CHAPTER X. INTERNAL CONDITION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.
"O that I could my rich old uncle see
In funeral pomp! O that some deity
To pots of buried gold would guide my share!
O that my ward, whom I succeed as heir,
Were once at rest! Poor child! he lies in pain,
And death to him must be accounted gain.
By will thrice has Nerius swelled his store,
And now he is a widower once more.
O groveling souls, and void of things divine!
Why bring our passions to the immortal's shrine?"
The old Greek philosophers gloried in their poverty; but poverty was the greatest reproach to a Roman. "In exact proportion to the sum of money a man keeps in his chest," says Juvenal, [Footnote: Satire iii.] "is the credit given to his oath. And the first question ever asked of a man is in reference to his income, rather than his character. How many slaves does he keep? How many acres does he own? What dishes are his table spread with? - these are the universal inquiries. Poverty, bitter though it be, has no sharper sting than this, - that it makes them ridiculous. Who was ever allowed at Rome to become a son-in-law if his estate was inferior, and not a match for the portion of the young lady? What poor man's name appears in any will? When is one summoned to a consultation even by an aedile?"
"Long, long ago, in one despairing band,
The poor, self-exiled, should have left the land."
And with this reproach of poverty there was no means to escape from it. Nor was there alleviation. A man was regarded as a fool who gave any thing except to the rich. Charity and benevolence were unknown virtues. The sick and the miserable were left to die unlamented and unknown. Prosperity and success, no matter by what means they were purchased, secured reverence and influence.