The History of Rome (Mommsen)/Book 1/Chapter 14

3164805The History of Rome, Book 1 — Chapter 14William Purdie DicksonTheodor Mommsen



The art of measuring brings the world into subjection to man; the art of writing prevents his knowledge from perishing with himself; together they make man, what nature has not made him, all-powerful and eternal. It is the privilege and duty of history to trace the course of national progress along these paths also.

Italian measures. Measurement necessarily presupposes the development of the several ideas of units of time, of space, and of weight, and of a whole as consisting of equal parts, or in other words of number and of a numeral system. The most obvious a presented by nature for this purpose are, in reference to time, the periodic returns of the sun and moon, or the day and the month; in reference to space, the length of the human foot, which is more easily applied in measuring than the arm; in reference to gravity, the burden which a man is able to poise (librare) on his hand while he holds his arm stretched out, or the "weight" (libra). As a a for the notion of a whole made up of equal parts, nothing so readily suggests itself as the hand with its five or the hands with their ten fingers; upon this rests the decimal system. We have already observed that these elements of all numeration and measuring reach back not merely beyond the separation of the Greek and Latin stocks but even to the most remote primeval times. The antiquity in particular of the measurement of time by the moon is demonstrated by language (P. 18); even the mode of reckoning the days that elapse between the several phases of the moon, not forward from the phase on which it had entered last, but backward from that which was next expected, is at least older than the separation of the Greeks and Latins.

Decimal system. The most distinct evidence of the antiquity and original exclusive use of the decimal system among the Indo-Germans is furnished by the well-known agreement of all Indo-Germanic languages in respect to the numerals as far as a hundred inclusive (P. 18). In the case of Italy the decimal system pervaded all the earliest arrangements: it may be sufficient to mention the occurrence of the number ten so commonly in the case of witnesses, securities, ambassadors, and magistrates, the legal equivalence of one ox and ten sheep, the partition of the canton into ten curies and the pervading application generally of the decurial system, the limitatio, the tenth in offerings and in agriculture, decimation, and the prænomen Decimus. Among the applications of this most ancient decimal system in the sphere of measuring and of writing, the remarkable Italian ciphers claim a primary place. When the Greeks and Italians separated, there were still, evidently, no conventional signs of number. On the other hand, we find the three oldest and most indispensable numerals, one, five, and ten, represented by three signs—I, V or Λ, X, manifestly imitations of the outstretched finger, and the open hand single and double—which have not been derived either from the Hellenes or the Phœnicians, but are common to the Romans, Sabellians, and Etruscans. They are the first steps towards the formation of a national Italian writing, and at the same time evidences of the liveliness of that earlier inland intercourse among the Italians which preceded their transmarine commerce (P. 203). Which of the Italian stocks invented, and which of them borrowed these signs, can of course no longer be ascertained. Other traces of the pure decimal system occur but sparingly in this field; among them are the vorsus, the Sabellian measure of surface of 100 square feet (P. 22), and the Roman year of ten months.

The duodecimal system. In the case of other Italian measures, which were not connected with Greek standards and were probably developed by the Italians before they came in contact with the Greeks, there prevailed universally the partition of the "whole" (as) into twelve "units" (unciæ). The earliest Latin priesthoods, the colleges of the Salii and Arvales (P. 175), as well as the leagues of the Etruscan cities, were organized on the basis of the number twelve. The same number predominates in the Roman system of weights where the pound (libra), and in the measures of length where the foot (pes), were by use and wont subdivided into twelve parts; the unit of the Roman measures of surface was the "driving" (actus) of 120 feet square, a combination of the decimal and duodecimal systems.[1] Similar arrangements as to the measures of capacity probably have passed into oblivion. If we inquire into the basis of the duodecimal system, and consider how it can have happened that, in addition to ten, twelve should have been so early and universally singled out from the equal ranks of number, we shall be able to find no other source to which it can be referred than a comparison of the solar and lunar periods. The double hand of ten fingers and the solar cycle of nearly twelve lunar periods first suggested to man the profound conception of an unit composed of equal units, and thereby originated the idea of a system of numbers, the first step towards mathematical thought. The consistent duodecimal development of this thought appears to have been of national Italian origin, and to have preceded the first contact with the Greeks.

Hellenic measures in Italy. But when at length the Hellenic trader had opened up the route to the west coast of Italy, the measures of surface remained unaffected, but the measures of length, of weight, and above all of capacity—in other words those definite standards without which barter and traffic are impossible—experienced the effects of the new international intercourse. The Roman foot, which in later times was a little smaller than the Greek,[2] but at that time was either equal in reality or was at any rate still reckoned equal to it, was, in addition to its Roman subdivision into twelve twelfths, divided after the Greek fashion into four handbreadths (palmus) and sixteen finger-breadths (digitus). Further, the Roman weights were brought into a fixed proportional relation to the Attic system, which prevailed throughout Sicily but not in Cumæ—another significant proof that the Latin traffic was chiefly directed to the island; four Roman pounds were assumed as equal to three Attic minæ, or rather the Roman pound was assumed as equal to one and a half of the Sicilian litræ, or half-minæ (P. 210). But the most singular aud variegated aspect is presented by the Roman measures of capacity as regards both their names and their proportions. Their names have come from the Greek terms either by corruption (amphora, modius is after μέδιμνος, congius from χοεύς, hemina, cyathus) or by translation (acetabulum from ὀξύβαφον); while conversely ξέστης is a corruption of sextarius. All the measures are not identical, but those in most common use are so; among liquid measures the congius or chus, the sextarius, and the cyathus, the two last also for dry goods; the Roman amphora was equivalent in liquid measure to the Attic talent, and at the same time stood to the Greek metretes in the fixed ratio of 3 : 2, and to the Greek medimnus of 2 : 1. To one who can decipher the significance of such records, these names and numerical proportions fully reveal the activity and importance of the intercourse between the Sicilians and the Latins.

The Greek numeral signs were not adopted; but the Roman probably availed himself of the Greek alphabet, when it reached him, to form ciphers for 50, 100, and 1000 out of the signs for the three aspirated letters which he had no use for. In Etruria the sign for 100 at least appears to have been obtained in a similar way. Afterwards, as usually happens, the systems of notation among the two neighbouring nations became assimilated by the adoption in substance of the Roman system in Etruria.

The Italian calendar before the period of Grecian influence in Italy. In like manner the Roman calendar (and probably that of the Italians generally) began with an independent development of its own, but subsequently came under the influence of the Greeks. In the division of time the returns of sunrise and sunset, and of the new and full moon, most directly Italy. arrest the attention of man; and accordingly the day and the month, determined not by cyclic calculation but by direct observation, were long the exclusive measures of time. Down to a late age sunrise and sunset were proclaimed in the Roman market-place by the public crier, and in like manner it may be presumed that once upon a time, at each of the four phases of the moon, the number of days that would elapse from that phase until the next was proclaimed by the priests. The mode of reckoning therefore in Latium (and the like mode, it may be presumed, was in use not merely among the Sabellians, but also among the Etruscans) by days, which, as already mentioned, were counted not forward from the phase that had last occurred, but backward from that which was next expected; by lunar weeks, which id in length between 7 days and 8, the average length being 73/8; and by lunar months, which in like manner were sometimes of 29, sometimes of 30 days, the average duration of the synodical month being 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes. For some time the day continued to be with the Italians the smallest, and the month the largest, division of time. It was not until later that they began to distribute day and night respectively into four portions, and much later still when they began to employ a division into hours; which explains why even stocks otherwise closely related differed in their mode of fixing the commencement of day, the Romans placing it at midnight, the Sabellians and the Etruscans at noon. No calendar, of the year at any rate, had as yet been organized when the Greeks separated from the Italians, for the names for the year and its divisions in the two languages have been formed quite independently of each other. Nevertheless the Italians appear to have already in their pre-Hellenic period advanced, if not to the arrangement of a fixed calendar, at any rate to the institution of two larger units of time. The simplifying of the reckoning according to lunar months by the application[errata 1] of the decimal system, which was usual among the Romans, and the designation of a term of ten months as a "ring" (annus) or complete year, bear in them all the traces of a high antiquity. Later, but likewise at a period very early and apparently previous to the operation of Greek influences, the duodecimal system (as we have already stated) was developed in Italy, and, as it derived its very origin from the observation of the fact that the solar period was equal to twelve lunar periods, it was certainly applied primarily to the reckoning of time. This view accords with the fact that the individual names of the months (which can only have originated after the month was viewed as part of a solar year), particularly those of March and of May, were similar among the different branches of the Italian stock, while there was no similarity between the Italian names and the Greek. It is not improbable therefore that the problem of laying down a practical endar which should correspond at once to the moon and the sun—a problem comparable in some sense to the quadrature of the circle, and the solution of which was only recognized as impossible and abandoned after the lapse of many centuries—had already employed men's minds in Italy before the epoch at which their contact with the Greeks began; these purely national attempts to solve it, however, have passed into oblivion.

The oldest Italo-Grecian calendar. What we know of the oldest calendar of Borne and of some other Latin cities (as to the Sabellian and Etruscan measurement of time there is no traditional information) is decidedly based on the oldest Greek system—an arrangement of the year intended to answer both to the phases of the moon and to the seasons of the solar year, constructed on the assumption of a lunar period of 291/2 days and a solar period of 121/2 lunar months or 3683/4 days, and on the regular alternation of a full month or month of 30 days with a hollow month or month of 29 days and of a year of 12 with a year of 13 months, but at the same time maintained in some sort of harmony with the actual celestial phenomena by arbitrary curtailments and intercalations. It is possible that this Greek arrangement of the year in the first instance came into use among the Latins without undergoing any alteration; but the oldest form of the Roman year, which can be historically recognized, varied materially from its model, not in the cyclical result, or in the alternation of years of 12 with years of 13 months, but in the designation and in the measuring off of the individual months. The Roman year began with the beginning of spring; the first month in it, and the only one which bears the name of a god, was named from Mars (Martius), the three following from sprouting (aprilis), growing (maius), and thriving (junius), the fifth and onward to the tenth from their places in the order of arrangement (quinctilis, sextilis, september, october, november, december), the eleventh from opening (januarius) (P. 173), with reference probably to the renewal of agricultural operations that followed mid-winter and the season of rest, the twelfth, and in an ordinary year the last, from cleansing (februarius). To this series recurring in regular succession there was added in the intercalary year a nameless "labour-month" (mercedonius) at the close of the year, or after February. And, as the Roman calendar was independent as respected the names of the months which were probably transferred from the old national ones, it was also independent as regarded their duration: instead of the four years of the Greek cycle, each composed of six months of and six of 29 days and an intercalary month inserted every second year alternately of 29 and 30 days (354+384+354+383 = 1475 days), the Roman calendar substituted four years, each containing four months—the first, third, fifth, and eighth—of 31 days and seven of 29 days, with a February of 28 days during three years and of 29 in the fourth, and an intercalary month of 27 days inserted every second year (365+383+355+382 = 1475 days). In like manner this calendar deviated from the original distribution of the month into four weeks, sometimes of 7, sometimes of 8 days; instead of this it permanently fixed the first quarter in the months of 31 days on the seventh, in those of 29 on the fifth day, and the full moon in the former on the fifteenth, in the latter on the thirteenth day; so that the second and fourth weeks in the month consisted of 8 days, the third ordinarily of 9 (only in the case of the February of 28 days it consisted of 8, and in the intercalary month of 27 days, of 7), the first of 6 where the month consisted of 31, and in other cases of 4 days. As the course of the three last weeks of the month was thus essentially similar, it was henceforth necessary only to proclaim the length of the first week in each month. Thence the first day of the first week received the name of "proclamation-day" (kalendæ). The first days of the second and fourth weeks, which were uniformly of 8 days, were (in conformity with the Roman custom of reckoning, inclusively of the extremes) designated as "nine-days" (nonæ, noundinæ), while the first day[errata 2] of the third week retained the old name of idus (perhaps "dividing-day"). The chief motive lying at the bottom of this strange re-modelling of the calendar seems to have been a belief in the salutary virtue of odd numbers;[3] and while in general it is based on the oldest form of the Greek year, its variations from that form distinctly exhibit the influence of the doctrines of Pythagoras, which were then paramount in Lower Italy, and which especially turned upon a mystic view of numbers. But the consequence was that this Roman calendar, clearly as it bears traces of the desire that it should harmonize with the course both of sun and moon, did in reality by no means correspond with the lunar periods, as its Greek model did at least on the whole, while, like the oldest Greek cycle, it could only follow the solar seasons by means of frequent arbitrary excisions, and did in all probability follow them but very imperfectly, for it is scarcely likely that the calendar would be handled with greater skill than was manifested in its original arrangement. The retention moreover of the reckoning by months or (which is the same thing) by years of ten months, implies a tacit, but not to be misunderstood, confession of the irregularity and untrustworthiness of the oldest Roman solar year. This Roman calendar may be looked upon, at least in its essential features, as that generally current among the Latins. From the general liability to change as to the time of beginning the year and the names of the months, smaller variations in the successional numbers and designations are quite compatible with the hypothesis of a common basis; and with such a calendar-system, which practically was quite irrespective of the lunar course, the Latins might easily come to have months of arbitrary lengths whose limits were possibly marked by annual festivals—as in the case of the Alban months, which varied between 16 and 36 days. It would appear probable therefore that the Greek trieteris had early been introduced from Lower Italy at least into Latium and perhaps also among the other Italian stocks, and had thereafter been subjected, in the calendars of the several cities, to various subordinate alterations.

For the measuring of periods of more years than one the regnal years of the kings may have been employed; but it is doubtful whether that method of dating, which was in use in the East, existed in Greece or Italy during earlier times. On the other hand the intercalary period recurring every four years, and the census and lustration of the community connected with it, appear to have suggested a reckoning by lustra similar in plan to the Greek reckoning by Olympiads—a mode of reckoning, however, which early lost its chronological importance, in consequence of the irregularities that were soon introduced through the postponement of the census.

Introduction of Hellenic alphabets into Italy. The art of expressing sounds by written signs was of later origin than the art of measurement. The Italians did not any more than the Hellenes develop such an art of them selves, although we may discover a first attempt at such a development in the Italian numeral signs, and possibly also in the primitive Italian custom (formed independently of Hellenic influence) of drawing lots by means of wooden tablets. The difficulty which must have attended the first individualizing of sounds, occurring as they do in so great a variety of combinations, is best demonstrated by the fact that a single alphabet propagated from people to people and from generation to generation has sufficed, and still suffices, for the whole of Aramaic, Indian, Græco-Roman, and modern civilization. This most important product of the human intellect was the joint creation of the Aramæans and Indo-Germans. The Semitic family of languages, in which vowels have a subordinate character and never can begin a word, presented special facilities for the individualizing of the consonants; and it was among the Semites accordingly that the first alphabet (in which the vowels were wanting) was invented. It was the Indians and Greeks that first independently of each other and by very divergent methods created, out of the Aramæan consonantal writing introduced among them by commerce, a complete alphabet by the addition of vowels, and the marking of the syllable instead of the mere consonant, or, as Palamedes says in Euripides,

Τὰ τῆς γε λήθης φάρμακ’ ὀρθώσας μόνος
Ἀφώνα κὰι φωνοῦντα, συλλαβάς τε θείς,
Ἐξεῦρον ἀνθρώποισι γράμματ’ εἰδέναι.

This Aramæo-Hellenic alphabet was introduced among the Italians at a very early period; but not until it had already experienced an important development in Greece, and had been subjected to various reforms, particularly the addition of three new letters ξ, φ, χ, and the alteration of the signs for γ, ι, λ (P. 144, note). We have also already observed (P. 209) that two different Greek alphabets reached Italy, one with a double sign for s (Sigma s, and San sh) and a single sign for k and with the earlier form of the r (Ρ) coining to Etruria, the second with a single sign for s and a double sign for k (Kappa k, and Koppa q), and the more recent form of the r (R) coming to Latium. The oldest Etruscan writing shows no knowledge of lines, and winds like the coiling of a snake; the more recent employs parallel broken off lines from right to left: the Latin writing, as far as our monuments reach back, exhibits only the latter form of parallel lines, which originally perhaps may have run at pleasure from left to right or from right to left, but subsequently ran among the Romans in the former, and among the Faliscans in the latter direction. Respecting the origin of the Etruscan alphabet this much only can be with certainty affirmed, that it cannot have been brought to Etruria from Corcyra or Corinth, or even from the Sicilian Dorians; the most probable hypothesis is that it was derived from the old Attic alphabet, which appears to have dropped the koppa earlier than any other in Greece. As little can we determine with precision whether the Tuscan alphabet spread over Etruria from Spina or from Cære, although the probabilities are in favour of the latter very ancient emporium of traffic and civilization.

The derivation on the other hand of the Latin alphabet from that of the Cumæan and Sicilian Greeks is quite evident; and it is even very probable that the Latins did not receive the alphabet once for all, as was the case in Etruria, but in consequence of their lively intercourse with Sicily kept pace for a considerable period with the alphabet in use there, and followed its variations. We find, for instance, that the earlier forms Σ and were not unknown to the Romans, but were superseded in common use by the later forms S and M—a circumstance which can only be explained by supposing that the Latins employed for a considerable period the Greek alphabet, as such, in writing either their mother-tongue or Greek. It is dangerous therefore to draw from the more recent character of the Greek alphabet which we meet with in Rome, as compared with that brought to Etruria, the inference that writing was practised earlier in Etruria than in Rome.

The powerful impression produced by the acquisition of the treasure of letters on those who received them, and the vividness with which they realized the power that slumbered in those humble signs, are illustrated by a remarkable vase from one of the oldest tombs of Cære (built before the invention of the arch), exhibiting the alphabet after the old Greek model as it came to Etruria, and also an Etruscan syllabarium formed from it, which may be compared to that of Palamedes—evidently a sacred relic of the introduction and acclimatization of alphabetic writing in Etruria.

Development of alphabets in Italy.Not less important for history than the derivation of the alphabet is the further course of its development on Italian soil: perhaps it is even of more importance; for by means of it a gleam of light is thrown upon the inland commerce of Italy, which is involved in far greater darkness than the commerce with foreigners on its coast. In the earliest epoch of the Etruscan alphabet, when it was used without material alteration as it had been introduced, its use appears to have been restricted to the Etruscans on the Po and in what is now Tuscany. In course of time this alphabet, manifestly diffusing itself from Hatria and Spina, reached southward along the east coast as far as the Abruzzi, northward to the Veneti and subsequently even to the Celts at the foot of, amidst, and indeed beyond the Alps, so that its last offshoots reached as far as the Tyrol and Stvria. The more recent epoch started with a reform of the alphabet, the chief features of which were the introduction of writing in interrupted lines, the suppression of the o, which was no longer distinguished in pronunciation from the u, and the introduction of a new letter f, for which the alphabet as received by them had no corresponding sign. This reform evidently arose among the western Etruscans, and while it did not find reception beyond the Apennines, became naturalized among all the Sabellian tribes, and especially among the Umbrians. In its further course the alphabet experienced various fortunes in connection with the several of the Etruscans on the Arno and around Capua, the Umbrians, and the Samnites; frequently the mediæ were entirely or partially lost, while elsewhere again new vowels and consonants were developed. But that west-Etruscan reform of the alphabet is not merely as old as the oldest tombs found in Etruria; it is considerably older, for the syllabarium just mentioned as found probably in one of these tombs, already presents the reformed alphabet in an essentially modified and modernized shape; and, as the reformed alphabet itself is relatively recent as compared with the primitive one, the mind almost fails in the effort to reach back to the time when that alphabet came to Italy.

While the Etruscans thus appear as the instruments in diffusing the alphabet in the north, east, and south of the peninsula, the Latin alphabet again was confined to Latium, and maintained its ground there, with, upon the whole, but few alterations; only the letters γ κ and ζ σ gradually became coincident in sound, the consequence of which was, that in each case one of the homophonous signs (κ ζ) disappeared from writing. In Rome it can be shown that these were already laid aside when the Twelve Tables were committed to writing. Now when we consider that in the oldest abbreviations the distinction between γ c and κ k is still regularly maintained;[4] that the period, accordingly, when the sounds became in pronunciation coincident, and before that again the period during which the abbreviations became fixed, were far earlier than the origin of the Twelve Tables; and lastly, that a considerable interval must necessarily have elapsed between the introduction of writing and the establishment of a conventional system of abbreviation, we must, both as regards Etruria and Latium, carry back the commencement of the art of writing to an epoch which more closely approximates to the first incidence of the Ægyptian dog-star period within historical times, the year 1322 b.c., than to the year 776, with which the chronology of the Olympiads began in Greece.[5] The high antiquity of the art of writing in Rome is evinced otherwise by numerous and plain indications. The existence of documents of the regal period is sufficiently attested; such was the special treaty between Rome and Gabii, which was concluded by a king Tarquinius and probably not by the last of that name, and which, written on the skin of the bullock sacrificed on the occasion, was preserved in the temple of Sancus on the Quirinal, which was rich in antiquities and probably escaped the conflagration of the Gauls; and such was the alliance which King Servius Tullius concluded with Latium, and which Dionysius saw on a copper tablet in the temple of Diana on the Aventine. What he saw, however, was probably a copy restored after the burning with the help of a Latin exemplar, for it is not likely that engraving on metal was practised in the time of the kings. But even then they scratched (exarare, scribere, akin to scrobes[6]) or painted (linere, thence littera) on leaves (folium), inner bark (liber), or wooden tablets (tabula, album), afterwards also on leather and linen. The sacred records of the Samnites as well as of the priesthood of Anagnia were inscribed on linen rolls, and so were the oldest registers of the Roman magistrates preserved in the temple of the goddess of recollection (Iuno Moneta) on the Capitol. It is scarcely necessary to recall further proofs in the primitive marking of the pastured cattle (scriptura), in the mode of addressing the senate, "fathers and enrolled" (Patres conscripti), and in the great antiquity of the books of oracles, the gentile registers, and the Alban and Roman calendars. When the Roman tradition already about the time of the expulsion of the kings speaks of halls in the Forum, where the boys and girls of the nobles were taught to read and write, the statement may be, but is not necessarily to be deemed, an invention. We have been deprived of information as to the early Roman history, not in consequence of the want of a knowledge of writing or even perhaps of the lack of documents, but in consequence of the incapacity of the historians of the succeeding age (which was called to investigate the history) to work out the materials furnished by the archives, and the perversity which led them to ransack tradition for the delineation of motives and of characters, for accounts of battles and narratives of revolutions, and in pursuit of these to miss such information as it would not have refused to yield to the serious and self-denying inquirer.

Results. The history of Italian writing thus furnishes in the first place a confirmation of the weak and indirect influence exercised by the Hellenic character over the Sabellians as compared with the more western peoples. The fact that the former received their alphabet from the Etruscans and not from the Romans is probably to be explained by supposing that they had obtained it before they entered upon their migration along the ridge of the Apennines, and that the Sabines and Samnites accordingly took it along with them when they were sent forth from the mother-land. On the other hand this history of writing contains a salutary warning against the adoption of the hypothesis, originated by the later Roman culture in its devotedness to Etruscan mysticism and antiquarian trifling, and patiently repeated by modern and even very recent inquirers, that Roman civilization derived its germs and its main substance from Etruria. If this were the truth, some traces of it should be especially apparent in this field; but on the contrary the nucleus of the Latin art of writing was Greek, and its development was so national, that it did not even adopt the very desirable Etruscan sign for f. Indeed, when there is an appearance of borrowing, as in the numeral signs, the borrowing was on the part of the Etruscans, who derived from the Romans at least the sign for 50.

Corruption of language and writing. In fine, it is a significant fact, that among all the Italian stocks the development of the Greek alphabet chiefly consisted in a process of corruption. Thus the mediæ disappeared in the whole of the Etruscan dialects, while the Umbrians lost γ and d, the Samnites d, and the Romans γ; and among the latter d also threatened to amalgamate with r. In like manner among the Etruscans o and u early coalesced, and even among the Latins we meet with a tendency to the same corruption. Nearly the converse occurred in the case of the sibilants; for while the Etruscan retained the three signs z, s, sh, and the Umbrian rejected the last but developed two new sibilants in its room, the Samnite and the Faliscan confined themselves like the Greek to s and z, and the Roman of later times to s alone. It is plain that the more delicate distinctions of sound were duly felt by the introducers of the alphabet, men of culture and masters of two languages; but after the national writing became wholly detached from the Hellenic mother-alphabet, the mediæ and tenues gradually came to coincide, and the sibilants and vowels were thrown into disorder—shiftings or rather destructions of sound, of which the first in particular is entirely foreign to the Greek. The destruction of the forms of flexion and derivation went hand in hand with this corruption of sounds. The cause of this barbarization was, upon the whole, simply the necessary process of corruption which is continuously eating away every language, where its progress is not checked by literature and reason; only in this case evidences of what has elsewhere passed away without leaving a trace have been preserved in the writing of sounds. The circumstance that this barbarizing process affected the Etruscans more strongly than any other of the Italian[errata 3] stocks adds to the numerous proofs of their inferior capacity for culture. The fact on the other hand that, Italians, the Umbrians apparently were the most affected by a similar corruption of language, the Romans less so, the southern Sabellians least of all, probably finds its explanation, at least in part, in the more lively intercourse maintained by the former with the Etruscans, and by the latter with the Greeks.

  1. Originally both the actus, "driving," and its still more frequently occur. ring duplicate, the jugerum, "yoking," were, like the German "morgen," not measures of surface, but measures of labour; the latter denoting the day's work, the former the half-day's work, with reference to the peculiarly marked division of the day in Italy by the ploughman's rest at noon.
  2. 24/25 of the Greek foot = one Roman foot.
  3. Censorin. xx. 4, 5; Macrob. Sat. i. 13, 5; Solin. i. With reference to this belief in general, see Festus, Ep. v. imparem, p. 109, Müll.; Virgil, Ecl. viii. 75, and Servius thereon; Plin. xxviii. 2, 23 (impares numeros ad omnia vehementiores credimus idque in febribus dierum observatione intellegitur) Macrob. Comm. i. 2, 1; ii. 2, 17 (impar numerus mas et par femina vocatur); Plutarch, Q. R. 102.
  4. Thus C. represents Gaius; CN. Gnæus; while K. stands for Kæso. With the more recent abbreviations of course this is not the case; in these γ is represented not by C, but by G (GAL. Galeria), κ, as a rule, by centum, COS. consul; COL. Collina), but not unfrequently before α by K (KAR. karmentalia; MERK. merkatus).
  5. If this view is correct, the origin of the Homeric poems (though of course not exactly in the form in which we now have them) must have been far anterior to the age which Herodotus assigns tor the flourishing of Homer (400 before Rome [850]), for the introduction of the Hellenic alphabet into Italy, as well as the beginning of intercourse at all between Hellas and Italy, belongs only to the post-Homeric period.
  6. Just as the old Saxon wrītan signifies properly to tear, thence to write.


  1. Original: applications was amended to application: detail
  2. Original: days was amended to day: detail
  3. Original: Itailan was amended to Italian: detail