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the other vices which they had previously displayed. In short, the Cæsarian laws were palliatives for the moment; they had no ameliorating force for the future.
In the Provinces there can be no doubt that the new monarchy was far more effective and benevolent than in the City. The fact that the governors were made responsible to a wary autocrat, instead of to corrupt lawcourts and a feeble Senate, improved the lot of the subjects of Rome to an incalculable extent. It was to Cæsar's interest that the provincials should be wealthy and contented, and therefore the oppresive governor and the swindling publicanus had to be kept in check and punished. The dictator did not himself live long enough to set the centralised system in proper working, but the mere fact that he had established a monarchy made the improvement inevitable. The reforms of Augustus were but the necessary corollary of his great-uncle's triumph. It was the same with the internal organisation of the empire: Cæsar wished to rule willing rather than disloyal subjects: hence came his endeavours to encourage municipal patriotism, to open a Roman career to prominent provincials (he even made senators of many Gauls and Spaniards), to develop new towns, and to strengthen old ones by his numerous colonies.
All, and more than all, that he had planned was carried out by Augustus, and the first century of the empire was undoubtedly a period of material prosperity in the Mediterranean lands such as had never been known in the days of the Republican régime. But it must be remembered that it was purely material-Cæsar could give no moral impulse to the world. The empire was a time of lost ideals, because its founder was himself a man who had lived down, or had never possessed, any governing enthusiasm, save that of personal ambition. Nations, like men, need an aim and an ideal to keep them sound. The mere enjoyment
THE ROMAN EMPIRE
of good administrative government is wholly inadequate to create or preserve real moral energy. And it is hard to see what the Roman of the empire which Cæsar created had to live for. Religion could not help him; indeed it barely existed. Cæsar himself was a sceptic; his greatnephew-equally irreligious at heart-served out to his subjects the archaistic revival of old ceremonial worship, and the hollow cult of Divus Julius. In neither of them was there the least breath of reality. The only moral force that existed for the subjects of the empire was the Stoic philosophy, which influenced but a few choice spirits, and at the best was but a counsel of despair—to keep the soul free and unpolluted if the body was doomed to servitude and misery. It was a
It was a philosophy for the individual, not for the state; its ground-idea was hat the times were evil, and that the good man could do no more than preserve his own self-respect. empire which pretended to have restored the Golden Age, the holding of such views was almost treasonable in itself.
Where neither religion nor philosophy can serve to maintain a healthy spirit and a moral basis for society, à vigorous national patriotism has sometimes served as a substitute. But the empire destroyed patriotism; it was cosmopolitan in its tendencies, and swamped the narrow but very real devotion to the city, which had been the main source of the strength of the earlier republic. Patriotism needs stress and adversity to develop its best features. It almost presupposes that the state has dangerous enemies, and aspirations that have yet to be fulfilled. But under the empire the Romans absorbed all their old neighbours and foes; Syrian and Spaniard, Briton and Numidian, were all made Romans of a sort. There was no peril from the external barbarian for two hundred years. The Parthian Empire was
slowly dwindling in strength; the Germans had not yet learnt to combine; they might perhaps check an invading army, but they could be no serious danger to the state. In short, there was no adequate object against which the patriotic impulse could be directed, and it gradually dwindled away into a vague and unfruitful pride. When external matters at last became serious, in the third century after Christ, there is no trace whatever of any sense of national duty among the heterogeneous “Romans” of the day. The bureaucracy, which the empire had bred, and the professional army, had to face the storm from the North without any support from the indifferent masses. What more could they have hoped, when the individual citizen was debarred from politics, and invited to entrust all his cares to the divine autocrat who had superseded the Senate and People?
Cæsar, in short, put an end to urban sedition and provincial misgovernment. But he and his great-nephew gave the world, instead of its old anarchy, a period of mere soulless material prosperity. If the Barbarians had never resumed the attack from without, if Christianity had never arisen to give new ideals from within, the Roman Empire would have gradually sunk into a self-satisfied stationary civilisation of the Chinese type. Whether it be considered as a despotism or as a bureaucracy, it was a magnificent failure. Already by the end of the second century, before the German attack grew dangerous, it had lapsed into moral and physical impotence. On the civil side it was over-governed and over-taxed; on the military side it had developed a denationalised army, which had begun to sell the diadem to the highest bidder. It is hardly necessary to recall the fact that between the death of Commodus and the accession of Diocletian-a period of no more than ninety years—some thirty emperors (not
THE PROBLEMS OF MONARCHY
to speak of unrecognised usurpers and “tyrants”) came to violent ends at the hands of their own soldiery. The first Cæsar “ had taken the sword”—a clear majority of his successors “perished by the sword.”
What Julius himself intended to make of the empire we can but guess. He was cut off before he had made his intentions clear. His plans, we cannot doubt, were still in the process of development when he was cut off by the hands of Brutus and Cassius. He had enjoyed less than a year of complete sovereignty, and was still in the stage of trying experiments. Probably he designed to take the name of king: probably he intended to make his power hereditary, for he had adopted his great-nephew Octavian, and had begun to train him as his heir and successor. He was dealing with Senate and People in the true vein of the autocrat; to the one he was issuing undisguised commands, the other he was beginning to ignore as a factor in the constitution. Probably his heir had read his intentions, and we may interpret the plan of Julius by its execution under Augustus. The dictator was always an opportunist who watched the times with a wary eye; he had withdrawn his first tentative grasp at the diadem, and was still wearing the imperator's laurel wreath when he perished. But there can be little doubt that his purpose was deferred and not renounced. He had still far to go when the daggers of the conspirators intervened, and restored for a short space the anarchy which they called liberty. Yet if his work was not complete, he had at least done so much that the Republic could never be restored. He had worked out to its logical end the movement which Tiberius Gracchus had begun, which Marius had continued, which Sulla had vainly striven to stem, and which Pompey had unwittingly furthered. The problem of sovereignty had been solved; neither Senate nor People could rule the empire, and the in
evitable autocrat had taken over the powers which they had abused.
Whither autocracy would lead neither he nor any of his contemporaries could have foreseen. A new chapter in the world's history had been begun, but no more than its opening lines had been written when the great dictator perished on the fatal Ides of March.