.
The conquest over the Macedonians, however, by the Romans, was not an unmixed calamity, and was a righteous judgment on the Greeks. Nothing could be more unscrupulous than the career of Alexander and his generals. Again, the principle which had animated the Oriental kings before him was indefensible. We could go back still further, and show from the whole history of Asiatic conquests that their object was to aggrandize ambitious conquerors. The Persians, at first, were a brave and religious people, hardy and severe, and their conquest of older monarchies resulted in a certain good. But they became corrupt by prosperity and power, and fell a prey to the Greeks. The Greeks, at that period, were the noblest race of the ancient world - immortal for genius and art. But power dazzled them, and little remained of that glorious spirit which was seen at Thermopylae and Marathon. The Greek ascendency in Asia and Egypt was followed by the same luxury and extravagance and effeminacy that resulted from the rule of Persia. The Greeks had done great things, and contributed to the march of civilization, but they had done their work, and their turn of humiliation must come. Their vast empire fell into the hands of the Romans, and the change was beneficial to humanity. They who had abused their trust were punished, and those were exalted above them who were as yet uncorrupted by those vices which are most fatal to nations. The great fruit of these wars were the treasures of Greece, especially precious marbles, and other works of art. The victory at Pydna, B.C. 168, which gave the final superiority to the Roman legion over the Macedonian phalanx, was followed by the triumph of Paulus himself - the grandest display ever seen at Rome. First passed the spoils of Greece - statues and pictures - in two hundred and fifty wagons; then the arms and accoutrements of the Macedonian soldiers; then three thousand men, each carrying a vase of silver coin; then victims for sacrifice, with youths and maidens with garlands; then men bearing vases of gold and precious stones; then the royal chariot of the conquered king laden with armor and trophies; then his wife and children, and the fallen monarch on foot; then the triumphal car of the victorious general, preceded by men bearing four hundred crowns of gold - the gift of the Grecian cities - and followed by his two sons on horseback, and the whole army in order. The sack of Corinth by Mummius was the finale of Grecian humiliation, soon followed by the total subjection of Macedonia, Greece, and Illyria, forming three provinces. Nine provinces now composed the territories of Rome, while the kings of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt were vassals rather than allies, B.C. 133.
[Change of manners and morals at Rome.]
[Reforms of Cato the Censor.]
[Great degeneracy produced by the Grecian wars.]
The manners and habits of the imperial capital had undergone a gradual change since the close of the second Punic War. During these fifty years, the sack of so many Grecian cities, the fall of Carthage, and the prestige of so many victories, had filled Rome with pride and luxury. In vain did M. Portius Cato, the most remarkable man who adorned this degenerate age, lift up his voice against increasing corruption. In vain were his stringent measures as censor. In vain did he strike senators from the list, and make an onslaught on the abuses of his day. In vain were his eloquence, his simple manners, his rustic garb, and his patriotic warnings. That hard, narrow, self-sufficient, arbitrary, worldly-wise old statesman, whose many virtues redeemed his defects, and whose splendid abilities were the glory of his countrymen, could not restore the simplicities of former times. An age of "progress" had set in, of Grecian arts and culture, of material wealth, of sumptuous banquets, of splendid palaces, of rich temples, of theatrical shows, of circus games, of female gallantries, of effeminated manners - all the usual accompaniments of civilization, when it is most proud of its triumphs; and there was no resisting its march - to the eye of many a great improvement; to the eye of honest old Cato, the descensus averi. Wealth had become a great power; senatorial families grew immensely rich; the divisions of society widened; slavery was enormously increased, while the rural population lost independence and influence.
Then took place the memorable struggles of Rome, not merely with foreign enemies, but against herself. Factions and parties convulsed the city; civil war wasted the national resources.
[Wars with the Cimbri and Teutones.]
[Success of Marius, who rolls back the tide of northern emigration.]