warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/iovannet/public_html/historion/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

Ancient World

We have seen, and succinctly traversed, the extent of the Roman world. The next step is to consider, as tersely as possible, its system of government and administration about the year 64. This task is not only entirely necessary to our immediate purpose; it is also one of great interest and profit in itself. If we are either to see in their proper light the experiences of such a man as St. Paul, or to understand the long continuance of so wide an empire, we must observe carefully the principles and methods adopted by the Romans as rulers.

In describing the education of a Roman youth, and also in setting forth the various religious attitudes of the time, mention has been made of the pursuit of philosophy. Religion supplied no real guide to moral conduct, and education provided little exercise for the cultivation of the higher intellectual faculties. It was left for philosophy to fill these blanks as best it could. Unlike the Greeks, the Romans, great as they were in law-making and administration, had little natural gift or taste for abstract thought.

Roughly then this is the situation at the centre of government. Sumptuously housed on the Palatine Hill - the origin of our word "palace" - is His Highness Claudius Nero, Head of the State, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, Empowered to act as Tribune of the People, and Head of the State Religion: in modern times commonly called "the Emperor." Every day and night his palace is surrounded by a regiment of the Imperial Guards, and attached to his person is a special corps for bodyguard, and orderlies.

With such an unsatisfactory equipment of science, and with such a vague and morally inoperative religion, it was no wonder that the higher minds of the contemporary world turned to the study of philosophy. Of such studies there had been many schools or sects, but at this date we have chiefly to reckon with two - the Stoics and Epicureans. There were, it is true, the Academics, who disputed everything, and held no doctrine to be more true than its contrary. There were Eclectics, who picked and chose.

We are now brought to the consideration of the methods by which this huge empire was organised and governed.

It would be a more than agreeable task to deal at some length with the art of the Roman world of this period, but the subject is vast, and demands a treatise to itself. How general was the love of art - or at least the recognition of its place in life - must be obvious to those who have seen the great collections in Rome, gathered partly from the city itself and partly from the towns and country "villas" of Italy, and those in the National Museum at Naples, acquired mainly from the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

In the year 64 the capital of the Roman Empire was, it is true, a large and splendid city and an "epitome of the world," but it had not yet reached either its zenith of splendour or its maximum, of size. Many of the largest and most sumptuous structures of which we possess the records, and in most cases the ruins, were not yet built or even contemplated. There was no Colosseum; there were no Baths of Trajan, Caracalla, or Diocletian. The Column of Trajan, still soaring in the Foro Traiano, and of Marcus Aurelius, now so conspicuous in the Piazza Colonna, are of a later date.

Whatever conceptions may have been entertained as to existence beyond the grave, there was no doubt in the Roman mind as to the claim of the dead to a proper burial and a worthy monument. It had once on a time been a matter of universal belief that the spirit which had departed from an unburied corpse could find no admittance to the company in the realms of Hades. It could not join "the majority" below. Originally no doubt the notion was simply that, as the body had not been consigned to the earth, the spirit also remained homeless above ground.

After this rapid walk through the more interesting parts of the capital, we may consider one or two connected topics of natural interest.

We have taken a general survey of the city of Rome, its open places, streets, and public buildings. We may now look at the houses in which the Romans lived, and at the furniture to be expected inside them.

Syndicate content