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R. THOMPSON, EDITOR AND PROPRIETOR.
RICHMOND, MAY, 1848.
examine and critically compare the different parts HISTORY AND CONSTITUTION of their knowledge. And hence it is, that when
the public mind of Europe first stirred from its OF THE EARLY ROMAN COMMONWEALTH. slumber of a thousand years, the spirit of investi
gation, of discovery and invention took the lead, The three great nations of antiquity, the He- while that of criticism followed far in the wake. brews, the Greeks and the Romans, have, each in the former was active in the fifteenth and sixits peculiar sphere, exerted a powerful and con- seenth centuries, the latter did not awaken until trolling influence over the thoughts, the feelings, the middle of the seventeenth. Then it was that and the destinies of the human race.
the great English critic, Bentley, appeared, who The Hebrews have emphatically written upon was so far before all the scholars of his age, that the heart of the world their religion ; the Greeks it was impossible for them to appreciate his attaiotheir poetry and philosophy; and the Romans their
He long remained without a rival in any history. And all have written them in lines and part of Europe. It was not until the year 1685, characters that can never be effaced. So deeply ihat the spirit of historical criticisin may be said to have the effects and the principles of each sunk have exhibited itself in any definite form. into the haman mind ; so thoroughly have they be
About that time appeared the Animadversiones come interwoven with the very texture and frame of Perizonius, Professor in the University of Leywork of our nature, that their controlling influence den, in which was clearly pointed out many of the will cease only when every trace of civilization
gross inconsistencies of the early Roman history. and learning has faded from the world, and men But the great claim he has to the thanks of the hare ceased to yearn after the knowledge of things student of history, is, that he was first to discern of olden time.
beneath the stately rhetoric of Livy traces of the But thongh alike in this respect, they differ wide- popular songs and legendary ballads of which so ly in another. The inspired records of the Jews, large a portion of his history is made up. Bayle embodying their system of religion, have come
styled the work of Perizonius," the errata of hisdown to us in a wonderfully complete and perfect corians and critics,” and Niebuhr pronounces a high state ; the great works of Grecian genius contain- eulogium upon its merits.* ing their poetry and philosophy, their eloquence
Next came Giambattista Vico, a Neapolitan his. and history, with few exceptions, still remain entorian, who published his remarkable workt in 1725. tire; but with Roman history it is far otherwise. He seems to have been a man of singular and It has been well said, that for a long while, the Ro- wonderful genius, but his judgment was often so mans were so much occupied in making their his- perverted by whimsical eccentricities, that he was tory, they had no time to amuse themselves with sometimes thought to be partially deranged. He writing it. But at length the time came when they had an intuitive faculty of perceiving the truth, did write it, and they wrote it out, but not for us. though concealed beneath heaps of fiction and rub
With hardly an exception, all that remains of bish, and he divined, as it were, many of the great their great historical works, are mutilated frag- truths that Niebuhr afterwards discovered and dements. Had, however, these magnificent frag. monstrated. He it was who first called into life ments been properly understood and interpreted, the old Gentes and Curiae of the Roman constillimuch of the history of the early Romans might tion, and pointed out the true relative positions of still have been known to the world. But the spirit the patricians, the clients and plebeians in the early of historical criticism was never possessed by the organization of the State. He anticipated Wolf Ascients, even in their most enlightened days, but in his hypothesis respecting the origin and nature in a very moderate degree, and with the decline of of the Homeric poems, and pronounced them to learning was lost entirely. The consequence was, be the great work of a nation. His history conthat until modern times, even scholars knew not tains many sound general principles and profound that the whole of the early history of Rome, as observations, but so inseparably interwoven with commonly understood, was naught but a beautiful wild speculations and fanciful theories, that his real and romantic fiction.
discoveries would probably have been of but little In emerging from barbarism and seeking after knowledge, the operations of the human mind must
* See Nieb. Hist. Rom, vol. i, pp. 251, 252. ever be the same. Men must enlarge the bounda.
+ Principi di una Scienza Nuova d'intomo alla Natura ries of their information before they can begin to' della Nazioni.
value, had they not been re-discovered by other false impressions which prevailed universally on the and sounder heads.
subject; and its truth, like Newton's discoveries in Close in the wake of Vico's Scienza Nuova, fol- natural science, is not now to be proved, but to be lowed the treatise of Beaufort (De l'Incertitude, taken as the very corner-stone of all our research&c., in 1738.) He went into a critical examina- es into the internal state of the Roman* people." tion of the early history of Rome, brought togeth. As another instance, we may take the important er and exposed its numberless inconsistencies and fact, which we believe he was the first to point out, absurdities, and prostrated the whole system to the that the term populus (People,) so constantly used ground. But like Voltaire, he was the architect and misused by Livy, when applied to the early only of ruin. He knew how to destroy, but not history of the Roman State, is to be confined exhow to reconstruct. He taught the world that clusively to the nobility. We shall speak of this Livy's history was a splendid romance, but told more fully hereafter. them not what they might believe, and if the Afier Niebuhr had led the way and brushed aside subject had remained where he left it, we might the cobwebs of poetry and fiction that had for twenquestion the benefits resulting from what Legaré ty centuries clustered around and concealed the calls his barren scepticism.
early history of Rome, he was succeeded by a host At length, however, came forward the great his- of eminent writers, who, with industry, learning torian, who was destined to revive and reanimate and perseverance, following in the footsteps of their what time had almost effaced. Perizonius had great leader, have continued 10 pour a fond of suspected, Vico had divined, Beaufort had doubted, light upon this deeply interesting subject. Among but it was reserved for Niebuhr to discover and to them we may be permitted to mention, absque iae demonstrate the whole theory of the Roman con- vidia, the names of Arnold, Malden and Micheleting stitution. He too pulled down and destroyed, but he and Bunseu and Gherard and that crowd of Get: rebuilt more than he pulled dowa ; he reconstruct-man scholars of whom it was quaintly said, that ed more than he destroyed. It is for his discov- the great historian had left his city Rome to a Geru eries, and not for his doubts, that he is so much man colony, who were carefully taking an invente revered. In the language of Michelet, he knew ry of all that belonged to them by right of con Antiquity as Antiquity knew not itself. That the quest. great truths put forth and demonstrated by him The story of the early Roman history is 50 were nearly all his own independent discoveries, is miliarly known to every reader, so marvellous and shown by the fact, that the first edition of his his- poetic in its features, and so deeply impressed upon tory was published before his attention was called the recollections of our childhood, that it would to the remarkable coincidence between several of a needless waste of time to give even a meapte the positions established by him and the previous sketch of it here. The miraculous preservation conjectures of Perizonius, and particularly of Vico.* the twin brothers, the foundation of the infani che But in all such cases, though the discovery may its struggles and treaty with the Sabines, the mide have been anticipated by another, the demonstra- night meetings of the good Numa and the nymph tion is all his own.
It is almost needless to speci- Egeria, the pathetic story of Lucretia, the noble fy particular instances of his beautiful discoveries, heroism of Brutus, and the expulsion of the haughwhen nearly the whole theory of the old Roman ty Tarquins, are perhaps better known to every Commonwealth is his.
school boy in the land than the most striking and We will, however, mention as one, his defini- important incidents in the history of our own cuttions of an Agrarian Law, which it is hardly too try. It has been intimated above, that all this wellmuch to say no one before him ever understood. known story is a beautiful and romantic fiction. We cannot now enter into a full explanation of its we cannot, of course, in the very limited space alcharacter, but will simply remark, that the odious lowed to us, go into the arguments at length to sense that the term has acquired in our language prove this proposition, but we shall endeavor in as was founded upon an entirely erroneous idea of the brief and popular a manner as possible to give measure, and that so far from being a levelling of some of the evidences of its fabulous character, all the barriers of property, it was but an act of and the reasons that lead us to reject what wa3 so sheer justice. It meant only a fair and equal di- long believed, and believed even by most of the vision of the public land conquered in war, between Romans themselves. And in thus summing up all the citizens of ihe State, instead of giving it these evidences, we do not pretend ourselves to SDF all to the nobles. In speaking of the importance great originality. We but follow at a distance those of this discovery, Dr. Arnold remarks, that “twenty- great names we have mentioned, and guided by the four years have not elapsed since he first published clear lights they have held up, have attempted 10 it, but it has already overthrown the deeply rooted thread our way through the complicated labyrinths Let us, then, examine for a moment the sources / brought under the dominion of another branch of from which our knowledge of early Roman history the same stock of people. In following out this is obtained, and from the character of the fountain darling theory, he hesitates at no alterations it bejudge of the nature of the stream.
of historical criticism. * Vid. Hist. Rome, by Malden, in Lib. U. K., c. ir, p. 137, note.
* Vid. Hist. Rome, vol. i, ch. is, p. 105.
comes necessary to make in the accounts given by Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus are the the old annalisis. He never, even in treating of two principal authorities from whom has been drawn times the most remote, honestly acknowledges, like the common narrative. Now, Livy wrote during Livy, the contradictory statements of his authorithe reign of Augustus, and Dionysius a few years ties and the uncertainty that hangs over the whole later, so that they were separated by an interval of subject. His history moves on in one unbroken about 750 years from the time of the events and stream, giving in monotonous and wearying suctransactions of which they give such minute and cir. cession circumstances and anecdotes, that from cumstantial accounts. It cannot be very unrea- their very nature, could never have been known, sonable in us then, before giving full confidence to even if true. We often discover from Livy, that all their statements, to ask from what source did upon certain points the old annalists directly conthey derive their information, and what surety had tradict each other—from the account of the same they for the genuineness of the history of ages so subject given by Dionysius, we would never susdistant from their own? They inform us that they |pect that he had met with the slightest discrepanhave drawn from the old annalists who preceded cy in his authorities. them, and whose works, except a few scattered In short, if we are sometimes compelled to disfragments, have since been entirely lost. Before credit Livy's narrative, from his carelessness and me esamine the character of these old writers, lei passion for relating fine stories, in a much greatus cast a hasly glance at that of the two histori- er degree are we forced to question the credibility 203 x ho stand between us and them.
of Dionysius from his want of candor and honesty. Livy was a man of brilliant imagination and re- Such, then, being the character of the two historimarkably fond of telling, and telling 100 in an in- ans, from whom we derive nearly all our immedicomparable manner, the fine stories with which the ate knowlege of Roman history, it may be well for Early pages of his history abound. He forewarns us to look behind them, and discover, if we can, ts in the outset that it is not his intention, either something of the character of those old annalists to afirm or to refute accounts that partake more of from whom they have drawn. We shall give the the character of poetic fables than of stern history.* names of the principal of these and the periods at And again he afterwards remarks that he would not which they composed their works. The first was spare the caret of investigating, if by so doing it Q. Fabius Pictor, a Senator and Consul and cotemwere possible to arrive at the truth ; and that he poraneous with the close of the second Punic war, shall rest satisfied if what we receive as true be so that his history must have been written about like the truth. I If Liry thus openly acknowledg- the year of the city 550. L. Cinius and M. Pores the unsatisfactory nature of his materials, and cius Cato, also Senators, lived abont the same pe. sets op for himself so low a standard of historical riod with Fabius, and compiled their works only a truth, it cannot be considered very presumptuous in few years after his. Piso followed at an interval a modern historian to refuse credii (as Niebuhr has of sixty or seventy years, and was succeeded at dope) to his statements, when they confliet with about the same interval, by Val. Autias and Licithe known current of events, and bear stamped nius Macer. Polybius, the Greek historian, also opon them all the features of a romance.
wroie upon the early history of Rome about the Dionysios was a writer of altogether a different same time with Piso, and although the part of his cast. He possessed more patience, more research, work that contains this digression has now been more investigation, but less candor and honesty. lost, it seems to have been the principal source He wrote for a special purpose, and that a dishon- froin which Cicero drew the substance of the early es! one. He was a Greek, and commenced his Roman history contained in his treatise De Rebistory with the avowed object of proving that publica. Rome was founded by the Greeks, and consequently, It were a needless task to examine the character that all the Roman glory belonged still to the Gre- and credibility of each one of these in detail. We cian race; and that Greece, instead of having been shall confine ourselves only to a few of the argnsubdued by a barbarian power, had only been ments that equally affect all. It appears from the
** Quae ante conditam condendamve urbem, poeticis dates we have given, that the earliest of these wrimagis decora fabulis quarn incorruptis rerum gestarum mon ters was separated by an interval of five hundred tregtis, traduntur, ea nee affirmare, nec refellere, in ani. and filly, and the latest by more than six hundred Do est. Dalur haec venia antiquitati.”- Livy Preface and fifty years from the foundation of the city. + " Cura non deesset, si qua ad verum vin inquirentem
The question then again recurs with still greater ferret, nune fama rerum standum est, ubi certam derogat ve ostas fidein."--Liv., J. vii, c. 6.
force, from what sources did they draw the male“ Sed in rebus tam antiqnis, si. quae similia veri sint, rials for the early history of Rome ; and were those pro veris accipiantur, satis habeam."--Liv., 1. v, c. 21. sources reliable? In seeking from them the answer to these questions, we find that their real ma-sings of every individual. It is the natural out pourterials were very scanty indeed. The Priests, iting of exuberant feelings and a heated fancy, when is said, had been accustomed at the close of each ihose feelings and that fancy are subjected to no year, since the foundation of the city, to record conventional rules of criticism. And hence it is opon tablets some of the great events that had oc- that the earliest productions of almost all nations are curred during that year, and that these tablets, their old national ballads. They sometimes become called Annales Maximi, or greai Annals, were pre- lost and leave scarcely a trace behind; sometimes served and handed down from year lo year. If they are woven into the later poetry and thus prethis had been sn, and they had been diligently stud served ; but oftener still they are transferred to the ied, they would have afforded at least a safe, though pages of the earliest chroniclers, and copied from narrow basis, for the historians to build upon. But them by succeeding historians. That such has when we examine into it, we find upon the express been the case in some countries, we have positive testimony of Livy, that nearly, if not quite all of proof, and that it has happened in many more, these records, were destroyed when the city was where the evidences of the transformation can hardtaken and burnt to the ground by the Gauls. And ly be perceived, we have as little doubt. To illosthis is rendered still more probable, when we re-trate this farther, we will take a few examples. member that they were in the city plundering and we have evidences that there were such songs burning for seven months, and that the Capitol was amongst the Amorites,* who were expelled from the only building that did not fall into their hands. the land of Canaan by the Israelites; and that the This capture and destruction of Rome by the Gauls Israelites themselves had old ballads in which were took place in the year of the city 350, more than a sung “the wars of the Lord.”+ Such beyond all hundred years after the time allotted to the banish- doubt were the triumphal songs of Miriami and ment of the kings and the organization of the Re- Deborah. Again the Homeric poems fornish a public. Now, if we are willing to suppose that noble specimen of the old ballad poetry of the most these Pontifical records were continued regularly poetical race of people that ever breathed forth their from this time downward—a supposition by the feelings and passions in rich and flowing melody, way very difficult 10 establish-here at least is a and it does not materially affect the force of the ilpoint at which we are compelled to halt, a gap lustration whether they are regarded, as we believe which we cannot overleap; and be it remembered they undoubtedly are, as the great work of the naalso, that this point at which we are thus brought tion, or as the production of one man. They repto a stand, is full 350 years from the foundation of resent, in a state of great preservation, the Na. the city. Notwithstanding, however, this obsti- tional songs of the early Greeks, and contain, morenate fact, we find the history of this long period over, distinct allusions to songs and lays of still related by Livy and Dionysius and by the writers more ancient date. Thus, when the mediators befrom whom they drew, with all the circumstantial tween Agamemnon and the offended Achilles came minuteness of a full account written by a cotempo- to the tent of the latter, they found him playing rary. Whence, then, come these glowing accounts upon the “sweet toned lyre and singing the illasof the early days of the Roman Commonwealth? trious deeds of Heroes."| Both the Iliad and the What is their origin? It cannot be that they are Odyssey are full of allusions to such songs. Whilst entirely the fabrications of the historians who have other nations have in many instances permitted transmitted them to us. It cannot be that those rich their noble old heroic lays to sink into oblivion, the and noble romances ever came from the doll pro- Greeks have ever loved with enthusiasm, and presaic brain of Dionysius. The answer is simple. served almost with veneration, the songs of their We believe that the greater part of these stories old national bards. In fact, the whole circle of the was taken from the old legendary ballads of the Cyclic poets belong to this class, and we know that people. And we shall give a few of the reasons they were valued highly by the Ancient Greeks why we think so.
because they afforded something like a connected In attempting to form some idea of the general history of great events, and were afterwards transcharacter and origin of ballad poetry amongst a ferred almost entirely to the pages of the earliest rude and uncultivated people, we must carefully prose writers. The poem of the Cid will afford exclude from our minds all thoughts of that refined another splendid instance of a great national heroie and elaborate species of composition with which poem, second perhaps only to the Iliad. It had we are familiar under the name of poetry. In a sung in rude, but lofty strains, the “ illustrious cultivated age like the present, poetical is the most elaborate and complicated of all species of compo
# Numb. xxi, 27, 30. sition; in the rude age of an uncivilized people, it
† Numb. xxi, 14, 18.
I Exod. xv, 20. is the most simple and unadorned. In a cultivated
Judg. v, 1, 31. If reference will be made to a paraage, it is a pure intellectual enjoyment offered
graph Bible, tbe evidences of these songs will be still mors few enlightened minds; amongst a rude and barba- clearly seen. rous people, it is addressed to the passions and feel- i! Vid. Iliad, l. ix, v. 184, 189, and again same, v. 534.
deeds” of Don Rodrigo, and had almost passed are not only themselves specimens of national pofrom the sight of the world, though the traces it etry, but also contain numberless allusions to still had left upon the national mind of Castile, were more ancient bards.* The day has not been long 100 deep and lasting ever to be effaced. The name by when the mountain glens of Scotland reëchoed and memory of the old bard had been forgotten-- to the sound of her glorious old national songs, the poem itself had faded from view, but its spirit, and the precious relics of the Minstrelsy of the Phænis-like, sprang forth under a new and differ- Border can be forgotten only when the name of ent form. Its romantic incidents were all copied Scott has faded from English literature. Long into an old chronicle, and many years afterwards before the liquid verse of Campbell had endeared
mere again transferred from the old chronicle to them to our memories, the generous-hearted sons to the classic pages of Mariana. A century and a of the Emerald Isle • had struck to the numbers
bals after the death of the great historian, a single of Erin go Bragh.” latiered copy of this remarkable poem was found, The heroic deeds of the early crusaders, and the more than four hundred years old, and given to the chivalrous gallantry of the knights errant, afforded world. And there was seen the origin of all those inexhaustible themes for the beautiful and melobeautiful romances that had for so many years dious lays of the Troubadours. The Persians, the thrown a delightful charm over the pages of Span- Hindoos, and the Arabians all had their legendary ish history.
songs. The North American Indians, the ancient To the days of Tacitus, the barbarians of Ger- inhabitants of Iceland, and the natives of the Sandmany celebrated in ancient songs* the origin and wich Islands, alike celebrated the memorable deeds foonders of their nations, and it was, says he, the of their heroes in their rude but spirited national only kind of history they possessed.
lays. Mungo Park found in the heart of Africa The exploits of Attila and the heroes of the tribes of neyroes who celebrated in triumphal songs warlıke Huns were sung in the poems of the Nie- the victories of their heroes in ancient times. belungen, in strains of which Germany is still just- But it were needless to prolong this list of illusly proud. The Goths, the Vandals, all the nations trations. We hope we have given sufficient eviof Scandinavia, had their war songs, in which were dences to warrant the assumption, that, as a genrecounted the valorous deeds of their ancestors. eral rule, the earliest productions of all nations are These were sung by regular bards at all their great legendary and traditionary songs, and that these feasts, and were handed down from generation to songs often, nay usually, become the basis of their generation. Charlemagne had heard and learned first attempts at history. some of them, and had them, for the first time, Had Rome thien none of these fine old ballads coromitted to writing. The revolting cruelty of reciting in glowing strains the noble deeds of her the English monarch, in putting to death all the old early heroes ? Analogy would lead us to suppose Welsh bards, in order to break down the patriotic that she had, even if we could now find no traces spirit of the people and make them forget the un- of them existing. But fortunately we are not left conquerable freedom of their ancestors, has thrown to rely upon the force of analogy alone. We have a halo of undying glory around the old national positive evidences from various sources of the ex60ngs of Wales, and forever consecrated their istence of such traditionary lays. Cicero states memory to the sympathies of freemen.
upon the authority of the old annalist, Calo, that in It surely cannot be necessary to remind the Eng- ancient times it was the custom at great feasts for lish reader of the noble fragments of ballad-poetry the guests at the table to sing in turn to the sound that we still possess in our own nalive tongue. of the pipe the praises and virtues of their illusChery Chase and Childe Waters would themselves trious men. And he fully laments the loss of immortalize the memory of old England's bards. those old songs. The circumstance that they were Lear and Cymbeline-the stories of King Arthur sung promiscuously by all the guests, would argue and the Knights of the Round Table, are all founded that they were very generally known and truly naspon old English ballads, and Shakspeare has given tional in their chara er. Varro, great antiquary evidence of his appreciation of their high merit, of his country, and Dionysius, the historian, both by drawing largely from them in many of his finest mention the existence of these songs and their le
gendary character. Scotland is still richer in this respect than Eng- Besides these heroic lays there was also another land. The lofty beanies that shine even through class of a different character, which may, to some the prose translation of Ossian, stamp those poems as specimens of the highest poetic excellence. The * In "the war of Caros" first part, we find mention of poems of Ossian, too, like the Iliad and Odyssey, of Selma," last part, we have Ossian spoken of as "the
the “bard of the times of old.” And again in the " Songs * "Celebrant carminibus antiqius, quod unum apud il- first among a thousand bards," and so in many other inlos fpemoniae et annalium genus est,
origi. stances. Den gentis conditoresque." And again see Tac. Ann., 1.2, + Vid. on the subject Hist. Rome, in Lib. U. K., by Mal. last ebapter. Tac. De. Ger., c. 2.
den, p. 53.