The Romans

The Romans

The Romans

The Romans

Excerpt

In the days beyond our memory the traditional ways attached to themselves by their own appeal the outstanding men of the time; and to the ancient ways and to the institutions of their ancestors men of moral superiority clung fast .

CICERO

(a) WHAT MANNER OF MEN?

WHAT manner of men were the Romans? We commonly say that men are known best by their deeds; therefore to answer this question it would be wise to go, first, to Roman history for the deeds, and, secondly, to Roman literature for the mind behind the deeds. The Romans would willingly be judged by their history, for to them history meant deeds; the Latin for 'history' is simply 'things done' (res gestae). Of their literature it has been well said, 'Latin literature should be studied mainly with a view to understanding Roman history, while Greek history should be studied mainly with a view to understanding Greek literature'. It seems, then, that the answer to the question can be provided only by a study of Roman history, and should therefore appear in the last chapter of this book rather than in the first. But this book is not a history of Rome; it is rather an invitation to consider whether Roman history is not worth further study, and the invitation takes the form of slight sketches of certain aspects of the Roman achievement.

Throughout their history the Romans were acutely aware that there is 'power' outside man, individually or collectively, of which man must take account. He must subordinate himself to something. If he refuses, he in-

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