Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius

Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius

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Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius

Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius

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Excerpt

There must always be something arbitrary in the choice and isolation of a period of social history for special study. No period can, from one point of view, be broken off and isolated from the immemorial influences which have moulded it, from the succession of coming ages which it will help to fashion. And this is specially true of the history of a race at once so aggressive, yet so tenacious of the past, as the Roman. The national fibre was so tough, and its tone and sentiment so conservative under all external changes, that when a man knows any considerable period of Roman social history, he may almost, without paradox, be said to know a great deal of it from Romulus to Honorius.

Yet, as in the artistic drama there must be a beginning and an end, although the action can only be ideally severed from what has preceded and what is to follow in actual life, so a limited space in the collective history of a people may be legitimately set apart for concentrated study. But as in the case of the drama, such a period should possess a certain unity and intensity of moral interest. It should be a crisis and turning-point in the life of humanity, a period pregnant with momentous issues, a period in which the old order and the new are contending for mastery, or in which the old is melting into the new. Above all, it should be one in which the great social and spiritual movements are incarnate in some striking personalities, who may give a human interest to dim forces of spiritual evolution.

Such a period, it seems to the writer of this book, is that . . .

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