2. Beginnings of Rome
3. Institutions of Early Rome
4. Etruscan Kings of Rome
5. Reorganization of Kingdom

6. Struggle against Kingship
7. Struggle for Economic Rights
8. Struggle for Equal Laws
9. Struggle for Political Equality
10. Conquest of Latium
11. Conquest of Central Italy
12. Conquest of Southern Italy
13. Supremacy of Rome in Italy
14. First Punic War
15. Second Punic War
16. Conquests in East
17. Reduction of Roman Conquests
18. Rome as a World Power
19. Times of Gracchi
20. Times of Marius and Sulla
21. Times of Pompey and Caesar
22. Times of Antony and Octavius

23. Reign of Augustus
24. Julian Emperors
25. Flavian Emperors
26. Five Good Emperors
27. Decline of Empire
28. Reorganization of Empire
29. Extinction of Western Empire
Outlines of Roman History
by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L.
New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company (1901).



Table of contents




The Roman Government, I.Rome and the Provinces, II.The New Civilization, III.


   Effects of the Conquests.—We have thus followed the career of Rome during the most heroic period of her history. We have traced the path of her armies from the time they crossed the Sicilian Strait until they were finally victorious in Africa, in Spain, in Greece, and in Asia Minor. We have seen new provinces brought under her authority, until she had become the greatest power of the world. We may well wonder what would be the effect of these conquests upon the character of the Roman people, upon their government, and upon their civilization. Many of these effects were no doubt very bad. By their conquests the Romans came to be ambitious, to love power for its own sake, and to be oppressive to their conquered subjects. By plundering foreign countries, they also came to be avaricious, to love wealth more than honor, to indulge in luxury, and to despise the simplicity of their fathers. But still it was the conquests that made Rome the great power that she was. By bringing foreign nations under her sway, she was obliged to control them, and to create a system of law by which they could be governed. In spite of all its faults, her government was the most successful that had ever existed up to this time. It was the way in which Rome secured her conquests that showed the real character of the Roman people. The chief effect of the conquests was to transform Rome from the greatest conquering people of the world, to the greatest governing people of the world.

   The New Nobility.—The oldest Roman government was, we remember, based upon the patrician class. We have already seen how the separation between the patricians and the plebeians was gradually broken down. The old patrician aristocracy had passed away, and Rome had become, in theory, a democratic republic. Everyone who was enrolled in the thirty-five tribes was a full Roman citizen, and had a share in the government. But we must remember that not all the persons who were under the Roman authority were full Roman citizens. The inhabitants of the Latin colonies were not full Roman citizens. They could not hold office, and only under certain conditions could they vote. The Italian allies were not citizens at all, and could neither vote nor hold office. And now the conquests had added millions of people to those who were not citizens. The Roman world was, in fact, governed by the comparatively few people who lived in and about the city of Rome. But even within this class of citizens at Rome, there had gradually grown up a smaller body of persons, who became the real holders of political power. This small body formed a new nobility—the optimates. All who had held the office of consul, praetor, or curule aedile—that is, a “curule office”—were regarded as nobles (nobiles), and their families were distinguished by the right of setting up the ancestral images in their homes (ius imaginis). Any citizen might, it is true, be elected to the curule offices; but the noble families were able, by their wealth, to influence the elections, so as practically to retain these offices in their own hands.

   The Greatness of the Senate.—The new nobility sought to govern the world through the senate. The senators were chosen by the censor, who was obliged to place upon his list, first of all, those who had held a curule office. On this account, the nobles had the first claim to a seat in the senate; and, consequently, they came to form the great body of its members. When a person was once chosen senator he remained a senator for life, unless disgraced for gross misconduct. In this way the nobles gained possession of the senate, which became, in fact, the most permanent and powerful branch of the Roman government. Although it was an aristocratic and exclusive body, it was made up of some of the most able men of Rome. Its members were men of distinction, of wealth, and generally of great political ability. Though often inspired by motives which were selfish, ambitious, and avaricious, it was still the greatest body of rulers that ever existed in the ancient world. It managed the finances of the state; controlled the erection of public works; directed the foreign policy; administered the provinces; determined largely the character of legislation, and was, in fact, the real sovereign of the Roman state.

   The Weakness of the Assemblies.—We should naturally infer that with the increase of the power of the senate, the power of the popular assemblies would decline. The old patrician assembly of the curies (comitia curiata) had long since been reduced to a mere shadow. But the other two assemblies—that of the centuries and that of the tribes—still held an important place as legislative bodies. But there were two reasons why they declined in influence. The first reason was their unwieldy character. As they grew in size and could only say Yes or No to the questions submitted to them, they were made subject to the influence of demagogues, and lost their independent position. The second reason for their decline was the growing custom of first submitting to the senate the proposals which were to be passed upon by them. So that, as long as the senate was so influential in the state, the popular assemblies were weak and inefficient.


   The Organization of the Provinces.—The most important feature of the new Roman government was the organization of the provinces. There were now eight of these provinces: (1) Sicily, acquired as the result of the first Punic war; (2) Sardinia and Corsica, obtained during the interval between the first and second Punic wars; (3) Hither Spain and (4) Farther Spain, acquired in the second Punic war; (5) Illyricum, reduced after the third Macedonian war; (6) Macedonia (to which Achaia was attached), reduced after the destruction of Corinth; (7) Africa, organized after the third Punic war; and (8) Asia, bequeathed by Attalus III., the last king of Pergamum.

   The method of organizing these provinces was in some respects similar to that which had been adopted for governing the cities in Italy. Rome saw clearly that to control these newly conquered cities and communities, they must, like the cities of Italy, be isolated, that is, separated entirely from one another, so that they could not combine in any effort to resist her authority. Every city was made directly responsible to Rome. The great difference between the Italian and the provincial towns was the fact that the chief burden of the Italian town was to furnish military aid—soldiers and ships; while that of the provincial town was to furnish tribute—money and grain. Another difference was that Italian land was generally free from taxes, while provincial land was subject to tribute.

   The Provincial Governor.—A province might be defined as a group of conquered cities, outside of Italy, under the control of a governor sent from Rome. At first these governors were praetors, who were elected by the people. Afterward they were propraetors or proconsuls—that is, persons who had already served as praetors or consuls at Rome. The governor held his office for one year; and during this time was the supreme military and civil ruler of the province. He was commander in chief of the army, and was expected to preserve his territory from internal disorder and from foreign invasion. He controlled the collection of the taxes, with the aid of the quaestor, who kept the accounts. He also administered justice between the provincials. Although the governor was responsible to the senate, the welfare or misery of the provincials depended largely upon his own disposition and will.

   The Towns of the Province.—All the towns of the province were subject to Rome; but it was Rome’s policy not to treat them all in exactly the same way. Like the cities of Italy, they were graded according to their merit. Some were favored, like Gades and Athens, and were treated as allied towns (civitates foederatae); others, like Utica, were free from tribute (immunes); but the great majority of them were considered as tributary (stipendiariae). But all these towns alike possessed local self-government, so far as this was consistent with the supremacy of Rome; that is, they retained their own laws, assemblies, and magistrates.

   The Administration of Justice.—In civil matters, the citizens of every town were judged by their own magistrates. But when a dispute arose between citizens of different towns, it was the duty of the governor to judge between them. At the beginning of his term of office, he generally issued an edict, setting forth the rules upon which he would decide their differences. Each succeeding governor reissued the rules of his predecessor, with the changes which he saw fit to make. In this way justice was administered with great fairness throughout the provinces; and there grew up a great body of legal principles, called the “law of nations” (ius gentium), which formed an important part of the Roman law.

   The Collection of Taxes.—The Roman revenue was mainly derived from the new provinces. But instead of raising these taxes directly through her own officers, Rome let out the business of collecting the revenue to a set of money dealers, called publicani. These persons agreed to pay into the treasury a certain sum for the right of collecting taxes in a certain province. Whatever they collected above this sum, they appropriated to themselves. This rude mode of collecting taxes, called “farming” the revenues, was unworthy of a great state like Rome, and was the chief cause of the oppression of the provincials. The governors, it is true, had the power of protecting the people from being plundered. But as they themselves received no pay for their services, except what they could get out of the provinces, they were too busy in making their own fortunes to watch closely the methods of the tax-gatherers. Like every other conquering nation, the Romans were tempted to benefit themselves at the expense of their subjects.


   Foreign Influences; Hellenism at Rome.—When we think of the conquests of Rome, we usually think of the armies which she defeated, and the lands which she subdued. But these were not the only conquests which she made. She appropriated not only foreign lands, but also foreign ideas. While she was plundering foreign temples, she was obtaining new ideas of religion and art. The educated and civilized people whom she captured in war and of whom she made slaves, often became the teachers of her children and the writers of her books. In such ways as these Rome came under the influence of foreign ideas. The most powerful of these foreign influences was that of Greece. We might say that when Greece was conquered by Rome, Rome was civilized by Greece. These foreign influences were seen in her new ideas of religion and philosophy, in her literature, her art, and her manners.

   The Roman Religion.—As Rome came into contact with other people, we can see how her religion was affected by foreign influences. The worship of the family remained much the same; but the religion of the state became considerably changed. It is said that the entire Greek Olympus was introduced into Italy. The Romans adopted the Greek ideas and stories regarding the gods; and their worship became more showy and elaborate. Even some of the superstitious and fantastic rites of Asia found their way into Rome. These changes did not improve the religion. On the contrary, they made it more corrupt. The Roman religion, by absorbing the various ideas of other people, became a world-wide and composite form of paganism. One of the redeeming features of the Roman religion was the worship of exalted qualities, like Honor and Virtue; for example, alongside of the temple to Juno, temples were also erected to Loyalty and Hope.

   Roman Philosophy.—The more educated Romans lost their interest in religion, and betook themselves to the study of Greek philosophy. They studied the nature of the gods and the moral duties of men. In this way the Greek ideas of philosophy found their way into Rome. Some of these ideas, like those of the Stoics, were elevating, and tended to preserve the simplicity and strength of the old Roman character. But other ideas, like those of the Epicureans, seemed to justify a life of pleasure and luxury.

   Roman Literature.—Before the Romans came into contact with the Greeks, they cannot be said to have had anything which can properly be called a literature. They had certain crude verses and ballads; but it was the Greeks who first taught them how to write. It was not until the close of the first Punic war, when the Greek influence became strong, that we begin to find the names of any Latin authors. The first author,
Andronicus, who is said to have been a Greek slave, wrote a Latin poem in imitation of Homer. Then came Naevius, who combined a Greek taste with a Roman spirit, and who wrote a poem on the first Punic war; and after him, Ennius, who taught Greek to the Romans, and wrote a great poem on the history of Rome, called the “Annals.” The Greek influence is also seen in Plautus and Terence, the greatest writers of Roman comedy; and in Fabius Pictor, who wrote a history of Rome, in the Greek language.

   Roman Art.—As the Romans were a practical people, their earliest art was shown in their buildings. From the Etruscans they had learned to use the arch and to build strong and massive structures. But the more refined features of art they obtained from the Greeks. While the Romans could never hope to acquire the pure aesthetic spirit of the Greeks, they were inspired with a passion for collecting Greek works of art, and for adorning their buildings with Greek ornaments. They imitated the Greek models and professed to admire the Greek taste; so that they came to be, in fact, the preservers of Greek art.

   Roman Manners and Morals.—It is difficult for us to think of a nation of warriors as a nation of refined people. The brutalities of war seem inconsistent with the finer arts of living. But as the Romans obtained wealth from their wars, they affected the refinement of their more cultivated neighbors. Some men, like Scipio Africanus, looked with favor upon the introduction of Greek ideas and manners; but others, like
Cato the Censor, were bitterly opposed to it. When the Romans lost the simplicity of the earlier times, they came to indulge in luxuries and to be lovers of pomp and show. They loaded their tables with rich services of plate; they ransacked the land and the sea for delicacies with which to please their palates. Roman culture was often more artificial than real. The survival of the barbarous spirit of the Romans in the midst of their professed refinement is seen in their amusements, especially the gladiatorial shows, in which men were forced to fight with wild beasts and with one another to entertain the people.

   In conclusion, we may say that by their conquests the Romans became a great and, in a certain sense, a civilized people, who appropriated and preserved many of the best elements of the ancient world; but who were yet selfish, ambitious, and avaricious, and who lacked the genuine taste and generous spirit which belong to the highest type of human culture.


Mommsen, Vol. II., Bk. III., Ch. 10, “Third Macedonian War” (
Michelet, Bk. II., Ch. 8, “Reduction of Spain and the Greek States” (6).
How and Leigh, Ch. 27, “Fall of Macedonia and Greece” (1).
Pelham, Bk. III., Ch. 3, “The Roman State and People” (1).
Granrud, Third Period, “The Supremacy of the Senate” (13).
Abbott, Ch. 5, “The Supremacy of the Nobilitas” (13).


   CATO THE CENSOR AND THE GREEK INFLUENCE.—Liddell, pp. 450-455 (1); How and Leigh, pp. 302-305, see also index “Hellenism” (1); Shuckburgh, pp. 405, 406, 518-521 (1); Cruttwell, pp. 91-98 (17); Pelham, pp. 192-198 (1); Mommsen, Vol. II., pp. 413-423, 557-567 (2); Plutarch, “Cato the Censor” (11).

1 The figure in parenthesis refers to the number of the topic in the
Appendix, where a fuller title of the book will be found.


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