Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 3, by Edward Gibbon, , at sacred-texts.com
In populous cities, which are the seat of commerce and manufactures, the middle ranks of inhabitants, who derive their subsistence from the dexterity or labor of their hands, are commonly the most prolific, the most useful, and, in that sense, the most respectable part of the community. But the plebeians of Rome, who disdained such sedentary and servile arts, had been oppressed from the earliest times by the weight of debt and usury; and the husbandman, during the term of his military service, was obliged to abandon the cultivation of his farm. 50 The lands of Italy which had been originally divided among the families of free and indigent proprietors, were insensibly purchased or usurped by the avarice of the nobles; and in the age which preceded the fall of the republic, it was computed that only two thousand citizens were possessed of an independent substance. 51 Yet as long as the people bestowed, by their suffrages, the honors of the state, the command of the legions, and the administration of wealthy provinces, their conscious pride alleviated in some measure, the hardships of poverty; and their wants were seasonably supplied by the ambitious liberality of the candidates, who aspired to secure a venal majority in the thirty-five tribes, or the hundred and ninety-three centuries, of Rome. But when the prodigal commons had not only imprudently alienated the use, but the inheritance of power, they sunk, under the reign of the Caesars, into a vile and wretched populace, which must, in a few generations, have been totally extinguished, if it had not been continually recruited by the manumission of slaves, and the influx of strangers. As early as the time of Hadrian, it was the just complaint of the ingenuous natives, that the capital had attracted the vices of the universe, and the manners of the most opposite nations. The intemperance of the Gauls, the cunning and levity of the Greeks, the savage obstinacy of the Egyptians and Jews, the servile temper of the Asiatics, and the dissolute, effeminate prostitution of the Syrians, were mingled in the various multitude, which, under the proud and false denomination of Romans, presumed to despise their fellow- subjects, and even their sovereigns, who dwelt beyond the precincts of the Eternal City. 52
Yet the name of that city was still pronounced with respect: the frequent and capricious tumults of its inhabitants were indulged with impunity; and the successors of Constantine, instead of crushing the last remains of the democracy by the strong arm of military power, embraced the mild policy of Augustus, and studied to relieve the poverty, and to amuse the idleness, of an innumerable people. 53 I. For the convenience of the lazy plebeians, the monthly distributions of corn were converted into a daily allowance of bread; a great number of ovens were constructed and maintained at the public expense; and at the appointed hour, each citizen, who was furnished with a ticket, ascended the flight of steps, which had been assigned to his peculiar quarter or division, and received, either as a gift, or at a very low price, a loaf of bread of the weight of three pounds, for the use of his family. II. The forest of Lucania, whose acorns fattened large droves of wild hogs, 54 afforded, as a species of tribute, a plentiful supply of cheap and wholesome meat. During five months of the year, a regular allowance of bacon was distributed to the poorer citizens; and the annual consumption of the capital, at a time when it was much declined from its former lustre, was ascertained, by an edict from Valentinian the Third, at three millions six hundred and twenty-eight thousand pounds. 55 III. In the manners of antiquity, the use of oil was indispensable for the lamp, as well as for the bath; and the annual tax, which was imposed on Africa for the benefit of Rome, amounted to the weight of three millions of pounds, to the measure, perhaps, of three hundred thousand English gallons. IV. The anxiety of Augustus to provide the metropolis with sufficient plenty of corn, was not extended beyond that necessary article of human subsistence; and when the popular clamor accused the dearness and scarcity of wine, a proclamation was issued, by the grave reformer, to remind his subjects that no man could reasonably complain of thirst, since the aqueducts of Agrippa had introduced into the city so many copious streams of pure and salubrious water. 56 This rigid sobriety was insensibly relaxed; and, although the generous design of Aurelian 57 does not appear to have been executed in its full extent, the use of wine was allowed on very easy and liberal terms. The administration of the public cellars was delegated to a magistrate of honorable rank; and a considerable part of the vintage of Campania was reserved for the fortunate inhabitants of Rome.
The stupendous aqueducts, so justly celebrated by the praises of Augustus himself, replenished the Thermoe, or baths, which had been constructed in every part of the city, with Imperial magnificence. The baths of Antoninus Caracalla, which were open, at stated hours, for the indiscriminate service of the senators and the people, contained above sixteen hundred seats of marble; and more than three thousand were reckoned in the baths of Diocletian. 58 The walls of the lofty apartments were covered with curious mosaics, that imitated the art of the pencil in the elegance of design, and the variety of colors. The Egyptian granite was beautifully encrusted with the precious green marble of Numidia; the perpetual stream of hot water was poured into the capacious basins, through so many wide mouths of bright and massy silver; and the meanest Roman could purchase, with a small copper coin, the daily enjoyment of a scene of pomp and luxury, which might excite the envy of the kings of Asia. 59 From these stately palaces issued a swarm of dirty and ragged plebeians, without shoes and without a mantle; who loitered away whole days in the street of Forum, to hear news and to hold disputes; who dissipated in extravagant gaming, the miserable pittance of their wives and children; and spent the hours of the night in the obscure taverns, and brothels, in the indulgence of gross and vulgar sensuality. 60
But the most lively and splendid amusement of the idle multitude, depended on the frequent exhibition of public games and spectacles. The piety of Christian princes had suppressed the inhuman combats of gladiators; but the Roman people still considered the Circus as their home, their temple, and the seat of the republic. The impatient crowd rushed at the dawn of day to secure their places, and there were many who passed a sleepless and anxious night in the adjacent porticos. From the morning to the evening, careless of the sun, or of the rain, the spectators, who sometimes amounted to the number of four hundred thousand, remained in eager attention; their eyes fixed on the horses and charioteers, their minds agitated with hope and fear, for the success of the colors which they espoused: and the happiness of Rome appeared to hang on the event of a race. 61 The same immoderate ardor inspired their clamors and their applause, as often as they were entertained with the hunting of wild beasts, and the various modes of theatrical representation. These representations in modern capitals may deserve to be considered as a pure and elegant school of taste, and perhaps of virtue. But the Tragic and Comic Muse of the Romans, who seldom aspired beyond the imitation of Attic genius, 62 had been almost totally silent since the fall of the republic; 63 and their place was unworthily occupied by licentious farce, effeminate music, and splendid pageantry. The pantomimes, 64 who maintained their reputation from the age of Augustus to the sixth century, expressed, without the use of words, the various fables of the gods and heroes of antiquity; and the perfection of their art, which sometimes disarmed the gravity of the philosopher, always excited the applause and wonder of the people. The vast and magnificent theatres of Rome were filled by three thousand female dancers, and by three thousand singers, with the masters of the respective choruses. Such was the popular favor which they enjoyed, that, in a time of scarcity, when all strangers were banished from the city, the merit of contributing to the public pleasures exempted them from a law, which was strictly executed against the professors of the liberal arts. 65
It is said, that the foolish curiosity of Elagabalus attempted to discover, from the quantity of spiders' webs, the number of the inhabitants of Rome. A more rational method of inquiry might not have been undeserving of the attention of the wisest princes, who could easily have resolved a question so important for the Roman government, and so interesting to succeeding ages. The births and deaths of the citizens were duly registered; and if any writer of antiquity had condescended to mention the annual amount, or the common average, we might now produce some satisfactory calculation, which would destroy the extravagant assertions of critics, and perhaps confirm the modest and probable conjectures of philosophers. 66 The most diligent researches have collected only the following circumstances; which, slight and imperfect as they are, may tend, in some degree, to illustrate the question of the populousness of ancient Rome. I. When the capital of the empire was besieged by the Goths, the circuit of the walls was accurately measured, by Ammonius, the mathematician, who found it equal to twenty-one miles. 67 It should not be forgotten that the form of the city was almost that of a circle; the geometrical figure which is known to contain the largest space within any given circumference. II. The architect Vitruvius, who flourished in the Augustan age, and whose evidence, on this occasion, has peculiar weight and authority, observes, that the innumerable habitations of the Roman people would have spread themselves far beyond the narrow limits of the city; and that the want of ground, which was probably contracted on every side by gardens and villas, suggested the common, though inconvenient, practice of raising the houses to a considerable height in the air. 68 But the loftiness of these buildings, which often consisted of hasty work and insufficient materials, was the cause of frequent and fatal accidents; and it was repeatedly enacted by Augustus, as well as by Nero, that the height of private edifices within the walls of Rome, should not exceed the measure of seventy feet from the ground. 69 III. Juvenal 70 laments, as it should seem from his own experience, the hardships of the poorer citizens, to whom he addresses the salutary advice of emigrating, without delay, from the smoke of Rome, since they might purchase, in the little towns of Italy, a cheerful commodious dwelling, at the same price which they annually paid for a dark and miserable lodging. House-rent was therefore immoderately dear: the rich acquired, at an enormous expense, the ground, which they covered with palaces and gardens; but the body of the Roman people was crowded into a narrow space; and the different floors, and apartments, of the same house, were divided, as it is still the custom of Paris, and other cities, among several families of plebeians. IV. The total number of houses in the fourteen regions of the city, is accurately stated in the description of Rome, composed under the reign of Theodosius, and they amount to forty-eight thousand three hundred and eighty-two. 71 The two classes of domus and of insuloe, into which they are divided, include all the habitations of the capital, of every rank and condition from the marble palace of the Anicii, with a numerous establishment of freedmen and slaves, to the lofty and narrow lodging-house, where the poet Codrus and his wife were permitted to hire a wretched garret immediately under the files. If we adopt the same average, which, under similar circumstances, has been found applicable to Paris, 72 and indifferently allow about twenty-five persons for each house, of every degree, we may fairly estimate the inhabitants of Rome at twelve hundred thousand: a number which cannot be thought excessive for the capital of a mighty empire, though it exceeds the populousness of the greatest cities of modern Europe. 73 *_0016
Such was the state of Rome under the reign of Honorius; at the time when the Gothic army formed the siege, or rather the blockade, of the city. 74 By a skilful disposition of his numerous forces, who impatiently watched the moment of an assault, Alaric encompassed the walls, commanded the twelve principal gates, intercepted all communication with the adjacent country, and vigilantly guarded the navigation of the Tyber, from which the Romans derived the surest and most plentiful supply of provisions. The first emotions of the nobles, and of the people, were those of surprise and indignation, that a vile Barbarian should dare to insult the capital of the world: but their arrogance was soon humbled by misfortune; and their unmanly rage, instead of being directed against an enemy in arms, was meanly exercised on a defenceless and innocent victim. Perhaps in the person of Serena, the Romans might have respected the niece of Theodosius, the aunt, nay, even the adoptive mother, of the reigning emperor: but they abhorred the widow of Stilicho; and they listened with credulous passion to the tale of calumny, which accused her of maintaining a secret and criminal correspondence with the Gothic invader. Actuated, or overawed, by the same popular frenzy, the senate, without requiring any evidence of his guilt, pronounced the sentence of her death. Serena was ignominiously strangled; and the infatuated multitude were astonished to find, that this cruel act of injustice did not immediately produce the retreat of the Barbarians, and the deliverance of the city. That unfortunate city gradually experienced the distress of scarcity, and at length the horrid calamities of famine. The daily allowance of three pounds of bread was reduced to one half, to one third, to nothing; and the price of corn still continued to rise in a rapid and extravagant proportion. The poorer citizens, who were unable to purchase the necessaries of life, solicited the precarious charity of the rich; and for a while the public misery was alleviated by the humanity of Laeta, the widow of the emperor Gratian, who had fixed her residence at Rome, and consecrated to the use of the indigent the princely revenue which she annually received from the grateful successors of her husband. 75 But these private and temporary donatives were insufficient to appease the hunger of a numerous people; and the progress of famine invaded the marble palaces of the senators themselves. The persons of both sexes, who had been educated in the enjoyment of ease and luxury, discovered how little is requisite to supply the demands of nature; and lavished their unavailing treasures of gold and silver, to obtain the coarse and scanty sustenance which they would formerly have rejected with disdain. The food the most repugnant to sense or imagination, the aliments the most unwholesome and pernicious to the constitution, were eagerly devoured, and fiercely disputed, by the rage of hunger. A dark suspicion was entertained, that some desperate wretches fed on the bodies of their fellow-creatures, whom they had secretly murdered; and even mothers, (such was the horrid conflict of the two most powerful instincts implanted by nature in the human breast,) even mothers are said to have tasted the flesh of their slaughtered infants! 76 Many thousands of the inhabitants of Rome expired in their houses, or in the streets, for want of sustenance; and as the public sepulchres without the walls were in the power of the enemy the stench, which arose from so many putrid and unburied carcasses, infected the air; and the miseries of famine were succeeded and aggravated by the contagion of a pestilential disease. The assurances of speedy and effectual relief, which were repeatedly transmitted from the court of Ravenna, supported for some time, the fainting resolution of the Romans, till at length the despair of any human aid tempted them to accept the offers of a praeternatural deliverance. Pompeianus, praefect of the city, had been persuaded, by the art or fanaticism of some Tuscan diviners, that, by the mysterious force of spells and sacrifices, they could extract the lightning from the clouds, and point those celestial fires against the camp of the Barbarians. 77 The important secret was communicated to Innocent, the bishop of Rome; and the successor of St. Peter is accused, perhaps without foundation, of preferring the safety of the republic to the rigid severity of the Christian worship. But when the question was agitated in the senate; when it was proposed, as an essential condition, that those sacrifices should be performed in the Capitol, by the authority, and in the presence, of the magistrates, the majority of that respectable assembly, apprehensive either of the Divine or of the Imperial displeasure, refused to join in an act, which appeared almost equivalent to the public restoration of Paganism. 78
The last resource of the Romans was in the clemency, or at least in the moderation, of the king of the Goths. The senate, who in this emergency assumed the supreme powers of government, appointed two ambassadors to negotiate with the enemy. This important trust was delegated to Basilius, a senator, of Spanish extraction, and already conspicuous in the administration of provinces; and to John, the first tribune of the notaries, who was peculiarly qualified, by his dexterity in business, as well as by his former intimacy with the Gothic prince. When they were introduced into his presence, they declared, perhaps in a more lofty style than became their abject condition, that the Romans were resolved to maintain their dignity, either in peace or war; and that, if Alaric refused them a fair and honorable capitulation, he might sound his trumpets, and prepare to give battle to an innumerable people, exercised in arms, and animated by despair. "The thicker the hay, the easier it is mowed," was the concise reply of the Barbarian; and this rustic metaphor was accompanied by a loud and insulting laugh, expressive of his contempt for the menaces of an unwarlike populace, enervated by luxury before they were emaciated by famine. He then condescended to fix the ransom, which he would accept as the price of his retreat from the walls of Rome: all the gold and silver in the city, whether it were the property of the state, or of individuals; all the rich and precious movables; and all the slaves that could prove their title to the name of Barbarians. The ministers of the senate presumed to ask, in a modest and suppliant tone, "If such, O king, are your demands, what do you intend to leave us?" "Your Lives!" replied the haughty conqueror: they trembled, and retired. Yet, before they retired, a short suspension of arms was granted, which allowed some time for a more temperate negotiation. The stern features of Alaric were insensibly relaxed; he abated much of the rigor of his terms; and at length consented to raise the siege, on the immediate payment of five thousand pounds of gold, of thirty thousand pounds of silver, of four thousand robes of silk, of three thousand pieces of fine scarlet cloth, and of three thousand pounds weight of pepper. 79 But the public treasury was exhausted; the annual rents of the great estates in Italy and the provinces, had been exchanged, during the famine, for the vilest sustenance; the hoards of secret wealth were still concealed by the obstinacy of avarice; and some remains of consecrated spoils afforded the only resource that could avert the impending ruin of the city. As soon as the Romans had satisfied the rapacious demands of Alaric, they were restored, in some measure, to the enjoyment of peace and plenty. Several of the gates were cautiously opened; the importation of provisions from the river and the adjacent country was no longer obstructed by the Goths; the citizens resorted in crowds to the free market, which was held during three days in the suburbs; and while the merchants who undertook this gainful trade made a considerable profit, the future subsistence of the city was secured by the ample magazines which were deposited in the public and private granaries. A more regular discipline than could have been expected, was maintained in the camp of Alaric; and the wise Barbarian justified his regard for the faith of treaties, by the just severity with which he chastised a party of licentious Goths, who had insulted some Roman citizens on the road to Ostia. His army, enriched by the contributions of the capital, slowly advanced into the fair and fruitful province of Tuscany, where he proposed to establish his winter quarters; and the Gothic standard became the refuge of forty thousand Barbarian slaves, who had broke their chains, and aspired, under the command of their great deliverer, to revenge the injuries and the disgrace of their cruel servitude. About the same time, he received a more honorable reenforcement of Goths and Huns, whom Adolphus, 80 the brother of his wife, had conducted, at his pressing invitation, from the banks of the Danube to those of the Tyber, and who had cut their way, with some difficulty and loss, through the superior number of the Imperial troops. A victorious leader, who united the daring spirit of a Barbarian with the art and discipline of a Roman general, was at the head of a hundred thousand fighting men; and Italy pronounced, with terror and respect, the formidable name of Alaric. 81
50 The histories of Livy (see particularly vi. 36) are full of the extortions of the rich, and the sufferings of the poor debtors. The melancholy story of a brave old soldier (Dionys. Hal. l. vi. c. 26, p. 347, edit. Hudson, and Livy, ii. 23) must have been frequently repeated in those primitive times, which have been so undeservedly praised.
51 Non esse in civitate duo millia hominum qui rem habereni. Cicero. Offic. ii. 21, and Comment. Paul. Manut. in edit. Graev. This vague computation was made A. U. C. 649, in a speech of the tribune Philippus, and it was his object, as well as that of the Gracchi, (see Plutarch,) to deplore, and perhaps to exaggerate, the misery of the common people.
52 See the third Satire (60 - 125) of Juvenal, who indignantly complains,
Quamvis quota portio faecis Achaei! Jampridem Syrus in Tiberem defluxit Orontes; Et linguam et mores, &c.
Seneca, when he proposes to comfort his mother (Consolat. ad Helv. c. 6) by the reflection, that a great part of mankind were in a state of exile, reminds her how few of the inhabitants of Rome were born in the city.
53 Almost all that is said of the bread, bacon, oil, wine, &c., may be found in the fourteenth book of the Theodosian Code; which expressly treats of the police of the great cities. See particularly the titles iii. iv. xv. xvi. xvii. xxiv. The collateral testimonies are produced in Godefroy's Commentary, and it is needless to transcribe them. According to a law of Theodosius, which appreciates in money the military allowance, a piece of gold (eleven shillings) was equivalent to eighty pounds of bacon, or to eighty pounds of oil, or to twelve modii (or pecks) of salt, (Cod. Theod. l. viii. tit. iv. leg. 17.) This equation, compared with another of seventy pounds of bacon for an amphora, (Cod. Theod. l. xiv. tit. iv. leg. 4,) fixes the price of wine at about sixteenpence the gallon.
54 The anonymous author of the Description of the World (p. 14. in tom. iii. Geograph. Minor. Hudson) observes of Lucania, in his barbarous Latin, Regio optima, et ipsa omnibus habundans, et lardum multum foras. Proptor quod est in montibus, cujus aescam animalium rariam, &c.
55 See Novell. ad calcem Cod. Theod. D. Valent. l. i. tit. xv. This law was published at Rome, June 29th, A.D. 452.
56 Sueton. in August. c. 42. The utmost debauch of the emperor himself, in his favorite wine of Rhaetia, never exceeded a sextarius, (an English pint.) Id. c. 77. Torrentius ad loc. and Arbuthnot's Tables, p. 86.
57 His design was to plant vineyards along the sea-coast of Hetruria, (Vopiscus, in Hist. August. p. 225;) the dreary, unwholesome, uncultivated Maremme of modern Tuscany
58 Olympiodor. apud Phot. p. 197.
59 Seneca (epistol. lxxxvi.) compares the baths of Scipio Africanus, at his villa of Liternum, with the magnificence (which was continually increasing) of the public baths of Rome, long before the stately Thermae of Antoninus and Diocletian were erected. The quadrans paid for admission was the quarter of the as, about one eighth of an English penny.
60 Ammianus, (l. xiv. c. 6, and l. xxviii. c. 4,) after describing the luxury and pride of the nobles of Rome, exposes, with equal indignation, the vices and follies of the common people.
61 Juvenal. Satir. xi. 191, &c. The expressions of the historian Ammianus are not less strong and animated than those of the satirist and both the one and the other painted from the life. The numbers which the great Circus was capable of receiving are taken from the original Notitioe of the city. The differences between them prove that they did not transcribe each other; but the same may appear incredible, though the country on these occasions flocked to the city.
62 Sometimes indeed they composed original pieces. - Vestigia Graeca Ausi deserere et celeb rare domestica facta.
Horat. Epistol. ad Pisones, 285, and the learned, though perplexed note of Dacier, who might have allowed the name of tragedies to the Brutus and the Decius of Pacuvius, or to the Cato of Maternus. The Octavia, ascribed to one of the Senecas, still remains a very unfavorable specimen of Roman tragedy.
63 In the time of Quintilian and Pliny, a tragic poet was reduced to the imperfect method of hiring a great room, and reading his play to the company, whom he invited for that purpose. (See Dialog. de Oratoribus, c. 9, 11, and Plin. Epistol. vii. 17.)
64 See the dialogue of Lucian, entitled the Saltatione, tom. ii. p. 265 - 317, edit. Reitz. The pantomimes obtained the honorable name; and it was required, that they should be conversant with almost every art and science. Burette (in the Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. i. p. 127, &c.) has given a short history of the art of pantomimes.
65 Ammianus, l. xiv. c. 6. He complains, with decent indignation that the streets of Rome were filled with crowds of females, who might have given children to the state, but whose only occupation was to curl and dress their hair, and jactari volubilibus gyris, dum experimunt innumera simulacra, quae finxere fabulae theatrales.
66 Lipsius (tom. iii. p. 423, de Magnitud. Romana, l. iii. c. 3) and Isaac Vossius (Observant. Var. p. 26 - 34) have indulged strange dreams, of four, or eight, or fourteen, millions in Rome. Mr. Hume, (Essays, vol. i. p. 450 - 457,) with admirable good sense and scepticism betrays some secret disposition to extenuate the populousness of ancient times.
67 Olympiodor. ap. Phot. p. 197. See Fabricius, Bibl. Graec. tom. ix. p. 400.
68 In ea autem majestate urbis, et civium infinita frequentia, innumerabiles habitationes opus fuit explicare. Ergo cum recipero non posset area plana tantam multitudinem in urbe, ad auxilium altitudinis aedificiorum res ipsa coegit devenire. Vitruv. ii. 8. This passage, which I owe to Vossius, is clear, strong, and comprehensive.
69 The successive testimonies of Pliny, Aristides, Claudian, Rutilius, &c., prove the insufficiency of these restrictive edicts. See Lipsius, de Magnitud. Romana, l. iii. c. 4.
- Tabulata tibi jam tertia fumant; Tu nescis; nam si gradibus trepidatur ab imis Ultimus ardebit, quem tegula sola tuetur A pluvia. Juvenal. Satir. iii. 199
70 Read the whole third satire, but particularly 166, 223, &c. The description of a crowded insula, or lodging-house, in Petronius, (c. 95, 97,) perfectly tallies with the complaints of Juvenal; and we learn from legal authority, that, in the time of Augustus, (Heineccius, Hist. Juris. Roman. c. iv. p. 181,) the ordinary rent of the several coenacula, or apartments of an insula, annually produced forty thousand sesterces, between three and four hundred pounds sterling, (Pandect. l. xix. tit. ii. No. 30,) a sum which proves at once the large extent, and high value, of those common buildings.
71 This sum total is composed of 1780 domus, or great houses of 46,602 insuloe, or plebeian habitations, (see Nardini, Roma Antica, l. iii. p. 88;) and these numbers are ascertained by the agreement of the texts of the different Notitioe. Nardini, l. viii. p. 498, 500.
72 See that accurate writer M. de Messance, Recherches sur la Population, p. 175 - 187. From probable, or certain grounds, he assigns to Paris 23,565 houses, 71,114 families, and 576,630 inhabitants.
73 This computation is not very different from that which M. Brotier, the last editor of Tacitus, (tom. ii. p. 380,) has assumed from similar principles; though he seems to aim at a degree of precision which it is neither possible nor important to obtain.
*_0016 M. Dureau de la Malle (Economic Politique des Romaines, t. i. p. 369) quotes a passage from the xvth chapter of Gibbon, in which he estimates the population of Rome at not less than a million, and adds (omitting any reference to this passage,) that he (Gibbon) could not have seriously studied the question. M. Dureau de la Malle proceeds to argue that Rome, as contained within the walls of Servius Tullius, occupying an area only one fifth of that of Paris, could not have contained 300,000 inhabitants; within those of Aurelian not more than 560,000, inclusive of soldiers and strangers. The suburbs, he endeavors to show, both up to the time of Aurelian, and after his reign, were neither so extensive, nor so populous, as generally supposed. M. Dureau de la Malle has but imperfectly quoted the important passage of Dionysius, that which proves that when he wrote (in the time of Augustus) the walls of Servius no longer marked the boundary of the city. In many places they were so built upon, that it was impossible to trace them. There was no certain limit, where the city ended and ceased to be the city; it stretched out to so boundless an extent into the country. Ant. Rom. iv. 13. None of M. de la Malle's arguments appear to me to prove, against this statement, that these irregular suburbs did not extend so far in many parts, as to make it impossible to calculate accurately the inhabited area of the city. Though no doubt the city, as reconstructed by Nero, was much less closely built and with many more open spaces for palaces, temples, and other public edifices, yet many passages seem to prove that the laws respecting the height of houses were not rigidly enforced. A great part of the lower especially of the slave population, were very densely crowded, and lived, even more than in our modern towns, in cellars and subterranean dwellings under the public edifices. Nor do M. de la Malle's arguments, by which he would explain the insulae insulae (of which the Notitiae Urbis give us the number) as rows of shops, with a chamber or two within the domus, or houses of the wealthy, satisfy me as to their soundness of their scholarship. Some passages which he adduces directly contradict his theory; none, as appears to me, distinctly prove it. I must adhere to the old interpretation of the word, as chiefly dwellings for the middling or lower classes, or clusters of tenements, often perhaps, under the same roof.
On this point, Zumpt, in the Dissertation before quoted, entirely disagrees with M. de la Malle. Zumpt has likewise detected the mistake of M. de la Malle as to the "canon" of corn, mentioned in the life of Septimius Severus by Spartianus. On this canon the French writer calculates the inhabitants of Rome at that time. But the "canon" was not the whole supply of Rome, but that quantity which the state required for the public granaries to supply the gratuitous distributions to the people, and the public officers and slaves; no doubt likewise to keep down the general price. M. Zumpt reckons the population of Rome at 2,000,000. After careful consideration, I should conceive the number in the text, 1,200,000, to be nearest the truth - M. 1845.
74 For the events of the first siege of Rome, which are often confounded with those of the second and third, see Zosimus, l. v. p. 350 - 354, Sozomen, l. ix. c. 6, Olympiodorus, ap. Phot. p. 180, Philostorgius, l. xii. c. 3, and Godefroy, Dissertat. p. 467 - 475.
75 The mother of Laeta was named Pissumena. Her father, family, and country, are unknown. Ducange, Fam. Byzantium, p. 59.
76 Ad nefandos cibos erupit esurientium rabies, et sua invicem membra laniarunt, dum mater non parcit lactenti infantiae; et recipit utero, quem paullo ante effuderat. Jerom. ad Principiam, tom. i. p. 121. The same horrid circumstance is likewise told of the sieges of Jerusalem and Paris. For the latter, compare the tenth book of the Henriade, and the Journal de Henri IV. tom. i. p. 47 - 83; and observe that a plain narrative of facts is much more pathetic, than the most labored descriptions of epic poetry
77 Zosimus (l. v. p. 355, 356) speaks of these ceremonies like a Greek unacquainted with the national superstition of Rome and Tuscany. I suspect, that they consisted of two parts, the secret and the public; the former were probably an imitation of the arts and spells, by which Numa had drawn down Jupiter and his thunder on Mount Aventine.
- Quid agant laqueis, quae carmine dicant, Quaque trahant superis sedibus arte Jovem, Scire nefas homini.
The ancilia, or shields of Mars, the pignora Imperii, which were carried in solemn procession on the calends of March, derived their origin from this mysterious event, (Ovid. Fast. iii. 259 - 398.) It was probably designed to revive this ancient festival, which had been suppressed by Theodosius. In that case, we recover a chronological date (March the 1st, A.D. 409) which has not hitherto been observed.
Note: On this curious question of the knowledge of conducting lightning, processed by the ancients, consult Eusebe Salverte, des Sciences Occultes, l. xxiv. Paris, 1829. - M.
78 Sozomen (l. ix. c. 6) insinuates that the experiment was actually, though unsuccessfully, made; but he does not mention the name of Innocent: and Tillemont, (Mem. Eccles. tom. x. p. 645) is determined not to believe, that a pope could be guilty of such impious condescension.
79 Pepper was a favorite ingredient of the most expensive Roman cookery, and the best sort commonly sold for fifteen denarii, or ten shillings, the pound. See Pliny, Hist. Natur. xii. 14. It was brought from India; and the same country, the coast of Malabar, still affords the greatest plenty: but the improvement of trade and navigation has multiplied the quantity and reduced the price. See Histoire Politique et Philosophique, &c., tom. i. p. 457.
80 This Gothic chieftain is called by Jornandes and Isidore, Athaulphus; by Zosimus and Orosius, Ataulphus; and by Olympiodorus, Adaoulphus. I have used the celebrated name of Adolphus, which seems to be authorized by the practice of the Swedes, the sons or brothers of the ancient Goths.
81 The treaty between Alaric and the Romans, &c., is taken from Zosimus, l. v. p. 354, 355, 358, 359, 362, 363. The additional circumstances are too few and trifling to require any other quotation.