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Republic, many orations spoken on various public occasions by magistrates and senators, and preserved as well as edited by the speakers themselves. Among the orations, the oldest was that of Appius the Blind, who, being conducted in his old age into the Senate when the question of peace or war with Pyrrhus was under discussion, determined his countrymen to reject the propositions of peace (B. C. 280). In the time of Cicero, a large collection of these miscellaneous public harangues existed. He had read no less than 150 from the elder Cato alone, and he indicates Cornelius Cethegus (who died in B. C. 196, shortly after the Second Punic War) as the earliest Roman distinguished for eloquence.
It is to this later period of the Republic that Sir George Lewis devotes his first two chapters-among the most instructive in the work. He sets before us the really historical age of Rome-the assemblage of all the authors from whom we derive (mediately or immediately) our knowledge of Roman events; and he appreciates, as far as is practicable under the loss of their works, their scope, manner, and point of view.
The following summary deserves attention both in itself and as furnishing a standard of comparison for the evidences of the earlier age of Rome:
'If we trace the Roman history back from the dictatorship of Julius Cæsar, we find that its events were fully recorded by intelligent, trustworthy, and well-informed contemporary writers, up to the beginning of the Gallic war of 225 B. C. Up to that period, the majority of these historians were native Romans, though some of them, and particularly those of the earlier time, wrote in Greek. For the period of thirty-nine years between the beginning of the first Punic War and the Gallic War (264-225, B. C.), there were no native historians who were personal witnesses of the events of the day: but they lived with the generation who were actors in them, and were able to obtain their information from sources of unquestionable authenticity. The First Punic War was narrated by one Greek at least who lived during its progress, and probably other Sicilians at the time wrote its history.
It is true that the native historians of Rome from Fabius Pictor down to Claudius Quadrigarius and Valerius Antias, did not hold a high rank as artists: that their manner was in general dry, stiff, and jejune that they were deficient in philosophical spirit and that their historical style resembled rather that of a medieval chronicle, or of such writers as Holinshed or Stow, than the work of Thucydides, which they might have imitated; or the works of Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus, which their own literature afterwards produced. Cicero will not even allow them the name of historians. So inferior were they to the Greek writers in that line of composition, that he regards them as mere annalists or memoir-writers as mere mecha
nical registrars of facts, without any claim to the higher merits of the historian. According to the Roman standard of history (he says), the only requisite is, that the writer should tell the truth: the style of his composition is immaterial. They studied only to express their meaning in the smallest number of words consistent with being understood. Their model was, the official annals of the year, kept by the Pontifex Maximus. Cicero himself wished to produce a history which should equal those of the Greek writers; as Virgil attempted to rival Homer, and Horace the Greek lyric poets. He looks upon history chiefly as a work of art, and as a composition fitted for an orator.' (Vol. i. p. 40.)
After noticing criticisms from Sallust, Velleius Paterculus, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, coinciding in spirit with those of Cicero, Sir George Lewis proceeds:
'But though the series of historical writers who have been enumerated, from Fabius and Cincius down to Sylla and Macer, were not distinguished for any literary or philosophical excellence - though they were not artists in history-yet they were trustworthy wit nesses respecting the events of their own time. They were most of them men conversant with public affairs both civil and military— who had filled high offices and sat in the Senate who had in some cases been actors in the events which they narrated - and who by their social position, had access to good information and enlightened opinions respecting the political events of their time.' (Vol. i. p. 43.)
The loss, almost total, of these later historians - combined with the preservation of so many details respecting the early Roman history in the extant books of Livy and Dionysius -fosters an involuntary illusion in the reader's mind, that the earlier periods were both better known and more interesting to the Romans themselves, than the later. This is a mistake pointed out by Sir George Lewis :—
They (Fabius, Cincius, and the other historians) were concise in the early periods, and full in the times of which they had personal experience. Their main purpose was to write recent and contemporary history. Even Livy, whom, on account of the accidental preservation of the earlier books and loss of the later books, of his history, we are accustomed to regard as an antiquarian compiler, was in truth regarded in quite a different light, when his entire work was extant. The principal object of Livy was to relate the events of the period immediately preceding his own life, and partly contemporary with it. The books of his history beginning with 103, and extending to 142, being nearly a third part of the entire work, were coincident with his own lifetime. He himself in his preface, supposes his readers to be more solicitous to read the history of the civil wars, than to dwell on the early period.' (Vol. i. p. 44.)
The superior interest felt by Livy and others in the events of the later Republic is not difficult to explain. Those events
surpassed prodigiously, in magnitude and in awe-striking accompaniments, the wars and internal disputes of Rome in her earlier days of comparative feebleness,
'Vincere cum Veios posse, laboris erat.'
It is these antecedent events, recorded in the first Decad' of Livy, which form the special subject of Sir George Lewis's Enquiry into the Credibility of the Early Roman 'History.' We have approached them, as he has done, by an upward march through the later events; because we consider it an important feature in his method, to pass from the more known to the less known, and to appreciate the reporting historians before he begins to weigh and measure the evidences open to their inspection.
We find in Livy and other writers a history of Rome for 472 years earlier than Pyrrhus; from B. C. 753, the period assigned for the foundation of the city. This narrative which we read, or something like it, though with many differences of detail, was received during the literary ages of Rome, and appealed to as matter of popular belief by poets and orators. Now the question is, what authorities had Fabius and Cincius, the earliest Roman historians, (who flourished during the Second Punic War) and those who came after them, for composing the history of five centuries anterior to themselves?
Sir George Lewis sets forth the various hypotheses which have been advanced as answers to this question. He examines with much care (Vol. i. p. 155. seq.), the real comprehension and evidentiary value of what were called the Pontifical Annals -'Annales Maximi,' — kept by the Chief Pontiff from an early period down to the Pontificate of P. Mucius in B. C. 121. The pontiff caused various notable incidents to be inscribed on a whitened board and publicly posted up. What these incidents were, we are very imperfectly informed; but as far as we can make out, they were events susceptible of a religious interpretation, which called upon the pontiff to prescribe some expiatory ceremony for appeasing the wrath of the gods, events such as dearth, pestilence, earthquakes, eclipses, prodigies of various kinds.* Livy, who occasionally mentions incidents
The first Decad of Livy ends with the Consulship [of Fabius Maximus Gurges, and Junius Brutus Scæva, in B. C. 292. His eleventh book (now lost) brought the third Samnite War to a conclusion. His twelfth book (also lost) described the beginning of the war of Pyrrhus against the Romans (B. c. 280).
+ A fragment of Cato says (ap. Aul. Gell. ii. 28.), Non lubet 'scribere, quod in tabulâ apud Pontificem Maximum est, quotiens
of this character, is likely to have derived them, directly or indirectly, from the Pontifical Annals. The prodigies, such as divine voices, speaking oxen, rain of blood or of flesh, &c., are more distinctly traceable to contemporary record than any other events in the early Roman history. That these pontifical annals were meagre, and destitute of all information on public matters, there is every reason to believe. At what precise date they commenced, and even whether there was matter registered in every successive year, we are ignorant. But it seems certain that there can have been no continuous preservation of them for the time anterior to the capture of Rome by the Gauls (B. C. 390).
These pontifical tablets were all that early Rome possessed in the nature of annals prior to Fabius Pictor and Cincius. Sir George Lewis justly censures the laxity with which Niebuhr, Arnold, and other historians, appeal to certain invisible witnesses, called The Old Annals, The Ancient Annalists, some Old Annalist, &c., as authorities for facts between B.C. 500-300 (see numerous examples cited, vol. i. p. 93., seq.). Nothing can be more misleading than this language. There existed no such annals (except the pontifical tablets) of an earlier date than B.c. 210. And when Livy says, as we sometimes find, Invenio in quibusdam annalibus, &c., he must mean authors of this date, or later. To him these authors were ancient, very ancient at the distance of 150 years. Nay, we even find Cicero, a generation earlier than Livy, speaking of Cato as extremely ancient (perveterem).* the vague allusions of Niebuhr and Arnold suggest to readers the erroneous belief that there were Roman annalists, contemporary with the siege of Veii or the Decemvirate, from whom Livy's statements, or a modified version of them at least, are borrowed.
Though there existed no continuous history or annals during the two first centuries of the Republic, yet there were undoubtedly throughout all that period detached memorials: contemporary registrations of notable isolated facts treaties with foreign states-laws (such as the Twelve Tables)-decrees of the senate-inscriptions on brazen plates, or on linen clothcommemoration of the magistracies of particular men, and even partial lists of their succession-precedents kept by the
annona cara est, quotiens lunæ aut solis lumini caligo aut quid 'obstiterit,' &c. Eum nos ut perveterem habemus,' &c.
Cicero, Brutus 15. 61.
(i. e. Cato.)
scribes or secretaries who carried on the routine of business in the magisterial offices of the consuls, censors, and prætors. The earliest known inscription, commemorating any public event the treaty between Rome and Carthage, seen by Polybius dated very shortly after the expulsion of the kings. Even the earliest times of the Republic were thus not destitute of documents; but none such can be traced during the regal period. Sir George Lewis, in his fifth chapter, reviews and estimates these sources of Roman history. They were (to cite his words in another place, vol. ii. p. 361.) detached notices and frag'ments of evidence, but not a continuous narrative; they were 'not the work of an historian, and they did not of themselves 'form a history of the period: there was a substratum of nota'tion, but not an authentic narrative of events.'
This substratum of notation' can be traced distinctly to the earliest times of the Republic; but no history was erected upon it by any Roman until Fabius Pictor, three centuries afterwards. Nevertheless, the history of Rome, as we read it in Dionysius and Livy, (both of them much later than Fabius) contains, not merely a string of naked facts, such as might be noted on brazen plates, or on whitened boardsbut also abundance of incidents related with minute details, animated descriptions, precise relation of the words and thoughts of the principal actors. It was in the same copious and circumstantial manner that Fabius and succeeding annalists recounted the family tragedies of the Roman kings — as well as many of the wars and internal political contests which marked the first two centuries of the Republic. From whence then did Fabius and his successors obtain the knowledge of these details, so long anterior to their own time? Not certainly from the substratum of notation: which, even if it had been systematic and continuous, instead of being merely disjointed and occasional, could have supplied nothing beyond bare and brief facts. We must here look for sources of information distinct from contemporary brass, wood, or linen.
To find a source for these detailed incidents, many of them highly poetical and interesting, Niebuhr contended for the existence of early ballad-poems, or epic lays, anterior to Nævius and Ennius. Dr. Arnold and Mr. Macaulay have adopted the same hypothesis: and the beautiful Lays of Ancient 'Rome,' composed by the latter, will imprint it on the recollection of every English reader. Sir George Lewis examines the point at considerable length (Vol. i. pp. 212-38.). Niebuhr distributes large portions of the Roman history, from Romulus down to the Gallic conflagration, into various epic lays; which,