The enemy that submitted became a subject, not a slave. Rome commanded only the free. If his goods were taxed, his goods remained his own, his personal liberty untrammelled. His land had become part of a new province, it is true, but provided he did not interest himself in such matters as peace and war, not only was he free to manage his own affairs, but that land, were it at the uttermost end of the earth, might, in recompense of his fidelity, come to be regarded as within the Italian territory; as such, sacred, inviolate, free from taxes, and he a citizen of Rome, senator even, emperor!
Conquest once solidified, the rest was easy. Tattered furs were replaced by the tunic and uncouth idioms by the niceties of Latin speech. In some cases, where the speech had been beaten in with the hilt of the sword, the accent was apt to be rough, but a generation, two at most, and there were sweethearts and swains quoting Horace in the moonlight, naively unaware that only the verse of the Greeks could pleasure the Roman ear.
The principalities and kingdoms that of their own wish [a wish often suggested, and not always amicably either] became allies of Rome and mingled their freedom with hers, entered into an alliance whereby in return for Rome’s patronage and protection they agreed to have a proper regard for the dignity of the Roman people and to have no other friends or enemies than those that were Rome’s—a formula exquisite in the civility with which it exacted the renunciation of every inherent right. A king wrote to the senate: “I have obeyed your deputy as I would have obeyed a god.” “And you have done wisely,” the senate answered, a reply which, in its terseness, tells all.
Diplomacy and the plow, such were Rome’s methods. As for herself she fought, she did not till. Italy, devastated by the civil wars, was uncultivated, cut up into vast unproductive estates. From one end to the other there was barely a trace of agriculture, not a sign of traffic. You met soldiers, cooks, petty tradesmen, gladiators, philosophers, patricians, market gardeners, lazzaroni and millionaires; the merchant and the farmer, never. Rome’s resources were in distant commercial centres, in taxes and tribute; her wealth had come of pillage and exaction. Save her strength, she had nothing of her own. Her religion, literature, art, philosophy, luxury and corruption, everything had come from abroad. In Greece were her artists; in Africa, Gaul and Spain, her agriculturists; in Asia her artisans. Her own breasts were sterile. When she gave birth it was to a litter of monsters, sometimes to a genius, by accident to a poet. She consumed, she did not produce. It was because of that she fell.
“Save a monster, what can you expect from Agrippina and myself?”
It was Domitius, Nero’s father, who made this ingenious remark. He was not a good man; he was not even good-looking, merely vicious and rich. But his viciousness was benign beside that of Agrippina, who poisoned him when Nero’s birth ensured the heritage of his wealth.