B. G. NIEBUHR'S HISTORY OF ROME. ORIGINS

III

The thirty Latin towns. Roma, the town on the Palatine. Romulus and his descent. Romulus and Remus. Remuria. The Asylum. Rape of the Sabine women. Union of the Romans and Sabines. Death of Romulus. Division of the population. The Sabines. Towns on the Palatine and Quirinal. Union of the two states

 

I BELIEVE that few persons, when Alba is mentioned, can get rid of the idea, to which I too adhered for a long time, that the history of Alba is lost to such an extent, that we can speak of it only in reference to the Trojan time and the preceding period, as if all the statements made concerning it by the Romans were based upon fancy and error; and that accordingly it must be effaced from the pages of history altogether. It is true that what we read concerning the foundation of Alba by Ascanius, and the wonderful signs accompanying it, as well as the whole series of the Alban kings with the years of their reigns, the story of Numitor and Amulius and the story of the destruction of the city, do not belong to history; but the historical existence of Alba is not at all doubtful on that account, nor have the ancients ever doubted it. The Sacra Albana and the Albani tumuli atque luci, which existed as late as the time of Cicero, are proofs of its early existence; ruins indeed no longer exist, but the situation of the city in the valley of Grotta Ferrata may still be recognized. Between the lake and the long chain of hills near the monastery of Palazzuolo one still sees the rock cut steep down towards the lake, evidently the work of man, which rendered it impossible to attack the city on that side; the summit on the other side formed the arx. That the Albans were in possession of the sovereignty of Latium is a tradition which we may believe to be founded on good authority, as it is traced to Cincius. Afterwards the Latins became the masters of the district and temple of Jupiter. Further, the statement that Alba shared the flesh of the victim on the Alban mount with the thirty towns, and that after the fall of Alba the Latins chose their own magistrates, are glimpses of real history. The ancient tunnel made for discharging the water of the Alban lake still exists, and through its vault a canal was made called Fossa Cluilia: this vault which is still visible is a work of earlier construction than any Roman one. But all that can be said of Alba and the Latins at that time is, that Alba was the capital, exercising the sovereignty over Latium; that its temple of Jupiter was the rallying point of the people who were governed by it; and that the gens Silvia was the ruling clan.

It cannot be doubted that the number of Latin towns was actually thirty, just that of the Albensian demi; this number afterwards occurs again in the later thirty Latin towns and in the thirty Roman tribes, and it is moreover indicated by the story of the foundation of Lavinium by thirty families, in which we may recognize the union of the two tribes. The statement that Lavinium was a Trojan colony and was afterwards abandoned but restored by Alba, and further that the sanctuary could not be transferred from it to Alba, is only an accommodation to the Trojan and native tradition, however much it may bear the appearance of antiquity. For Lavinium is nothing else than a general name for Latium just as Panionium is for Ionia, Lotinus, Lavinus, and Lavicus being one and the same name, as is recognized even by Servius. Lavinium was the central point of the Prisci Latini, and there is no doubt that in the early period before Alba ruled over Lavinium, worship was offered mutually at Alba and at Lavinium, as was afterwards the case at Rome in the temple of Diana on the Aventine, and at the festivals of the Romans and Latins on the Alban mount.

The personages of the Trojan legend therefore present themselves to us in the following light. Turnus is nothing else but Turinus, in Dionysius Tirinoss; Lavinia, the fair maiden, is the name of the Latin people, which may perhaps be so distinguished that the inhabitants of the coast were called Tyrrhenians, and those further inland Latins. Since, after the battle of lake Regillus, the Latins are mentioned in the treaty with Rome as forming thirty towns, there can be no doubt that the towns, over which Alba had the supremacy in the earliest times, were likewise thirty in number; but the confederacy did not at all times contain the same towns, as some may afterwards have perished and others may have been added. In such political developments, there is at work an instinctive tendency to fill up that which has become vacant; and this instinct acts as long as people proceed unconsciously according to the ancient forms and not in accordance with actual wants. Such also was the case in the twelve Achaean towns and in the seven Frisian maritime communities; for as soon as one disappeared, another dividing itself into two, supplied its place. Wherever there is a fixed number, it is kept up, even when one part dies away, and it ever continues to be renewed. We may add that the state of the Latins lost in the West, but gained in the East. We must therefore, I repeat it, conceive on the one hand Alba with its thirty demi, and on the other the thirty Latin towns, the latter at first forming a state allied with Alba, and at a later time under its supremacy.

According to an important statement of Cato preserved in Dionysius, the ancient towns of the Aborigines were small places scattered over the mountains. One town of this kind was situated on the Palatine hill, and bore the name of Roma, which is most certainly Greek. Not far from it there occur several other places with Greek names, such as Pyrgi and Alsium; for the people inhabiting those districts were closely akin to the Greeks; and it is by no means an erroneous conjecture, that Terracina was formerly called Traghini, or the "rough place on a rock"; Formiae must be connected with ormos, "a road-stead" or "place for casting anchor". As certain as Pyrgi signifies "towers", so certainly does Roma signify "strength", and I believe that those are quite right who consider that the name Roma in this sense is not accidental. This Roma is described as a Pelasgian place in which Evander, the introducer of scientific culture resided. According to tradition, the first foundation of civilization was laid by Saturn, in the golden age of mankind. The tradition in Virgil, who was extremely learned in matters of antiquity, that the first men were created out of trees must be taken quite literally''; for as in Greece the mirmikes were metamorphosed into the Myrmidons, and the stones thrown by Deucalion and Pyrrha into men and women, so in Italy trees, by some divine power, were changed into human beings. These beings, at first only half human, gradually acquired a civilization which they owed to Saturn; but the real intellectual culture was traced to Evander, who must not be regarded as a person who had come from Arcadia, but as the good man, as the teacher of the alphabet and of mental culture, which man gradually works out for himself.

The Romans clung to the conviction that Romulus, the founder of Rome, was the son of a virgin by a god, that his life was marvelously preserved, that he was saved from the floods of the river and was reared by a she-wolf. That this poetry is very ancient, cannot be doubted; but did the legend at all times describe Romulus as the son of Rea Silvia or Ilia? Perizonius was the first who remarked against Ryckius, that Rea Ilia never occurs together, and that Rea Silvia was a daughter of Numitor, while Ilia is called a daughter of Aeneas. He is perfectly right: Naevius and Ennius called Romulus a son of Ilia, the daughter of Aeneas, as is attested by Servius on Virgil and Porphyrio on Horace; but it cannot be hence inferred, that this was the national opinion of the Romans themselves, for the poets who were familiar with the Greeks, might accommodate their stories to Greek poems. The ancient Romans, on the other hand, could not possibly look upon the mother of the founder of their city as a daughter of Aeneas, who was believed to have lived 333 or 360 years earlier. Dionysius says that his account, which is that of Fabius, occurred in the sacred songs, and it is in itself perfectly consistent. Fabius cannot have taken it, as Plutarch asserts, from Diodes, a miserable unknown Greek author; the statue of the she-wolf was erected in the year A. U. 457, long before Diodes wrote, and at least a hundred years before Fabius. This tradition therefore is certainly the more ancient Roman one; and it puts Rome in connection with Alba. A monument has lately been discovered at Bovillae: it is an altar which the Gentiles Julii erected lege Albano, and therefore expresses a religious relation of a Roman gens to Alba. The connection of the two towns continues down to the founder of Rome; and the well known tradition, with its ancient poetical details, many of which Livy and Dionysius omitted from their histories lest they should seem to deal too much in the marvelous, runs as follows.

Numitor and Amulius were contending for the throne of Alba. Amulius took possession of the throne, and made Rea Silvia, the daughter of Numitor, a vestal virgin, in order that the Silvian house might become extinct. This part of the story was composed without any insight into political laws, for a daughter could not have transmitted any gentilician rights. The name Rea Silvia is ancient, but Rea is only a surname: rea femmina often occurs in Boccaccio, and is used to this day in Tuscany to designate a woman whose reputation is blighted: a priestess Rea is described by Virgil as having been over-powered by Hercules. While Rea was fetching water in a grove for a sacrifice the sun became eclipsed, and she took refuge from a wolf in a cave where she was overpowered by Mars. When she was delivered, the sun was again eclipsed and the statue of Vesta covered its eyes. Livy has here abandoned the marvelous. The tyrant threw Rea with her infants into the river Anio: she lost her life in the waves, but the god of the river took her soul and changed it into an immortal goddess whom he married. This story has been softened down into the tale of her imprisonment, which is unpoetical enough to be a later invention. The river Anio carried the cradle like a boat into the Tiber, and the latter conveyed it to the foot of the Palatine, the water having overflowed the country, and the cradle was upset at the root of a fig-tree. A she-wolf carried the babes away and suckled them; Mars sent a woodpecker which provided the children with food, and the bird parra which protected them from insects. These statements are gathered from various quarters; for the historians got rid of the marvelous as much as possible. Faustulus, the legend continues, found the boys feeding on the milk of the huge wild-beast, he brought them up with his twelve sons, and they became the staunchest of all. Being at the head of the shepherds on Mount Palatine, they became involved in a quarrel with the shepherds of Numitor on the Aventine—the Palatine and the Aventine are always hostile to each other—Remus being taken prisoner was led to Alba, but Romulus rescued him, and their descent from Numitor being discovered, the latter was restored to the throne, and the two young men obtained permission to form a settlement at the foot of Mount Palatine where they had been saved.

Out of this beautiful poem, the falsifiers endeavored to make some credible story: even the unprejudiced and poetical Livy tried to avoid the most marvelous points as much as he could, but the falsifiers went a step farther. In the days when men had altogether ceased to believe in the ancient gods, attempts were made to find something intelligible in the old legends, and thus a history was made up, which Plutarch fondly embraced and Dionysius did not reject, though he also relates the ancient tradition in a mutilated form. He says that many people believed in daemons, and that such a daemon might have been the father of Romulus; but he himself is very far from believing it, and rather thinks that Amulius himself, in disguise, violated Rea Silvia amid thunder and lightning produced by artifice. This he is said to have done in order to have a pretext for getting rid of her, but being entreated by his daughter not to drown her, he imprisoned her for life. The children were saved by the shepherd, who was commissioned to expose them, at the request of Numitor, and two other boys were put in their place. Numitor's grandsons were taken to a friend at Gabii, who caused them to be educated according to their rank and to be instructed in Greek literature. Attempts have actually been made to introduce this stupid forgery into history, and some portions of it have been adopted in the narrative of our historians; for example, that the ancient Alban nobility migrated with the two brothers to Rome; but if this had been the case there would have been no need of opening an asylum, nor would it have been necessary to obtain by force the connubium with other nations.

But of more historical importance is the difference of opinion between the two brothers, respecting the building of the city and its site. According to the ancient tradition, both were kings and the equal heads of the colony; Romulus is universally said to have wished to build on the Palatine, while Remus, according to some, preferred the Aventine; according to others, the hill Remuria. Plutarch states that the latter is a hill three miles south of Rome, and cannot have been any other than the hill nearly opposite St. Paul, which is the more credible, since this hill, though situated in an otherwise unhealthy district, has an extremely fine air: a very important point in investigations respecting the ancient Latin towns, for it may be taken for certain, that where the air is now healthy it was so in those times also, and that where it is now decidedly unhealthy, it was anciently no better. The legend now goes on to say, that a dispute arose between Romulus and Remus as to which of them should give the name to the town, and also as to where it was to be built. A town Remuria therefore undoubtedly existed on that hill, though subsequently we find the name transferred to the Aventine, as is the case so frequently. According to the common tradition augurs were to decide between the brothers; Romulus took his stand on the Palatine, Remus on the Aventine. The latter observed the whole night but saw nothing until about sunrise, when he saw six vultures flying from north to south and sent word of it to Romulus, but at that very time the latter, annoyed at not having seen any sign, fraudulently sent a messenger to say that he had seen twelve vultures, and at the very moment the messenger arrived, there did appear twelve vultures, to which Romulus appealed. This account is impossible; for the Palatine and Aventine are so near each other that, as every Roman well knew, whatever a person on one of the two hills saw high in the air, could not escape the observation of anyone who was watching on the other. This part of the story therefore cannot be ancient, and can be saved only by substituting the Remuria for the Aventine. As the Palatine was the seat of the noblest patrician tribe, and the Aventine the special town of the plebeians, there existed between the two a perpetual feud, and thus it came to pass that in after times the story relating to the Remuria, which was far away from the city, was transferred to the Aventine. According to Ennius, Romulus made his observations on the Aventine; in this case Remus must certainly have been on the Remuria, and it is said that when Romulus obtained the augury he threw his spear towards the Palatine. This is the ancient legend which was neglected by the later writers. Romulus took possession of the Palatine. The spear taking root and becoming a tree, which existed down to the time of Nero, is a symbol of the eternity of the new city, and of the protection of the gods. The statement that Romulus tried to deceive his brother is a later addition; and the beautiful poem of Ennius quoted by Cicero knows nothing of this circumstance. The conclusion which must be drawn from all this is, that in the earliest times there were two towns, Roma and Remuria, the latter being far distant from the city and from the Palatine.

Romulus now fixed the boundary of his town, but Remus scornfully leapt across the ditch, for which he was slain by Celer, a hint that no one should cross the fortifications of Rome with impunity. But Romulus fell into a state of melancholy occasioned by the death of Remus; he instituted festivals to honor him and ordered an empty throne to be put up by the side of his own. Thus we have a double kingdom which ends with the defeat of Remuria.

The question now is what were these two towns of Roma and Remuria? They were evidently Pelasgian places; the ancient tradition states that Sicelus migrated from Rome southward to the Pelasgians, that is, the Tyrrhenian Pelasgians were pushed forward to the Morgetes, a kindred nation in Lucania and in Sicily. Among the Greeks it was, as Dionysius states, a general opinion, that Rome was a Pelasgian, that is a Tyrrhenian city, but the authorities from whom he learnt this are no longer extant. There is, however, a fragment in which it is stated that Rome was a sister city of Antium and Ardea. Here too we must apply the statement f'rom the chronicle of Cumae, that Evander, who, as an Arcadian, was likewise a Pelasgian, had his palatium on the Palatine. To us he appears of less importance than in the legend, for in the latter he is one of the benefactors of nations, and introduced among the Pelasgians in Italy the use of the alphabet and other arts, just as Damaratus did among the Tyrrhenians in Etruria. In this sense, therefore, Rome was certainly a Latin town, and had not a mixed but a purely Tyrrheno-Pelasgian population. The subsequent vicissitudes of this settlement may be gathered from the allegories.

Romulus now found the number of his fellow-settlers too small; the number of 3000 foot and 300 horse, which Livy gives from the commentaries of the pontiffs, is worth nothing; for it is only an outline of the later military arrangement transferred to the earliest times. According to the ancient tradition, Romulus's band was too small, and he opened an asylum on the Capitoline hill. This asylum, the old description states, contained only a very small space, a proof how little these things were understood historically. All manner of people, thieves, murderers, and vagabonds of every kind flocked thither. This is the simple view taken of the origin of the clients. In the bitterness with which the estates subsequently looked upon one another, it was made a matter of reproach to the Patricians, that their earliest ancestors had been vagabonds; though it was a common opinion, that the patricians were descended from the free companions of Romulus, and that those who took refuge in the asylum placed themselves as clients under the protection of the real free citizens. But now they wanted women, and attempts were made to obtain the connubiun with neighbouring towns, especially perhaps with Antemnae, which was only four miles distant from Rome, with the Sabines and others. This being refused, Romulus had recourse to a stratagem, proclaiming that he had discovered the altar of Consus, the god of counsels, an allegory of his cunning in general. In the midst of the solemnities, the Sabine maidens, thirty in number, were carried off, from whom the curiae received their names: this is the genuine ancient legend, and it proves how small ancient Rome was conceived to have been. In later times the number was thought too small, it was supposed that these thirty had been chosen by lot for the purpose of naming the curiae after them; and Valerius Antias fixed the number of the women who had been carried off at five hundred and twenty-seven. The rape is placed in the fourth month of the city, because the consualia fall in August, and the festival commemorating the foundation of the city in April; later writers, as Cn. Gellius, extended this period to four years, and Dionysius found this of course far more credible. From this rape there arose wars, first with the neighboring towns which were defeated one after another, and at last with the Sabines. The ancient legend contains not a trace of this war having been of long continuance; but in later times it was necessarily supposed to have lasted for a considerable time, since matters were then measured by a different standard. Lucumo and Caelius came to the assistance of Romulus, an allusion to the expedition of Caeles Vibenna, which however belongs to a much later period. The Sabine king, Tatius, was induced by treachery to settle on the hill which is called the Tarpeian arx. Between the Palatine and the Tarpeian rock a battle was fought, in which neither party gained a decisive victory, until the Sabine women threw themselves between the combatants, who agreed that henceforth the sovereignty should be divided between the Romans and Sabines. According to the annals, this happened in the fourth year of Rome.

But this arrangement lasted only a short time; Tatius was slain during a sacrifice at Lavinium, and his vacant throne was not filled up. During their common reign, each king had a senate of one hundred members, and the two senates, after consulting separately, used to meet, and this was called comitium. Romulus during the remainder of his life ruled alone; the ancient legend knows nothing of his having been a tyrant: according to Ennius he continued, on the contrary, to be a mild and benevolent king, while Tatius was a tyrant. The ancient tradition contained nothing beyond the beginning and the end of the reign of Romulus; all that lies between these points, the war with the Veientines, Fidenates, and so on, is a foolish invention of later annalists. The poem itself is beautiful, but this inserted narrative is highly absurd, as for example the statement that Romulus slew 10,000 Veientines with his own hand. The ancient poem passed on at once to the time when Romulus had completed his earthly career, and Jupiter fulfilled his promise to Mars, that Romulus was the only man whom he would introduce among the gods. According to this ancient legend, the king was reviewing his army near the marsh of Caprae, when, as at the moment of his conception, there occurred an eclipse of the sun and at the same time a hurricane, during which Mars descended in a fiery chariot and took his son up to heaven. Out of this beautiful poem the most wretched stories have been manufactured; Romulus, it is said, while in the midst of his senators was knocked down, cut into pieces, and thus carried away by them under their togas. This stupid story was generally adopted, and that a cause for so horrible a deed might not be wanting, it was related that in his latter years Romulus had become a tyrant, and that the senators took revenge by murdering him.

After the death of Romulus, the Romans and the people of Tatius quarrelled for a long time with each other, the Sabines wishing that one of their nation should be raised to the throne, while the Romans claimed that the new king should be chosen from among them. At length they agreed, it is said, that the one nation should choose a king from the other.

We have now reached the point at which it is necessary to speak of the relation between the two nations, such as it actually existed.

All the nations of antiquity lived in fixed forms, and their civil relations were always marked by various divisions and sub-divisions. When cities raise themselves to the rank of nations, we always find a division at first into tribes; Herodotus mentions such tribes in the colonization of Cyrene, and the same was afterwards the case at the foundation of Thurii; but when a place existed anywhere as a distinct township, its nature was characterized by the fact of its citizens being at a certain time divided into gentes (yevn) each of which had a common chapel and a common hero. These gentes were united in definite numerical proportions into curiae (Fratres). The gentes are not families but free corporations, sometimes close and sometimes open; in certain cases, the whole body of the state might assign to them new associates; the great council at Venice was a close body, and no one could be admitted whose ancestors had not been in it, and such also was the case in many oligarchical states of antiquity.

All civil communities had a council and an assembly of burghers, that is a small and a great council; the burghers consisted of the guilds or gentes, and these again were united, as it were, in parishes; all the Latin towns had a council of 100 members, who were divided into ten curiae; this division gave rise to the name of decuriones, which remained in use as a title of civic magistrates down to the latest times, and through the lex Julia was transferred to the constitution of the Italian municipia. That this council consisted of one hundred persons has been proved by Savigny, in the first volume of his history of the Roman law. This constitution continued to exist till a late period of the middle ages, but perished when the institution of guilds took the place of municipal constitutions. Giovanni Villani says, that previously to the revolution in the twelfth century there were at Florence 100 buoni uomini, who had the administration of the city. There is nothing in our German cities which answers to this constitution. We must not conceive those hundred to have been nobles; they were an assembly of burghers and country people, as was the case in our small imperial cities, or as in the small cantons of Switzerland. Each of them represented a gens; and they are those whom Propertius calls patres pelliti. The curia of Rome, a cottage covered with straw, was a faithful memorial of the times when Rome stood buried in the night of history, as a small country town surrounded by its little domain.

The most ancient occurrence which we can discover from the form of the allegory, by a comparison of what happened in other parts of Italy, is a result of the great and continued commotion among the nations of Italy. It did not terminate when the Oscans had been pressed forward from lake Fucinus to the lake of Alba, but continued much longer. The Sabines may have rested for a time, but they advanced far beyond the districts about which we have any traditions. These Sabines began as a very small tribe, but afterwards became one of the greatest nations of Italy, for the Marrucinians, Caudines, Vestinians, Marsians, Pelignians, and in short all the Sunnite tribes, the Lucanians, the Oscan part of the Bruttians, the Picentians and several others were all descended from the Sabine stock, and yet there are no traditions about their settlements except in a few cases. At the time to which we must refer the foundation of Rome, the Sabines were widely diffused. It is said that, guided by a bull, they penetrated into Opica, and thus occupied the country of the Samnites. It was perhaps at an earlier time that they migrated down the Tiber, whence we there find Sabine towns mixed with Latin ones; some of their places also existed on the Anio. The country afterwards inhabited by the Sabines was probably not occupied by them till a later period, for Falerii is a Tuscan town, and its population was certainly at one time thoroughly Tyrrhenian.

As the Sabines advanced, some Latin towns maintained their independence, others were subdued; Fidenac belonged to the former, but north of it all the country was Sabine. Now by the side of the ancient Roma we find a Sabine town on the Quirinal and Capitoline close to the Latin town; but its existence is all that we know about it. A tradition states, that there previously existed on the Capitoline a Siculian town of the name of Saturnian, which, in this case, must have been conquered by the Sabines. But whatever we may think of this, as well as of the existence of another ancient town on the Janiculum, it is certain that there were a number of small towns in that district. The two towns could exist perfectly well side by side, as there was a deep marsh between them.

The town on the Palatine may for a long time have been in a state of dependence on the Sabine conqueror whom tradition calls Titus Tatius; hence he was slain during the Laurentine sacrifice, and hence also his memory was hateful. The existence of a Sabine town on the Quirinal is attested by the undoubted occurrence there of a number of Sabine chapels, which were known as late as the time of Varro, and from which he proved that the Sabine ritual was adopted by the Romans. This Sabine element in the worship of the Romans has almost always been overlooked, in consequence of the prevailing desire to look upon everything as Etruscan; but, I repeat, there is no doubt of the Sabine settlement, and that it was the result of a great commotion among the tribes of middle Italy.