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occupied by licentious farce, effeminate music, and splendid pageantry. The pantomimes,64 who maintained their reputation from the age of Augustus to the sixth century, ex. pressed, without the use of words, the various fables of the gods and heroes of antiquity; and the perfection of their art, which sometimes disarmed the gravity of the philosopher, always excited the applause and wonder of the people. The vast and magnificent theatres of Rome were filled by three thousand female dancers, and by three thousand singers, with the masters of the respective choruses. Such was the popular favor which they enjoyed, that, in a time of scarcity, when all strangers were banished from the city, the merit of contributing to the public pleasures exempted them from a law, which was strictly executed against the professors of the liberal arts.65
It is said, that the foolish curiosity of Elagabalus attempted to discover, from the quantity of spiders' webs, the number of the inhabitants of Rome. A more rational method of inquiry might not have been undeserving of the attention of the wisest princes, who could easily have resolved a question so important for the Roman government, and so interesting to succeeding ages. The births and deaths of the citizens were duly registered ; and if any writer of antiquity had condescended to mention the annual amount, or the common average, we might now produce some satisfactory calculation, which would destroy the extravagant assertions of critics, and perhaps confirm the modest and probable conjectures of philosophers. The most diligent researches have collected only the following circumstances; which, slight and imperfect as they are, may tend, in some degree, to illustrate the question of the populousness of ancient Rome. I. When the capital of the empire was besieged by the Goths, the circuit of the walls was accurately measured, by Ammonius, the mathematician,
64 See the dialogue of Lucian, entitled de Saltatione, tom. ii. pp. 265-317, edit. Reitz. The pantomimes obtained the honorable name of xelpooooo!; and it was required that they should be conversant with almost every art and science. Bu rette (in the Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions, tom. i. p. 127, &c.) has given a short history of the art of pantomimes.
65 Ammianus, l. xiv. c. 6. He complains, with decent indignation, that t1:0 streets of Rome were filled with crowds of females, who might have given chil. dren to the state, but whose only occupation was to curl and dress their hair, and jactari volubilibus gyris, dum experimunt innumera simulacra, quæ finxere
of Lipsius (tom. iii. p. 423, de Magnitud. Romana, 1. iii. c. 3) and Issac Vossius (Observat. Var. pp. 26-34) have indulged strange dreams, of four, or eight, or fourteen, millions in Rome. Mr. Hume (Essays, vol. i. pp. 450--457), with admira ble good sense and skepticism, betrays some secret disposition to extenuate the populousness of ancient times.
to pl lo
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who found it equal to twenty-one miles.67 It should not be forgotten that the form of the city was almost that of a circle; the geometrical figure which is known to contain the largest space within any given circumference. II. The architect Vitruvius, who flourished in the Augustan age, and whose evidence, on this occasion, has peculiar weight and authority, observes, that the innumerable habitations of the Roman people would have spread themselves far beyond the narrow limits of the city; and that the want of ground, which was probably. contracted on every side by gardens and villas, suggested the common, though inconvenient, practice of raising the houses to a considerable height in the air. 68
But the loftiness of these buildings, which often consisted of hasty work and insufficient materials, was the cause of frequent and fatal accidents; and it was repeatedly enacted by Augustus, as well as by Nero, that the height of private edifices within the walls of Rome, should not exceed the measure of seventy feet from the ground. III. Juvenal 70 laments, as it should seem from his own experience, the hardships of the poorer citizens, to whom he addresses the salutary advice of emigrating, without delay, from the smoke of Rome, since they might purchase, in the little towns of Italy, a cheerful commodious dwelling, at the same price which they annually paid for a dark and miserable lodging. House-rent was therefore immoderately dear: the rich acquired, at an enormous expense, the ground, which they covered with palaces and gardens; but the body of the Roman people was crowded into a narrow space; and the different floors, and apartments, of the same house, were
67 Olympiodor, ap. Phot. p. 197. See Fabricius, Bibl. Grec. tom. ix. p. 400.
08 In ea autem majestate urbis, et civium infinitâ frequentiâ, innuinerabiles habitationes opus fuit explicare. Ergo cum recipere non posset area plana tan. tam multitudinem in urbe, ail auxilium altitu dinis ædlificiorum res ipsa coëgit devenire. Vitruv. ii. 8. This passage, which I owe to Vossius, is clear, strong and comprehensive.
09 The successive testimonies of Pliny, Aristides, Claudian, Rutilius, &c., prove the insufficiency of these restrictive edicts. See Lipsus, de Magnitud. Romana,
Tahulata tibi jam tertia fumant;
Juvenal. Satir. iii. 199.
1. iii. c. 1.
divided, as it is still the custom of Paris, and other cities, among several families of plebeians. IV. The total number of houscs in the fourteen regions of the city, is accurately stated in the description of Rome, composed under the reign of Theodosius, and they amount to forty-eight thousand three hundred and eighty-two.71 The two classes of domus and of insulæ, into which they are divided, include all the habitations of the capital, of every rank and condition, from the marble palace of the Anicii, with a numerous establishment of freedmen and slaves, to the lofty and narrow lodging-house, where the poet Codrus and his wife were permitted to hire a wretched garret immediately under the tiles. If we adopt the same average, which, under similar circumstances, has been found applicable to Paris,72 and indifferently allow about twenty-five persons for each house, of every degree, we may fairly estimate the inhabitants of Rome at twelve hundred thousand : a number which cannot be thought excessive for the capital of a mighty empire, though it exceeds the populousness of the greatest cities of modern Europe.78 *
71 This sum total is composed of 1780 domus, or great houses, of 46,602 insulce, or plebeian habitations (see Nardini, Roma Antica, 1. iii.p. 88); and these numbers are ascertained by the agreement of the texts of the different Notitiæ. Nardini, 1. viii. pp. 498-500.
72 See that accurate writer M. de Messance, Recherches sur la Population, pp. 175-187. From probable, or certain grounds, he assigns to Paris 23,565 houses, 71,114 families, and 576,630 inhabitants.
73 This computation is not very different from that which M. Brotier, the last editor of Tacitus (tom. ii. p. 380), has as: umed from similar principles ; though he seems to aim at a degree of precision which it is neither possible nor import
ant to obtain,
* M. Dureau de la Malle (Economie Politique des Romaines, t. i. p. 369) quotes a passage from the xvth chapter of Gibbon, in which he estimates the population of Rome at not less than a million, and adds (omitting any reference to this passage), that he (Gibbon) could not have seriously studied the question. M. Dureau de la Malle proceeds to argue that Rome, as contained within the walls of Servius Tullius, occupying an area only one-tifth of that of Paris, could not have contained 300,000 inhabitants ; within those of Aurelian not more than 560,000, in. clusive of soldiers and strangers. The suburbs, he endeavors to show, both up to the time of Aurelian, and after his reign, were neither so extensive, nor so populous, as generally supposed. M. Dureau de la Malle has but imperfectly quoted the important passage of Dionysus, that which proves that when he wrote (in the time of Augustus) the walls of Servius no longer marked the boundary of the city. In many places they were so built upon, that it was impossible to trace them. There was no certain limit, where the city ended and ceased to be the city; it stretched out to so boundless an extent into the country. qux @fel BéBacov σημείον ουδέν, ώ διαγνώσεται, μέχρι που προβαίνουσα ή ρόλις έτι πόλις έστι, και πόθεν έρχεται μηκέτι είναι πόλις ούτω συνύφανται τω αστει η χώρα, και εις άπειρον εκμηκυνομένης πόλεως υπόληψιν τους θεωμένοις παρέχεται ει δε τω τείχει, το δυσευρέτω μεν όντι διά τας περιλαμβανοόσας αυτό πολλαχήθεν οικηρέις, έχνη δέ τινα φυλάττοντι κατά πολλούς κόρους κής αρχαίας κατασκευής βουληθειη μετρείν αυτήν, κ. τ. λ. Αnt. Rom. iv. 13. None of M. de la Malle's arguments appear to me to prove, against this statement, that these irregular suburbs did not extend so far in many parts, as to make it impossible to calculate accurately the inhabited area of the city. Though no doubt the city, as reconstructed by Nero, was much less closely built, and with many more open spaces for palaces, temples, and other public editices,
Such was the state of Rome under the reign of Honorius, at the time when the Gothic army formed the siege, or rather the blockade, of the city.14 By a skilful disposition of his numerous forces, who impatiently watched the moment of an assault, Alaric encompassed the walls, commanded the twelve principal gates, intercepted all communication with the adjacent country, and vigilantly guarded the navigation of the Tiber, from which the Romans derived the surest and most plentiful supply of provisions. The first emotions of the nobles, and of the people, were those of surprise and indignation, that a vile Barbarian should dare to insult the capital of the world: but their arrogance was soon humbled by misfortune; and their unmanly rage, instead of being directed against an enemy in arms, was meanly exercised on a defenceless and innocent victim. Perhaps in the person of Serena, the Romans might have respected the niece of Theodosius, the aunt, nay, even the adoptive mother, of the reigning emperor: but they abhorred the widow of Stilicho; and they listened with credulous passion to the tale of calumny, which accused her of maintaining a secret and criminal correspondence with the Gothic invader. Actuated, or overawed, by the same popular frenzy, the senate, without requiring any evidence of her guilt, pronounced the sentence of her death. Serena was ignominiously strangled ; and the infatuated multitude were astonished to find, that this cruel act of injustice did not immediately produce the retreat of the Barbarians, and the deliverance of the city. That
74 For the events of the first siege of Rome, which are often confounded with those of the second and third, see Zosimus, 1. v. pp. 380-354, Sozomen, 1. ix. c. 6, Olympiodorus, ap. Phot. p. 180, Philostorgius, l. xii. c. 3, and Godefroy, Dissertat.
yet many passages seem to prove that the laws respecting the height of houses were not rigidly enforced. A great part of the lower, especially of the slave population, were densely crowded, and lived, even more than in our modern towns, in cellars and subterranean dwellings under the public edifices,
Nor do M. de la Malle's arguments, by which he would explain the insulæ (of which the Notitiæ Urbis give us the number) as rows of shops, with a chamber or two within the domus, or houses of the wealthy, satisfy me as to their soundness or their scholarship. Some passages which he adduces directly contradict his theory ; pone, as appears to me, distinctly prove it. I must adhere to the old interpretation of the word, as chiefly dwellings for the middling or lower classes, or clusters of tenements, often, perhaps, under the same roof.
On this point, Zumpt, in the Dissertation before quoted, entirely disagrees with M. de la Malle. Zumpt has likewise detected the mistake of M. de la Malle as to the "canon" of corn, mentioned in the life of Septimius Severus by Spartianus. On this canon the French writer calculates the inhabitants of Roine at that time. But the canon was not the whole supply of Rome, but that quantity which the state required for the public granaries, to supply the gratuitous distributions to the people, and the public officers and slaves ; no doubt likewise to keep down tho general price. M. Zumpt reckons the population of Rome at 2,000,000. After careful consideration, I should conceive the number in the text, 1,200,000, to be neares: the truth. ---M, 1815.
unfortunate city gradually experienced the distress of scarcity, and at length the horrid calamities of famine. The daily allowance of three pounds of bread was reduced to one-half, to one-third, to nothing; and the price of corn still continued to rise in a rapid and extravagant proportion. The poorer citizers, who were unable to purchase the necessaries of life, solicited the precarious charity of the rich; and for a while the public misery was alleviated by the humanity of Læta, the widow of the emperor Gratian, who had fixed her residence at Rome, and consecrated to the use of the indigent the princely revenue which she annually received from the grateful successors of her husband." But these private and temporary donatives were insufficient to appease the hunger of a numerous people; and the progress of famine invaded the marble palaces of the senators themselves. The persons of both sexes, who had been educated in the enjoyment of ease and luxury, discovered how little is requisite to supply the demands of nature; and lavished their unavailing treasures of gold and silver, to obtain the coarse and scanty sustenance which they would formerly have rejected with disdain. The food the most repugnant to sense or imagination, the aliments the most unwholesome and pernicious to the constitution, were eagerly devoured, and fiercely disputed, by the rage of hunger. A dark suspicion was entertained, that some desperate wretches fed on the bodies of their fellow-creatures, whom they had secretly murdered; and even mothers (such was the horrid conflict of the two most powerful instincts implanted by nature in the human breast), even mothers are said to have tasted the flesh of their slaughtered infants ! 76 Many thousands of the inhabitants of Rome expired in their houses or in the streets, for want of sustenance; and as the public sepulchres without the walls were in the power of the enemy, the stench, which arose from so many putrid and unburied carcasses, infected the air; and the miseries of famine were succeeded and aggravated by the contagion of a pestilential disease. The assurances of speedy and effectual relief, which were repeatedly transmitted from the court
76 The mother of Læta was named Pissumena. Her father, family, and couns try are unknown. Ducang, Fam. Byzantium, p. 59.
76 Ad nefandos cibog erupit esurientium rabies, et sua invicem membra laniarint, dum mater non parcit lactenti infantiæ; et recipit utero, quem paullò ante ctfuderat. Jerom. ad Principiam, tom. i. p. 121. The same horrid circumstance is likewise told of the sieges of Jerusalem and Paris. For the latter, compare the tenth book of the Henriade, and the Journal de Henri IV. tom. i. pp. 47-83; and observe that a plain narrative of facts is much more pathetic than the most labored descriptions of ethic poetry.