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an impartial hand, however the prejudices of country might bias his judgment.
Rise and progress of philosophy at Rome, to the death of Marcus
ALTHOUGH renowned and illustrious in the civil and military annals of the world, and prolific in poets, historians and orators, who have shed a brilliant light upon her history, Rome did not produce a single philosopher, who was conspicuous for boldness and originality, in the wide field of philosophic research and speculation. She had none who could come in competition with that host of eminent men, who, in the porticos, groves and gardens of Athens, investigated and explained the wonderful works of nature, and taught a sublime system of morals, to crowds of attentive and admiring disciples. It is true, that some writers, in their zeal to advance the Roman character in all things, as well in science as in arms, have carried back the history of philosophy to the time of Numa, and have not only placed bim in the list of philosophers, but have considered him as the first Roman entitled to this distinguished appellation. What his claims may have been, and what were his peculiar merits, it is difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain, as all his works, which could have thrown any light upon the subject, were buried with him, and have consequently perished. Without attempting to detract from the fame of Numa, we are inclined to the belief, that his doctrines are not much superior to those of many other benefactors of the human family, unless his talents, · as a legislator, and acquirements in civil polity, presuppose an acquaintance with the principles of philosophy. His claims to the character of a legislator, whose object was to improve the condition of his subjects, are not so equivocal; they are more clearly and comprehensively displayed in the wise regulations
* Plut. Lives; Mid. Cic.; Quin. Ing.; Melmoth's Pliny; Lem. Class. Dic.; Edin. Ency; Abbé Mauy on Elo.; Fenelon dia on Orå.; Cours de Lit. par La harpe, &c.
and excellent institutions he adopted for the government of a people, rude and barbarous, and which were delivered with the imposing circumstances and powerful effect, that attend the promulgation of laws sanctioned by a divinity. These laws and regulations, we consider rather as the result of the reflections of a sound and vigorous mind, strictly disciplined, than of philosophical speculation and research.
The rise of philosophy at Rome, may be more correctly dated from about the year 156 before Christ, when Carneades, the Academic, Diogenes the Stoic, and Critolaus, the Peripatetic, visited the city, and communicated to the Roman youth a taste for philosophical studies and pursuits, and an earnest desire to be instructed in Grecian literature, of which they were then almost entirely ignorant. Whatever system of philosophy had been taught by Numa, had long been forgotten, and the minds of men were, therefore, more disposed to receive the new doctrines, and more likely to be impressed by them. Their wisdom and eloquence soon gained their attention and disciples, notwithstanding the opposition of Cato the censor, who was so excited against them, as to procure a decree of the senate, which caused their removal from Rome, and a few years after, the censors, in the plenitude of their power and authority, issued an edict, setting forth, that “whereas certain men have instituted a new kind of learning, and opened schools in which young men trifle away their time, day after day, we, judging this innovation to be inconsistent with the purpose for which our ancestors established schools, contrary to ancient custom, and injurious to our youth, do hereby warn both those who keep those schools, and those who frequent them, that they are herein acting contrary to our pleasure.” This edict was rigorously enforced and the schools shut, and having accomplished the immediate design of its enactment, that of closing the schools then in existence, it lay dormant for many years after, but was again revived about 91 years before Christ, when other schools of rhetoric and philosophy were about to be opened. 'Notwithstanding the decrees of the censors, philosophy gained some strength; some of the most distinguished of the Roman youth embraced the new doctrines and cultivated them with an assiduity becoming so important an object, as the improvement of their mental powers. Among those who were particularly distinguished for their ardor in the pur
suit of knowledge, were Scipio Africanus, Lelius, Furius, Quintius Tubero, a nephew of Scipio, and the consul Lucullus. They did not attach themselves to any particular sect, but examined and studied with care the systems of all, so that they made the principles and doctrines of each, subservient to their subsequent advancement in civil and military life. Lucullus, in order to promote a taste for learning and philosophy, made a large collection of valuable books, and established schools, to which he invited learned men of whatever sect, and he himself often appeared among them, engaging in conversation on subjects of literature and science. When Greece was finally conquered by the Roman arms, Rome opened her gates to receive within her walls, Grecian professors of wisdom and eloquence; all the prejudices which before existed, in a few years entirely vanished, and philosophers and rhetoricians, who were but lately proscribed, were held in honor and liberally rewarded.
It is worthy of remark, and only to be attributed to the disposition and character of the Roman people, which encouraged nothing but a warlike spirit, that the doctrines of the Pythagorean school, although first established in Italy, did not extend beyond that part of it called Græcia Magna, until the final conquest of Greece, five hundred years after the time of Pythagoras. It was then introduced into Rome, and shared, for a time, with the philoscphers of the Ionic school, the countenance and patronage of the Roman people. The most distinguished Roman disciple of this mysterious school was Publius Nigidius, who was contemporary with Cicero, and who is described as an acute and penetrating inquirer into the operations of nature. Nigidius having attached himself to the cause of Pompey, when Cæsar assumed the supreme power, was banished from Rome, and the doctrines of Pythagoras having lost their chief support, fell into disrepute.
In the variety of opposing and conflicting opinions of the different sects, whose disciples were heard in Rome, the Platonic or Academic, had the greatest number of votaries, owing perhaps, as well to the influence of Carneades, one of its most illustrious ornaments, and the impressions made by his instructions, as to the sublime and fascinating character of the doctrines themselves, which laid open new views of nature, and inculcated the most important principles in morals. To this school the celebrated Cicero was chiefly attached, although he made himself ac
quainted with the tenets of each, drawing upon the rich store of information thus obtained, for some of the materials employed in his powerful displays of eloquence, to which senates listened with wonder and delight, and which, after a lapse of eighteen hundred years, continue to improve and instruct mankind.
The stoic sect found also many disciples. In Cato of Utica, whose life was an exemplar of the doctrines he professed, it possessed a distinguished advocate. This celebrated man was a descendant of Cato the censor, and exhibited throughout his whole life an example of the most rigid virtue, inflexible integrity and determination of purpose, which nothing could shake. He was unmoved and inflexible at the head of his cohorts and in the field of battle, as in the Roman senate-in the midst of his little senate of Utica, while deliberating upon measures for the public good in a trying time of the republic, as when, surrounded by his friends, he gave the fatal blow that deprived himself of life, and his country of a brilliant ornament, at the same time exhibiting a striking instance of the unsubdued firmness of a noble mind.
The Peripatetic philosophy, or that of which Aristotle was the founder, was introduced into Rome in the time of Scylla, who, when the city of Athens fell into his hands, purchased the writings of Aristotle and Theophrastus, which were found in the possession of some of their descendants and carried them to Rome. Being much defaced and some parts entirely destroyed, Scylla placed them in the hands of Tyrannis, a celebrated grammarian and critic, who transcribed the greater part, himself and some of his friends supplying the deficiencies. Thus we have the works of Aristotle imperfect and mutilated, and disfigured by interpolations. This system found many admirers and advocates, among whom were Crassus, who employed a philosopher of his school as a preceptor, and Cicero, notwithstanding his predilection for that of Plato.
The Epicurean philosophy met with considerable opposition, in consequence of the irregularity of some of its followers, whose deviations from the path of rectitude were attributed to the errors and defects of the system itself. It was violently assailed by the followers of Zeno, to whose sterner maxims it was opposed, by giving greater license to the inclinations and propensities of mankind. Cicero also opposed it with great vehemence, and
took every opportunity of inveighing, not only against the principles of the sect, but against the character of Epicurus himself. Montesquieu says, that the introduction of the philosophy of Epicurus, was one great cause of the corruption of the Roman people, and the downfall of the republic.* This sect has, however, found ingenious, if not able, defenders, in modern times, who represent its founder as no less the friend of strict virtue and rational pleasure, than the enemy of vice and those low and groveling passions, that disgrace our nature.f Notwithstanding the violent opposition of the Stoics, backed by the weight and influence of Cicero, it found many powerful friends among the most respectable characters of Rome, particularly in the celebrated poet Lucretius, of whom we have already spoken, and Atticus, the bosom friend of Cicero, to whom many of his epistles are addressed, and who, to make himself better acquainted with the doctrines of the sect, visited Athens, and studied under Phidius, and Zeno the Sidonian.
Having thus briefly sketched the state of philosophy as it existed at Rome, before the introduction of christianity, we will offer a few remarks upon that great event, and then bring to view some of those philosophers of different sects, both pagan and christian, who made themselves conspicuous by their wisdom and learning.
Of all the events recorded in history which have occurred since the creation of the world, the most wonderful, interesting and important, is the introduction of christianity. The changes and revolutions which taken place in the political world, the rise and fall of empires, are interesting and important events, involving as they do, the happiness and prosperity of nations; but how little do all the mighty schemes of politicians for national aggrandisement appear, when compared with the stupendous revolution produced in the moral world, by the introduction and promulgation of the christian religion. Scarcely had its author offered himself and cemented with his blood, the religion he presented to mankind, when his favored disciples, clothed in the sacred mantle of his righteousness, and invested with full powers as ambassadors of God, began to propogate his doctrines among the gentile nations, who were then the slaves of a super
*Gran. et Dec. des Rom. ch. 10. + See Miss Wright's "Few days in Athens."