CHAPTER V. THE ROMAN CONSTITUTION.
It is altogether another question whether the prosperity of the state was greater or less after the subversion of the constitution. For three hundred years the state was probably kept together by the ancient mechanism controlled by one central will. The change from civil war and party faction to imperial centralized power, considering the demoralized condition of society, was doubtless beneficial. The emperor could rule; he could not, however, conserve the empire. Doubtless, in most cases, he ruled well, since he ruled by the of great experience and ability. It is peculiarly the interest of despots to have able men as ministers. They never select those whom they deem to be weak and corrupt; they are simply deceived in their estimate of ability and fidelity. For several generations, the provinces had experienced governors, the armies had able generals, the courts of law learned judges. The provinces were not so inexorably robbed as in the time of Cicero. The people had their pleasures and spectacles and baths. Property was secure, unless enormous fortunes tempted the cupidity of the emperors. Justice was well administered. Cities were rebuilt and adorned. Rome owed its greatest monuments of art to the emperors. There was a cold and remorseless despotism; but the unnoticed millions toiled in peace. Literature did not thrive, since that can only live with freedom, but art received great encouragement, and genius, in the useful professions, did not go unrewarded. The empire did not fall till luxury and prosperity enervated the people and rendered them unable to cope with the barbarian hosts. Rome was never so rich as when she fell into the hands of Goths and Vandals. But the empire, under the old constitution, might have protected itself against external enemies. The mortal wound to Roman power and glory was inflicted by traitors.
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AUTHORITIES. - Niebuhr, Lectures on the History of Rome; Mommsen, History of Rome; Arnold, History of Rome; Merivale, History of the Romans; Gibbon, Decline and Fall; Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities gives the details, and points out the old classical authorities, as does Napoleon's Life of Caesar. Dionysius, Polybius, Livy, Plutarch, Cicero, Sallust, all shed light on important points. See also Gottling, Gesch der Rom. Staat. A large catalogue of writers could be mentioned, but allusion is only made to those most accessible to American readers.