The Decline of the Roman Republic - Vol. 4

The Decline of the Roman Republic - Vol. 4

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The Decline of the Roman Republic - Vol. 4

The Decline of the Roman Republic - Vol. 4

Read FREE!

Excerpt

This volume contains the History of Caesar’s Gallic campaigns, and of the contemporaneous events at Rome. With the exception of Cicero’s orations and letters, the Commentaries on the Gallic and the Civil wars, and we may add the books on the Alexandrine, African and Spanish wars, are the only extant contemporary history of the Republic. The value of Caesar’s military histories is well known to those who have studied them, but those who have read them carefully are very few. Parts of the Gallic war and of the Civil war are read by boys, and if the teacher does his duty, the pupil may learn some Latin and something else too.

It is strange that one of the best Roman writers, perhaps the best of all Roman writers, is generally read only by schoolboys and to a small extent. One reason may be that the language is supposed to be so simple and easy that older students will be better employed on other writers, and that a military history is not so instructive as other antient books. But Thucydides is a political and military history, and it is read most diligently, and it is worth the labour. The scene of Caesar’s campaigns is so near to us and the events resemble so much those of more recent times that perhaps the matter seems common and familiar, and we care less for it than for that which is more remote both in time and place. But there is no country in Europe the history of which is so closely connected with that of our own country as the history of France, and no history is more instructive to Englishmen than French history; which ought to he a sufficient reason for studying the hook from which we learn most about the antient nations of Gallia.

This country has undergone many changes and revolutions since Caesar’s time. The history of the Galli may he traced much farther hack than the date of Caesar’s first appearance in Gallia, hut the history of France as a political community begins with Caesar’s Commentaries. The country was conquered by the Romans and received from them a new language, a socialorganization, a system of law and many useful improvements. France still contains some of the noblest monuments of Roman architecture and innumerable traces of the skill of the Romans in the magnificent works which supplied the towns with water. The invasion of the Franks subjected a large part of this country to foreign invaders, and the effects of the conquest remain to the present day, particularly in the northern and eastern parts of Caesar’s Gallia. But notwithstanding invasions, conquests and the mixture of races, a large part of the population of France retain the characteristics of the nations which Caesar brought under Roman dominion. The Gaul sticks to his native soil and is most tenacious of national hahits, though he is also, as Caesar says, ingenious and capable of learning from others. His impetuous temper and want of reflection have made him in all ages the prey of greedy and cunning men, and he has paid dearly for his want of prudence and his political ignorance. In fact the elements which compose French society have not yet attained a condition of stability and never will so long as the nation remains so ignorant. The mass of the people in other countries are ignorant also, but ignorance combined with the excitability of the Gallic temperament, and the numerous civil disorders and revolutions which have agitated the country . . .

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