« ForrigeFortsett »
THIS Volume contains a history of Rome from the destruction of Carthage to the end of the war with Jugurtha. It is my intention to continue the history to the end of the Civil Wars.
It is probable that the Second Volume will contain the history of the same number of years as the first, and thus the two volumes will comprehend a period for which the evidence is deficient, and also frequently of little value. The chief authorities are stated at the head of each chapter of the Table of Contents, and the value of the authorities is estimated in the work as the occasions require.
The Epitome of Livy informs us of the most important facts which were contained in the books that have perished. Freinsheim composed a Supplement to Livy, and he comprised in each book of his Supplement the events which the corresponding book of the Epitome has briefly recorded. He made up for the defects of the Epitome by collecting facts from all the extant authorities. His Supplement is a work of great labour and it is well executed. It is written in Latin, and generally in a clear and intelligible style; and though it is a very imperfect substitute for Livy, it probably contains nearly all the facts which the original contained and some also that Livy may have omitted. I do not know if there is any edition of Freinsheim's Supplement which contains the references to the numerous authorities that he has used. My edition does not contain these references, and it was very laborious to discover the evidence for all that Freinsheim has written. I have however discovered nearly all the original passages, and I have found that Freinsheim has used them
fairly, and that he has generally put the facts in the right place and given to them their true meaning. Our present knowledge of geography and of Roman institutions enables us to avoid some of Freinsheim's errors; but his work is still useful, and it has been used by some writers with little acknowledgment. At the head of each of my chapters in the Table of Contents I have placed the title of the books of the Supplement which treat of the matter contained in each chapter.
Thus I have followed the order of Livy's narrative, but I have not followed the Supplement so far as to place all the events of each year under one year in the Annalistic fashion. Such a mode of writing history, while it maintains a strict chronological order, necessarily separates facts which cannot be separated without destroying that continuity which gives to events their full significance. Thus the war with Viriathus and the slave-rising in Sicily must be written and read as a continuous narrative; and the tribunates of the Gracchi must be treated the same way.
There are various fashions of writing antient history. A man may take a certain period for his study, diligently examine all the authorities and reflect on the matter long enough to see, or to think that he sees, the connexion of all the parts of his subject. If he is a man of ability, he may please and instruct his readers by brilliant sketches, broad generalizations, and profound political remarks. He may produce something which at the present day would be called a philosophical history, whatever may be meant by that much abused name. But there is great danger in treating history this way, even when a man of ability undertakes it. Love of system, desire of display, and the uncontrollable impulse to establish opinions, which in some way fix themselves in most men's minds before the evidence on which they should be founded, will often lead astray even the ablest and the most honest. It is a good ground of complaint also against such histories, that the facts are often very imperfectly stated and frequently are rather alluded to than plainly told; and consequently, though the reading of such books may be very instructive to those who have a competent
knowledge of antient history, they are of little use to those who know nothing about it, and wish to learn. When this kind of philosophical history is attempted by men of small talent and great pretensions, the result is a mixture of false facts and silly declamation. Modern history has felt the influence of the modern school of fiction, and history assumes the character of the historical novel.
There is another way of writing history, more laborious to the writer and less attractive to those readers who dislike the trouble of thinking, and look for amusement more than for truth; for there are such readers and writers too. Thucydides says, that most men are impatient of labour in the search of truth, and embrace soonest the things that are next. to hand. The writer, who follows this less ambitious course, must patiently examine facts and attempt to put them in their proper place: the reader, if he would know the facts and what they mean, must follow the narrative and share the toil by reading carefully what the historian has written with pains. To study a history well is a work of labour. Those who expect to know something of Roman history by reading fine dissertations, glowing descriptions and eloquent delineations of character and manners, will only be deceived into believing that they know what they do not know. If a man will write Roman history and tell others what he has learned of it, he must not spare his own labour, and he will demand the attention of his reader. It will not be enough for the writer to follow modern historians, whatever their merit may be. If he does not feel strong enough to handle the original authorities, he had better not touch the thing at all. In studying the antient authorities he will not however neglect the assistance that may be got from many excellent critics who have laboured to expound the constitution of Rome, the growth of Roman law, the military system, and every thing that may help to explain the external and internal history of a State, out of which the present social condition of western Europe has come. The complete examination of the immense mass of materials produced by modern industry is indeed more than one man could accomplish in a lifetime; and we are yet far from the day when the results of modern inquiry
can be considered so far certain that a useful history of Rome can be put in a few volumes. When this day shall come, some man will be ready to do the work. In the mean time we may labour, each as he best can, to prepare the way for that which we cannot do ourselves.
Roman history will instruct a careful reader, if he will be content to follow a writer who has done his best to establish the facts and to put them in their proper order without any unnecessary words. If the narrative is sometimes tedious, it must be remembered that truth cannot be reached without labour, and that if we would discipline our minds and improve our judgment in human affairs, we must learn the facts on which our understanding is to be exercised. For the purpose of history being to teach men political wisdom, it follows that this can only be done by observing the course of past events and seeing what things go before and what follow after. Hobbes, in his address to his readers, prefixed to his translation of Thucydides, says that in him the faculty of writing history was at the highest; and he adds: "It is true that there be many excellent and profitable Histories written since, and in some of them there be inserted very wise discourses both of manners and policy; but being discourses inserted, and not of the contexture of the narration, they indeed commend the knowledge of the writer, but not the history itself, the nature whereof is merely narrative. In others there be subtle conjectures at the secret aims and inward cogitations of such as fall under their pen, which is also none of the least virtues in a history, where the conjecture is throughly grounded, not forced to serve the purpose of the writer in adorning his style or manifesting his subtlety in conjecturing. But these conjectures cannot often be certain, unless withall so evident that the narration itself may be sufficient to suggest the same also to the reader. But Thucydides is one who though he never digress to read a lecture, moral or political, upon his own text, nor enter into men's hearts further than the actions themselves evidently guide him, is yet accounted the most politic historiographer that ever writ. The reason whereof I take to be this: he filleth his narrations with that choice of matter and ordereth