[Illustration: FEMALE COSTUMES.]
The Romans had in those days very small riches, they held in general small farms in the country, which they worked themselves with the help of their sons and slaves. The plebeians were often the richest. They too held farms leased to them by the state, and had often small shops in Rome. The whole territory was so small that it was easy to come into Rome to worship, attend the Senate, or vote, and many had no houses in the city. Each man was married with a ring and sacrifice, and the lady was then carried over the threshold, on which a sheepskin was spread, and made mistress of the house by being bidden to be Caia to Caius. The Roman matrons were good and noble women in those days, and the highest praise of them was held to be Domum mansit, lanam fecit—she stayed at home and spun wool. Each man was absolute master in his own house, and had full power over his grown-up sons, even for life or death, and they almost always submitted entirely. For what made the Romans so great was that they were not only brave, but they were perfectly obedient, and obeyed as perfectly as they could their fathers, their officers, their magistrates, and, as they thought, their gods.
MENENIUS AGRIPPA’S FABLE.
A great deal of the history of Rome consists of struggles between the patricians and plebeians. In those early days the plebeians were often poor, and when they wanted to improve their lands they had to borrow money from the patricians, who not only had larger lands, but, as they were the officers in war, got a larger share of the spoil. The Roman law was hard on a man in debt. His lands might be seized, he might be thrown into prison or sold into slavery with his wife and children, or, if the creditors liked, be cut to pieces so that each might take his share.