o( the oBptehy lecmeJ moat of the pobfe kadi lor the«-selves, the state being only noounally landlanL What the bod-bOb of TSherias Gracchus ptupueed a ZBdetrihe-tioo, the proprietors vhom the landlords had wjIIImI on the kodi were threatened with starvation, and to aave themselves cast in their lot with the popular party who had ket everything, or had nothing to lose. With eictj step in Boman history we find the class smuggles accompanied with greater acrimony. As in ore developing jnftiwtrial and imperial hie from the last quarter of the eighteenth century imtil die era of recent social reforms, the rich grewricherand the poor poorer. 'Trusts' were formed, small proprietors became fewer as the oligarchy encroached. Mattes grew worse as Borne entered upon the conquest of the rich East. Immense sums poured into the treasury to be djsgoqgedmto private pockets; the domains of the East were exploited by the Boman speculator. Joint-stock companies were floated to collect with enormous profits the revenues. Large sums were needed by the exhausted lands to cany out public works and to repair the damage of war. In a thousand ways the speculator was able to make large returns, having no scruples of conscience to hamper him. A taste for luxuries spread from the East, and the demand created a supply. The cost of living rose, and was met by a decreasing marriage and birth rate. The stupid extravagance of the late Republic and the early Empire has rarely been equalled. The tough Boman character soon deteriorated amid self-indulgence. The unnatural and sudden fashion in which Rome came to her wealth led to her rftin. She had not the culture and education necessary to handle it aright. There was more wealth than could in that age be put to productive use. There was a field for investment (chiefly in land and slaves) but not large enough, or rather the banking system was not sufficiently developed. The result was what we might anticipate if the many British ^^^italists could not find all over the world a rich field for their surplus capital, and were to withdraw it for self-indulgence at home. Luxury among the plutocrats and paternalism on the part of the administration put a premium upon idleness in which no morality can thrive.

Increasing Number of Slaves

One of the evil results of war was the augmentation of the numbers of slaves. A cringing slave made an insolent master. Experience has proved that slavery exerts a deteriorating effect upon the character of the owners. It affected also the free labouring population : forced labour, considered cheaper than free, entered into competition with it. But, strange to say, we hear of no complaints of the free against the slave, nor any problem of unemployment. The few freemen anxious to work apparently found work, and the others preferred to be on the roll of state-fed.

Work for wages and the winning of daily bread was distasteful, especially to the Greek and to the later Roman. The Greek ideal was a life of leisure freed from toil and care. The plunder of conquests inoculated the Roman with an aversion to hard work : he loved otium, but it was no longer the well-earned rest. The Jew alone gave to toil an honourable place. Unfortunately the Roman administration did not encourage healthful labour, but rendered the situation worse by doling out corn and oil to idle men.

Destruction of the Middle Classes

Perhaps the most deplorable feature of this period was the destruction of the middle classes who form the backbone of every nation. This set in first in the Greek world, where the civil wars of the Greek states and the wars between the Greek kingdoms after Alexander had exhausted the free civic armies. In the East Rome completed the disastrous work. In Italy Hannibal had traversed the country exterminating the yeomanry. What Hannibal 1 spared Rome's own wars in Italy destroyed. The disappearance of the middle class created serious moral and social difficulties. This class generally keeps any oountry from rushing headlong to ruin; they are the last stronghold of a people's virtue; they mediate between the extremes of society. The absence of the middle class I deepened and widened the terrible social cleft in the ancient j world. An important reconciling factor had dropped out

Drift to City Lift

There was a constant drift to the cities, partly because of the decline of agriculture and small proprietorship, partly from ampler opportunities of making a fortune when commerce became brisk, partly for the sake of adventure, and other causes. The cities afforded ample means of amusement and excitement, as much sought then as now. In the first, and still more in the second century of the Empire, the world was studded with more beautiful cities than at the present day. The burdens fell on the rich more than in our time. The stone records abound in examples of private generosity for public purposes.

B. Moral Conditions appraising the morality of the Graeco-Roman world we must keep in view the many causes producing moral dis-order—centuries of political confusion, devastating congests, the depopulation of fair regions, the diminution toe free classes, the extermination of the middle classes, enormous increase of slavery whereby hundreds of Hollands of human beings were cut loose from the moral ^Vfaxts of their civilisations, culture, and religion, and, ™ by their misfortunes, became the panders and pro-r» of vice; the social upheavals arising from the fall of the city-state, the march of triumphant democracy, the mental void due to the fall of the national faiths, the sudden irruption of unearned wealth, the rise of capitalism and the growth of latifundia, the successful revolt of individualism, the world-shaking civil wars of Rome, the grinding taxation and the noxious fiscal system of Rome. The pagan world was morally depressed by the sense of a continuous deterioration, as we are inspired by that of an ' increasing purpose' in history. Also the Romans formed the aristocracy, the ' society,' among peoples more cultured than themselves, and thus prompted to what was often imitation of the inferior. It would be a remarkable world that such causes would not shake to the very foundations. Yet in face of all this, in the old world life, as ever, was rising from death.

It is much easier to depict the moral condition of one class of ancient society than to form a balanced judgment of its general morality. Hence exaggerations are current in most books dealing with this period.

It is an unpleasant task to draw aside the veil which covers the vice and sin of the ancient world; this is necessary, however, in order that our sketch may not be onesided. There is a dark and lurid aspect. Paul, who knew the Hellenistic age better than any modern writer, outlines an awful picture in his letter to the Romans i. 21 ff., though Paul knew another aspect also which he does not here mention.


Ancient society rested upon the foundation of slavery, which could not then be abolished without precipitating society into chaos. It was the wisdom and policy of early Christianity not to seek to exterminate slavery with one blow, but first regulate it while establishing the principles which, were sore to end it. Slavery was itself an advanced stage oi humanity in comparison with the time when all prisoners were put to the sword. The Greek and the Roman saw no more wrong in having slaves than we see in having domestio servants. The most fruitful souroe of slavery was war; next to that were piracy, kidnapping, brigandage, slave-breeding and debt.1 The total number of slaves in the Graeco-Roman world at any period is variously estimated, as also their relative proportion to the free. Le Maistre reckons 60,000,000 in the Empire. In Fergamum there was one slave to every two freemen. In the city of Rome the proportion was undoubtedly much greater: Beloch reckons 280,000 slaves to 600,000 free, Gibbon reckons as many slaves as free in the time of Claudius, Blair guesses the number of slaves and of free to be about equal up to the destruction of Carthage, and after that the proportion to be 3 to 1, giving a population of over 20,000,000 slaves in Italy. Zumpt reckons over 650,000 slaves in Rome in 6 B.C.

* A few examples will shew the numbers of slaves. Alexander sold 30,000 Thebans. In a census of Athens in the time of Demetrius Phalereus there were 400,000 slaves to 20,000 freemen. In Corinth 460,000 were found. Under the closing Roman Republic and the early Empire slavery reached its acme. Aemilius Paullus at the close of the war with Perseus sold 150,000 freemen of Epirus. After the victories of Marius 60,000 Cimbri and 90,000 Teutons are said to have been sold. Before the second Punie war, when Rome annexed Sardinia and Corsica, so many captives were sold that there arose a proverb, Sard* vencUes, ' as cheap as Sardinians.' In the slave wars of Sicily Eunus had 200,000 armed slaves. In the insurrection of Spartacus the numbers vary from 40,000 to 100,000, of whom 10,000 were executed by Crassus. Caesar sold 63,000 Gauls on a single occasion. Augustus tells on the Monumentim Aneyranvm that he delivered to their masters for execution 30,000. Trajan caused 10,000 slaves to engage in mutual slaughter to amuse the Roman people for four months. In the second century b.o. a» many as 10,000 were sold in the Delos market in one dar. Private Roman establishments possessed enormous numbers, amounting in some cases to 20,000. Crassus had over 500 carpenters and architects alone. Scaurus owned over 4000 urban slaves and as many country ones. A freedman under Augustus left 4116. When Pedanius was murdered 400 slaves were executed. Augustus forbad the liberation by testament of more than one-fifth, or a maximum of 100, of one's slaves. "The poorer freemen could not afford to keep slaves, but the parsimonious Cato Uticensis kept twelve in the distress of the civil wars, and ten does not seem an exorbitant number from the point of view of a poor poet like Horace.

In Greece, except at Athens, the condition of the slave was wretched. In the Roman Republic it was on the whole not so bad as in Greece, though not so favourable as in Athens. Hie slave was a res not a persona, had no rights, and enjoyed no protection from the brutality of his master. There was no asylum as at Athens. The master could inflict any punishment he pleased, could torture and maim, could break up servile family connections, could crucify. The worst slaves worked in the country in chains and slept in the ergastvlum. Runaway slaves met with frightful punishment when caught. A slave's evidence could only be given under torture. We read of masters crucifying their ¿laves after previously cutting out their tongues; for a paltry offence cutting off their hands or throwing them as food to the lampreys, or compelling them to fight in the amphitheatre. If a master was murdered the whole familia was executed. Even in the imperial period which witnessed humaner treatment to slaves, we still find terrible acts of caprice. Augustus is said to have crucified Eros, his steward, for eating a quail. Roman ladies tore their attendants' faces or drove pins into their flesh if a curl was out of place. It is no wonder slaves sometimes took vengeance, and there arose the saying, 'So many slaves so many enemies.'

The increase in slaves produced important economic and moral effects. Those from the West were employed chiefly in farming the estates of the rich, and so contributed to the revival of Italian agriculture in the first century b.o. But slave labour being thought cheaper than free diminished the demand for free work and lowered the wages: this in turn sent the rural populations into the vices and idleness of the cities. The slaves from the East were more skilful and cultured than their masters: these supplied the demands of specialised and skilled labour, for after the second Punic war labour, like politics, was professionalised. But these slaves were mostly em^la^d on unproductive toil. The enormous demand for skilled labour caused by the expansion of Borne once met, the Romans knew not how to put all their slaves to productive work.

The moral aspect of slavery is the most serious. Slavery proved in the end one of the causes of the downfall of Rome. After the cessation of Roman conquests, slavery fostered the cruel spirit bred by war and indifference to human suffering. It furnished most of the material for the most brutalising of all amusements—the gladiatorial oombats. Slavery inoculated society with a moral poison from which it never recovered. Men of culture superior to their masters, brought up once in freedom, enslaved by capricious fortune and unjust aggression, cut loose from the tempering traditions of home and the religion of their fathers and made the menials of a people whom they despised, were a dangerous element in society. Their revenge was to corrupt their overlords. They pandered to their vices, and sought new and exciting debaucheries for jaded masters. It was forbidden them to exercise moral discretion: nee turpe est quod dominus iubet. The plays of Menander, Plautus, and Terence show us how slaves helped their masters, young and old, in immorality. It was no unusual thing for a master to have a sort of harem among his younger female slaves, for the slave-girl had no protection against his lust. Even Roman matrons were known to stoop to shame with their slaves. The most baneful influence was in the training of youth. Children were brought up in an unhealthy atmosphere in which they saw the reckless conduct of their parents, and were committed to slave tutors whom they could not respect, and who were indifferent to the morals and character of their pupils. Among the younger slaves the sons of the house found half-brothers.

The Stage

The amusements of this period were not elevating. The stage proved a degrading factor. Drama had its origin in Greece in religion, and Greek tragedy is still an unspent moral force. None were found to take up the mantle of an Aeschylus, a Sophocles, or a Euripides. The old political Comedy culminated in Aristophanes. Upon the extinction of political life followed the Middle Comedy, and finally the New Comedy, or Comedy of manners, represented by Philemon and Menander, of which Mahaffy says,' a more mesquin and frivolous society has never been brought upon the stage than Attic New Comedy.9 Before Rome lost her earnestness, tragedy appealed to her by giving satisfaction to her ethical sympathies, and by its didactic and oratorical qualities. The taste for comedy came in about the time of the second Punic war. The comedies of Plautus and Terence, fabtUae paUiatae, were translations or adaptations of the frivolous Attic New Comedy. Here we are not concerned with the literary value, but with the moral effects of these plays. Plautus in the ease and security which succeeded the great war appealed to the craving for unrestrained enjoyment of pleasure. He liked new ways, manners and luxury. He does not inculcate nor encourage immorality, but at the best he is morally indifferent. 'It is rather in the absence of any virtuous ideal than in positive incitements to vice, that the Plautine comedy may be called immoral.'1 Terence in his urbane style set before his audience a refined, good-mannered, and cultivated society, in which the motto is ' to step aside is human.' Hence a kindly indulgence to weakness, a light-hearted tolerance of vice, a pervading sentimentality. In the fabvlae palliatae gods and men are alike degraded for amusement: scheming vice is applauded; the virtuous girl ensnared by the clever lover.

The stock characters are the meretrix Wanda, the leno, the parasite, the sensual old man, the unprincipled father and son enamoured of the same courtesan, the cheating slave, the braggadocio. After Terence a further decline in drama was caused by the exhaustion of the Greek materials, by concession to the growing passion for coarseness, by the loss of mutual sympathy between poet and people, by the decay of healthy public life. The result was the rise of the fabvla togata in which the scene was transferred from Athens to Rome, with a lowered moral tone and more prominence given to women. A further degradation was the displacement of comedy by the revival, in literary form, in the time of Sulla, of the Atellan farce which abounded in coarse jokes and obscene gesticulation. Even this gave place in the closing Republic and early Empire to worse—the Mimua—which came in as an after-play, but in the Empire was put upon the stage by itself. It gratified the basest propensities of the populace; 4 its plots were in general of an obscene character, especially seduction, scenes of adultery, cheating of husbands or fathers or persons easily imposed upon.'1 The mimae (female performers) were almost nude. The Mimus received literary treatment from Laberius and Pubtilius Syrus; the latter's sententiae are celebrated. This rapid decline of the stage corresponded with a general moral decline.

This debased stage was not sufficiently immoral and realistic for the Romans. Their crass nature found an outlet in the spectacles of the amphitheatre—the most shocking form in which any race has ever found amusement. While Rome has everywhere left witnesses of the blessings she conferred upon the world, ruins of amphitheatres in cities rise up in judgment against her. By a terrible

Amphitheatre cities rise up in judgment against her. By a terrible irony her greatest material monument extant is the Colosseum. Home lost her moral balance in successful campaigns: bloodshed was congenial, and when it ceased abroad she sought it in bloody civil wars. The Romans were unfitted to settle down again to the tranquil affairs of life; they sought excitement and recreation by witnessing in cold blood the agonies of men and animals. Gladiatorial games were introduced in 264 b.c. under the pretext of religion: they were defended as a means of sustaining the military spirit, like duels in Germany. Gladiatorial shows were given at the public games and at the banquets of the rich. The combatants were slaves, criminals or captives; later even freemen entered the arena, so great was the glory of successful combat. Exhibitors vied with each other in the numbers exposed to slaughter. Caesar put 320 pairs up at once; Agrippa caused 700 pairs to fight in one day in Berytus; under Augustus 10,000 fought; Titus, ' the darling of the human race,' put up 3000; Trajan amused Rome for 123 days by exhibiting 10,000 captives in mutual slaughter. Rome's holiest, the vestals, had seats of honour in the arena. Claudius liked to witness the contortions of dying gladiators. The fallen gladiator was dragged by a hook through Death's Gate, there stripped, and, if yet alive, despatched. So keen was the thirst for these shows that Augustus and Tiberius were obliged to restrict the numbers exposed. The lanistae who kept gladiatorial schools drove a thriving trade. To witness the murder of men in cold blood grew monotonous, and the Romans always loved novelty in their pleasures. Pompey introduced combats of men with wild beasts: it gave more excitement to witness an unarmed man, after his strength was exhausted, torn to pieces by a lion or tiger. Every excess of cruelty and novelty was tried. Sometimes animals were chained together to fight, or a criminal dressed in a wild beast's skin was thrown to a maddened bull. Under Titus 5000 animals perished in a day in the Colosseum. Domitian discovered another novelty in compelling an army of dwarfs to fight. Even female gladiators, especially under Nero and Domitian, appeared on the arena. Blindfolded men fought to the amusement of the crowd.

The passion spread in the provinces, especially Spain, Africa, the East and Gaul: gladiatorial shows were never so popular in Greece, except in Corinth—a Roman colony. Augustine testifies to their fatal fascination for Christian converts. That the gladiatorial games * continued for centuries, with scarcely a protest, is one of the most startling facts in moral history.91 The evil influence contaminated all existence. It unfitted men for the pursuits of peaceful life, encouraged cruel passions, created a demand for excitement, destroyed the idealistic by fostering extreme realism, exterminated all sense of disgust, rendered society callous to the misery and discomforts of their fellows, and so hindered the embryonic sense of brotherhood and humanity.

Position of Women

In domestic life and the relations of the sexes we find shocking irregularity. In Greece woman never occupied the high place she was assigned among the Jews and the Romans. Although the Greek believed in monogamy he never held his wife in high honour. 'We have,9 says Demosthenes, * hetairai for our pleasure, concubines for the ordinary requirements of the body, wives for the procreation of lawful issue and as confidential domestic guardians.' The Greek was not attracted to home life : he preferred the company of men out of doors and that of hetairai. These hetairai, unlike the modest and ignorant Greek wife, were women of culture and refinement who could talk intelligently on art and politics, could sing and » Ltcky, i. 271.

make pretty jokes. No shame attached to any connection between married or single men and these courtesans. Pericles was not ashamed of his Aspasia. Some of the noblest creations of art, including statues of goddesses, were copies of courtesan models. It is remembered against Socrates how he visited Theodota in the company of his disciples. Men would appear in the law-courts to contest the possession of a hetaira, and we read of a disputed hetaira being assigned to both claimants for a day each. One orator obtained a favourable verdict by exhibiting the nude charms of Phryne. Public opinion regarded these alliances as a thing morally indifferent. Statesmen were not ashamed to appear at the table of the noted Phryne. The state was more hallowed to the Greeks than the sanctities of love. The life of the Greek wife was one of seclusion, free from temptations, and protected by public opinion, while abundant provision was made for the irregular passions of husbands. Thucydides considers that wife best who is least spoken about either for her virtues or her vices by men. Fidelity and bedience, with indulgence to men's infidelity, are their chief virtues. The courtesan was sought on account of her physical beauty, her easy manners, and as a companion to take the place the Greek denied to his wife.1

In Rome the position of women was better. The Roman wife was as much in her husband's power as in Greece. But she was also his companion and could preside at his table. The Romans threw around marriage all the sanctities of religion. Woman gradually arose to a position of equality with her husband. The old form of marriage, 4 in hand,' gave place to the free marriage of the later Republic and Empire, whereby the wife became independent of her husband. After the restraints of ages

1 Mahaffy attributes the Greek lack of moral sense chiefly to three oauses: (1) low condition of women, and abeenee of their moral influence; (2) exposition of children; (8) slavery. of Greek Civilisation1217 ff.

there supervened a gross laxity of morals. Divorce became very common. Men could put away their wives for the slightest cause, and women could as easily divorce their husbands. Seneca tells us of women who marked their chronology by the names of their husbands rather than by the consuls. Marriage lost its sanctity: it was lightly entered upon because easily annulled.1


The estimation in which children are held is a fair index of the moral standard of a community. Among the Greeks and Romans children never were so precious as among the Jews. They regarded children from the utilitarian standpoint. While the potis stood children were essential to keep up the population and to supply soldiers. Children were a state rather than a private concern. The ancients, especially the Greeks, paid great attention to their education with a view to the service of the state: physical training was particularly emphasised. So much care is devoted in the systems of Plato and Aristotle to education that one might easily get the impression of the worth of children, but they are not esteemed for their own sake but for the future of the state. With the decay of political life and the rise of individualism, childlessness increased. Greeks and Romans discovered that while large families may be advantageous to the state, they are burdensome to parents: the duties of parenthood were neglected. The love of children for their own sake was not yet common. Economic considerations suggested a restriction of the population. The cost of living rose, and was partly met

* Cato gave his wife to his friend Hortensias, and married her again after his friend s death. Cicero divorced Terentia partly to get another dower, and divorced his next wife because she was not sufficiently sorry for the death of Tullia. Augustus took Livia from her husband when she was three months nrsgnant. Divorce entailed no disadvantages. There are examples of men rnt^Bmm their wives to friends, or borrowing their friend's wife for a period.

then, as now, by a reduction in the family. The taste for luxury could not be gratified with a large family to support. The increasing childlessness and disinclination to marriage seriously disconcerted statesmen. Augustus in vain offered considerable advantages to a father of three children, showing that this number in a family was rare. When domestic ties were relaxed, especially in Borne, to have progeny proved inconvenient to loose amours, to the support and gratification of mistresses, or to frequent change of wives. Several social considerations encouraged childlessness. An unencumbered man could maintain higher social rank, could bestow richer gifts, could walk the streets accompanied by a larger host of clients, and attract the parasites who gave their services in order to be named in his will. It is difficult to say how far paidcrustia contributed to childlessness.


It was not till the coming of Christianity that the foetus was regarded as a creature with rights. Abortion was widespread in all classes among the Greeks and Romans. Among the Jews child-murder and voluntary abortion were forbidden on pain of death. With the Greeks and Romans it was a matter of discretion. Means of abortion, apparently harmless to the mother, were in everyday use. The motives for abortion were poverty in the lower classes, and in the higher sensuality, and the desire for indulgence or the avoidance of pain or fear of disfigurement. ' No law in Greece or in the Roman Republic, or during the greater part of the Empire, condemned it.' Plato and Aristotle recommended it. Abortion was practised even by parents who wished children, because they could easily secure foundlings.

Exposition of Children and Infanticide

The general low esteem of children is farther proved by the almost general practice of infanticide and exposition of newly-born children, and by the occasional sale of them by poor parents. In Greece, where legislators aimed at checking the growth of the population as at Borne they aimed at increasing it, the killing of children, or their exposure, was quite usual. The Greeks liked small families. All weakling and deformed children were killed, or exposed to death or to the mercies of the public. Aristotle recommended this as a means, along with abortion, of restricting the birthrate, and in Plato's Republic the children of old or wicked parents, as also illegitimate and deformed children, are to be exposed. In Rome an ancient law required fathers to bring up all males and the first daughter, but allowed the exposure or destruction of misshapen births. But this law was more honoured in the breach than in the observance, as we find exposition common especially among the poor, the upper classes having recourse to abortion. Infanticide did not, however, grow so serious until the era of the closing Republic and the early Empire; at least our sources of that date contain ampler reference to the practice.

It was sanctioned on the Roman stage. It has been remarked that the same man, Chremes, who in the Heauton timoroumenos uttered the words ' I am a man and regard nothing human as alien to me,' charged his wife to kill her child if it was a girl. It was apparently quite usual for a husband when starting on a journey and leaving a pregnant wife to leave orders for her to destroy it if a girl. The wife of Chremes was too womanly to kill, and so exposed her child—a worse fate. Apuleius tells of a father giving this too common command on his departure, which his wife secretly disobeyed. One of the most striking documents of antiquity is an autograph letter1 from

» Oxyrh. Pap., iv. 744 (or Witkowski, £p. pw., No. 68, or Dttaunaaa,

Egypt addressed by Hilarion to his wife Alis, charging her to destroy the child soon to be born if it proved to be a girl. Seneca in De Ira says, 4 we destroy monstrous "births; infants also if weak or misshapen we drown. It is not anger but reason to separate the useless from the healthy.9 Tertullian says, 4 how many among you, even in the magistracy, destroy your children: you drown them, or expose them to die of cold or hunger, or to be eaten of dogs.' Suetonius tells that upon the death of Germanicus mothers exposed their infants as a sign of grief.

Infanticide was in every way more merciful than exposition by putting an end to the little one's sufferings and {(paring it later infamy. Exposition created a numerous class of foundlings in whom there was a large traffic. Some made a business of collecting foundlings, some to maim the little ones for purposes of mendicancy, some to rear them as slaves, some to use the males for paiderastia and the girls for prostitutes; or witches picked them up to use their brains or bones for magical purposes. Chremes, above mentioned, reproached his wife for having exposed instead of killing her baby-girl, thereby abandoning her to some old witch or to become a slave or prostitute.


Vice found oongenial soil in the Graeco-Roman world. The more men were divorced from serious public concerns, the more room there was for self-indulgence : men having not yet found their place as individuals, abused their new liberty as licence. Greece had a tremendous influence on the morals of the age. The characteristic Greek virtue was moderation in all things—including vice. Greek culture and refinement was for Greek gentlemen, not for their wives. The low estate of Greek wives and the

Light, etc.. p. 165, or Milligan, Greek Papyri, No. 12), roXXd woXXwr riKJftt fr dp&crop id* f/w 9ijke* Upakt, 1. 81L

0 0

Post a comment