Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 195 pages of information about Early BritainRoman Britain.
stern, and even brutal, towards his enemies.  But he was a devoted patriot, he was true to his plighted faith, and above all he was free from all taint of pecuniary corruption.  The earlier history of both nations is full of legends illustrating these points, which, whether individually true or not, bear abundant testimony to the national ideal.  But with irresponsible power, Roman and Spartan alike, while remaining as brutally indifferent as ever to the sufferings of others, lost all that was best in his own ethical equipment.  Instead of patriotism we find unblushing self-interest as the motive of every action; in place of good faith, the most shameless dishonesty; and, for the old contempt of ill-gotten gains, a corruption so fathomless and all-pervading as fairly to stagger us.  The tale of the doings of Verres in a district so near Rome as Sicily shows us a depth of mire and degeneration to which no constitution could sink and live.

A. 4.—­Nor could the Roman constitution survive it.  From the Provinces the taint spread with fatal rapidity to the City itself.  The thirst for lucre became the leading force in the State; for its sake the Classes more and more trampled down the Masses; and entrance to the Classes was a matter no longer of birth, but of money alone.  And all history testifies that the State which becomes a plutocracy is doomed indeed.  Of all possible forms of government—­autocracy, oligarchy, democracy—­that is the lowest, that most surely bears within itself the seeds of its own inevitable ruin.

A. 5.—­So it was with the Roman Republic.  As soon as this stage was reached it began to “stew in its own juice” with appalling rapidity.  Reformers, like the Gracchi, were crushed; and the commonwealth went to pieces under the shocks and counter-shocks of demagogues like Clodius, conspirators like Catiline, and military adventurers such as Marius and Sulla—­for whose statue the Senate could find no more constitutional title than “The Lucky General” [Sullae Imperatori Felici] Well-meaning individuals, such as Cicero and Pompey, were still to be found, and even came to the front, but they all alike proved unequal to the crisis; which, in fact, threw up one man, and one only, of force to become a real maker of history—­Caius Julius Caesar, the first Roman invader of Britain.

A. 6.—­Caesar was at the time of this invasion (55 B.C.) some forty-five years old; but he had not long become a real power in the political arena.  Sprung from the bluest blood of Rome—­the Julian House tracing their origin to the mythical Iulus, son of Aeneas, and thus claiming descent from the Goddess Venus—­we might have expected to find him enrolled amongst the aristocratic conservatives, the champions of the regime of Sulla.  But though a mere boy at the date of the strife between the partisans of Sulla and Marius (B.C. 88-78), Caesar was already clear-sighted enough to perceive that in the “Classes” of that day there was no

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Early Britain—Roman Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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