Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

deity, Mars the Avenger, who thus for the first time was admitted as a resident into the city, in recognition of the distinguished service he had rendered in exacting an appropriate retribution from the murderers of Cæsar. To enumerate all the architectural exploits of Augustus is impossible. In his sixth consulship alone this indefatigable worker built or restored no fewer than eighty-two temples. No wonder that Livy celebrated him as templorum omnium conditor ac restitutor ; that Horace complimented him as the renovator of the fallen shrines and blackened images of the gods; or that Virgil beheld in the three hundred fanes of his magnificent patron an immortal attestation of his religious devotion.

Over the secular constructions of the imperial architect we must pass more rapidly. The theatre of Marcellus, whose untimely death is recorded in verses that will never die, stood close to the temple of Apollo, not the temple on the Palatine, but the ancient temple between the Circus Flaminus and the Forum Olitorum. Begun by Cæsar, it was finished by Augustus, and ranks among his nobler erections. On the completion and reconstruction of the Basilica Julia, the improvement of the Flaminian way, the repair of the bridges belonging to it, we shall not expatiate. Of the expense incurred in giving efficiency to the old waterworks of Rome we shall say but little. That little concerns the famous aqueduct which borrows its name from the original constructor, Quintus Marcius Rex. The Aqua Marcia had its commencement near the Via Valeria, about thirty-six miles from Rome. Flowing from the Volscian mountains, it passed, partly above and partly under ground, to the brow of the Esquiline hill. Some of the stone arches by which it was conveyed are still in existence. This noble watercourse, which required three thousand men for its formation, was repaired and enlarged by the emperor. The Aqua Augusta, an additional duct which he connected with it, doubled the previous supply.

Augustus was not only the architect, he was also the purveyor of amusements, or master of the revels, to the Roman people. In providing the excitement of the sanguinary combat, the murderous show, or the butcherly fight, his invention was infinite and his resources endless. Eight times he delighted the admiring city with its favourite gladiatorial entertainment. Thrice he exhibited the Greek athletic games—once in his own name, once in that of a grandson. Serenand-twenty times he presided in right of his office, or in the place of absent magistrates, at the sports of the circus or the representations of the drama. When the Dacian or other conquered barbarians had shed their best blood to make a Roman holiday, the noble savages of the wild were summoned to give it an additional zest. At the dedication of the theatre of Marcellus, his sister's son, six hundred of these captives from the wilds of Africa died in honour of the occasion. When the temple of Mars was consecrated, two hundred and sixty lives formed the appropriate offering to the avenging god. Three thousand five hundred of the denizens of forest and plain were despatched in the name of the emperor, of his sons, or his grandsons, to multiply the agreeable sensations of the pleasure-loving people of Rome.

But let us quit the shambles of the chase, and the arena wherein the ten thousand prize-fighters of Augustus successively contended, and throw a hasty glance at the picturesque sea-battle on the other side of the Tiber, near the spot afterwards occupied by the Nemur Cæsarum, the gardens of Caius and Lucius, the silver-shielded princes of the Roman youth. In this mimic combat three thousand men displayed, we will hope, a more harmless prowess. In their number the rowers were not included. The fleet itself consisted of thirty ships of war, but there were vessels of inferior build which participated in the action, probably too many to enumerate. The lake which was the scene of the battle was constructed for the occasion. Its length was eighteen hundred, its breadth twelve hundred feet. It long outlasted the purpose for which it was designed, and in the pages of Suetonius is described as the Old Sea-Fighting Place, in contradistinction to that of Domitian.

This sham-battle was fought on the day of the dedication of the temple of Mars, A.u.752. We must go back fifteen years if we would witness a still more striking scene; the celebration of the Ludi Sæculares. These games of a hundred, or a hundred and ten years, were announced by heralds traversing the streets of Rome and the neighbouring towns, and inviting the inhabitants to attend at a solemn spectacle which none of them had ever yet seen, and having once seen would never see again. Augustus himself was present at this splendid religious ceremonial—distributing the lustral torches, the wheat, the barley, or the beans, the simple gifts prescribed by time-honoured tradition. On the Aventine, on the Palatine, on the Capitoline, thronged the rejoicing citizens; in the Circus the Roman boys recalled the old tale divine, enacting the game of Troy; while in the hall of Apollo, on the Palatine, with the poet's sun, “another, yet the same," shining

" over temple and palace and statue and garden, burst forth as the glorious conclusion to this great pagan jubilee, the choral music to which the noble youths and maidens chanted the stately hymn which the imperial Augustus had bespoken, and the courtly Horace composed

“Phoebe silvarumque potens Diana," etc. Amid all this lavish display of Imperial power and splendour, the chief of the state was simple in his private life, and moderate in his personal expenditure. He could even practise a laudable self-control. Thus he declined the gift of coronary gold, proffered by the municipal towns and colonies of Italy; and selling the silver statues erected in his honour, with the proceeds of the sale presented golden offerings to his protector Apollo. In the temples of Jupiter, Vesta, and Mars, were deposited the gems and pearls and ballion of the master of the world. The piety of Augustus was limited by no narrow patriotism. Generous to the deities in Rome, he was just to the celestial powers in Asia. The works of art which the lover of Cleopatra had stolen from the temples in Ephesus, and other cities of the East, were religiously restored by the conqueror of the Egyptian enchantress and her spell-bound paramour. But the favourite of the gods, the reviver of old sanctities, the beautifier of the city, the popular benefactor and the public host, was also the judicious statesman, the able politician, the subduer, the maker, the preserver of kings, and the restorer of social order. In the interest of order the triumvir Octavius had liberated the sea from the hordes of lawless brigands that under Sextus, the degenerate son of Cæsar's great rival, the self-styled child of the ocean-god, infested the waves which their blue-robed piratechief seemed to regard as his hereditary domain. The deadly poison of civilised existence—slavery—had produced its retributive effect in the old world. Among the brigands that had formed the fightingforce of the son of Pompey, were numerous slaves who had defied and abandoned their masters, and had asserted a formidable though temporary independence. A terrible retribution awaited these merciless corsairs. Thirty thousand of the outlaws were captured by the future emperor, and surrendered to their masters for legitimate punishment. The legitimate punishment of fugitive slaves was crucifixion. In addition to the thirty thousand particularised by Augustus in his register, an historian affirms that six thousand men who could not be identified, were sent severally to the towns from which they had escaped, where a corresponding number of crosses was provided to vindicate the majesty of Roman law.

With the same sedate and measured egotism which characterises his previous utterance, the imperial autobiographer continues to recite the conquests of the past, or delineate the peaceful triumphs of the future. He points complacently to the extension of the Roman dominion, to the spontaneous recognition of his personal supremacy, to the oaths of the seven hundred consular senators, to the allegiance of Italy, Gaul, Africa, Sicily, Sardinia. He recounts in his catalogue of achievements, the appropriation of distant regions that had never before submitted to the sway of Rome; the pacification of the provinces from Gades to the Elbe; the annexation of the Alps from the Adriatic to the Tuscan Sea ; the acquisition of Egypt ;

the recovery of Cyrene, and the Trans-Adriatic provinces lying towards the East. He notices the successful expedition to Ethiopia and Arabia Felix; the despatching of an ocean fleet from the mouth of the

my favour.

Rhine; the flattering embassies from the Cimbri, the Charydes, the Semnones, and other German tribes, to solicit the friendship of the Roman people, and the application of the old State policy to Armenia, which he might have reduced to a province, but to which he preferred to give a king. “In Africa,” resumes the sublime egotist,“ in Macedonia, Spain, Achaia, Asia, I established military colonies. In Italy, twenty-eight which I founded are already prosperous settlements. In Spain, in Gaul, in Dalmatia, I recovered the standards which former generals had lost. Through me, the spoils and accoutrements of three Roman armies, now deposited in the Temple of Mars the Avenger, were extorted from the Parthians. Through Tiberius, my son-in-law and lieutenant, I reduced to subjection the people of Pannonia, and extended the frontiers of Illyricum to the Danube. From strange Indian princes there came frequent embassies to me ; to me, first and alone of all distinguished Romans. The kings of Bastarnæ, Scythia, Sarmatia ; the kings of the Albanians, Iberians, and Medes, implored an alliance with Rome; the kings of Parthia and Britain, of the Sigambri and Marcomanni, were suppliants for

In my sixth and in my seventh consulship, having extinguished the flames of civil war, I surrendered into the hands of the Senate and people of Rome the imperial authority, or supreme military command, which had been unanimously entrusted to me. In requital of this meritorious act, I was honoured with the title of Augustus; the pillars of my house were wreathed with laurel; the civic crown of oak leaves was placed over my gate, and a golden shield deposited in the Curia Julia, bearing on it an inscription, which purported that it was for my clemency, justice, and piety, that it had been awarded me by the Senate and the people of Rome.

From this time, while I excelled all men in dignity, I surpassed in power none of my associates in office. When a thirteenth time I had attained the consulship, the Senate, the knights, and the people, conferred on me the title of Pater Patriæ, “the Father of my Country,' inscribing it on the vestibule of my house, in the Curia under the chariot presented me by senatorial decree, and in the Augustan Forum. When I wrote this I was in my seventy-sixth year."

Thus simply ends this memorable history. A few weeks after the hand of Augustus had traced on his waxen tablets the characters to which the marble of Ancyra gave a more durable existence, the deified mortal who had priests consecrated to his service and temples dedicated to his honour, who gave a name to a calendar month and a festival to the Roman year—the Prince of the Senate, the Cæsar, the Augustus, the Imperator, the Pater Patriæ, lay dead at Nola.

About seventeen years before the death of Augustus there died in a distant country a king to whom historians have given the name of Great, the Idumaan Herod. His fortunes were curiously interwoven with

6

a

those of the chief actor in the struggle for empire which terminated in the triumph of Octavius. Antonius had raised him to the throne of Judæa; Cleopatra had sought to appropriate his political interest by the fascination of her beauty and the proffer of her love; Augustus, when the provincial king had done homage to the sovereign of the world, had replaced the diadem on his head, and given him a foremost rank among the vassal princes of Rome. It is to the reign of this Herod that, according to evangelical tradition, the birth of that mysterious Prophet must be referred in whom Christian interpretation recognises the Messianic King of Hebrew prediction.

The date of the birth of Jesus Christ has long been a contested point. The most circumstantial of his biographers places the event in the days when Cyrenius, the Quirinus of the historians Tacitus and Suetonius, was governor of Syria, and directed the first registration of the Jewish people. Both these functions are assigned to Cyrenius by Josephus, after the deposition of Archelaus, that is, about A.u. 759 —760, or A.D. 6; but as this date is later by ten years than that to which the birth of Christ is usually referred, a difficulty presents itself the solution of which has baffled the ingenuity of commentators. The attempt made many years since by Augustus Zumpt to solve the problem has now received the partial support of the great German historian of Rome, Theodore Mommsen. This solution has for its basis the assumption of a prior as well as of a later appointment. Was Cyrenius twice governor of Syria ? Mommsen has thought the question worth examination, and with this object has included in the present work a curious historical criticism on the Titulus Tiburtinus.

The Titulus Tiburtinus, discovered about a century since on the road to Tivoli, recites the offices and dignities of some noble Roman, whose name has unfortunately been effaced. Identifying marks, however, remain. The subject of this recitation subdued a people, obtained a triumph, held the proconsulship of Asia, survived Augustus, and was twice governor of Syria. Three of the requisite conditions of the problem are satisfied if we assume Quirinus to have been the now anonymous hero of the Titulus. From the pages of Tacitus and Strabo we gather that Quirinus subdued the Homonadenses, a people in the Cilician circle, obtained a triumph, and survived till the fourth year of Tiberius. Positive proof that Quirinus was ever proconsul of Asia is not producible, but his previous consulship, A.u. 742, qualified him, at the expiration of five years, to hold the appointment; and there is no known circumstance in his career which militates against the hypothesis that he actually held it, A.u. 747. There is then a fair presumption that a missing governor of the period B.c. 6– A.D. 6, the unknown governor of the Tivoli inscription, and the Sulpicius Quirinus of the Roman historians, are one and the same person. On independent grounds, too, it may be argued that Quirinus

a

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »