The History of Rome (Mommsen)/Book 1/Chapter 15



Artistic endowments of the Italians. Poetry is impassioned language, and its modulation is melody. While in this sense no people is without poetry and music some nations have received a pre-eminent endowment of poetic gifts. The Italian nation, however, was not and is not one of these. The Italian is deficient in the passion of the heart, and in the longing to idealize what is human and to give life to the things of the inanimate world, which form the very essence of poetic art. His acuteness of perception and his charming versatility enabled him to excel in irony and in the vein of tale-telling such as we find in Horace and Boccaccio, in the graceful pleasantries of love and song which are presented in Catullus and in the best popular songs of Naples, above all in low comedy and in farce. Italian soil gave birth in ancient times to burlesque tragedy, and in modern times to burlesques of the poetry of chivalry. In rhetoric and theatrical art especially no other nation equalled or equals the Italians. But in the more perfect kinds of art they have hardly advanced beyond cleverness of execution, and no epoch of their literature has produced a true epos or a genuine drama. The very highest literary works that have been successfully produced in Italy, divine poems like Dante's Commedia, and historical treatises such as those of Sallust and Macchiavelli, of Tacitus and Colletta, are pervaded by a passion more rhetorical than spontaneous. Even in music, both in ancient and modern times, real creative talent has been far less conspicuous than the facility, which speedily assumes the character of virtuosoship, and enthrones in the room of genuine and genial art a hollow and heart-withering idol. The field of the inward in art (so far as we may in the case of art distinguish the inward and outward at all) is not that which has fallen to the Italian as his special province; the power of beauty, to have its full effect upon him, must be placed, not ideally before his mind, but sensuously before his eyes. Accordingly he is thoroughly at home in architecture, painting, and sculpture; in these he was during the epoch of ancient culture the best disciple of the Hellenes, and in modern times he has become the instructor of all nations.

Dance, music, and song in Latium. From the defectiveness of our traditional information it is not possible to trace the development of artistic ideas among the several groups of nations in Italy; and in particular we are no longer in a position to speak of the poetry of Italy, we can only speak of that of Latium. Latin poetry, like that of every other nation, began in the lyrical form, or, to speak more correctly, sprang out of those primitive festal rejoicings, in which dance, music, and song were still inseparably blended. It is remarkable, however, that in the most ancient religious usages dancing, and next to dancing instrumental music, were far more prominent than song. In the great and solemn procession, with which the principal festival at Rome was opened, the chief place, next to the images of the gods and the intending competitors, was assigned to the dancers grave and merry. The grave dancers were arranged in three groups of men, youths, and boys, all clad in red tunics with copper belts, with swords and short lances, the men being moreover furnished with helmets, and generally in full armed attire. The merry dancers were divided into two companies, the "sheep" in sheepskins with a party-coloured over-garment, and the "goats" naked down to the waist, with a buck's skin thrown over them. In like manner the "leapers" (salii) were perhaps the most ancient and sacred of all the priesthoods (P. 175), and dancers (ludii) were indispensable in all public processions, and particularly at funeral solemnities. Accordingly dancing became in very ancient times a common trade. But, wherever the dancers made their appearance, there appeared also the musicians or (which was in the earliest times the same thing) the pipers. They too were never wanting at a sacrifice, at a marriage, or at a funeral; and by the side of the primitive priesthood of the "leapers" there was ranged, of equal antiquity, although of far inferior rank, the guild of the "pipers" (collegium tibicinum, P. 202), whose true character as strolling musicians is evinced by their ancient privilege, maintained even in spite of the strictness of Roman police, of wandering through the streets at their annual festival, wearing masks and full of sweet wine. While dancing thus presents itself as an honourable function, and music as one subordinate but still necessary, and public corporations were therefore instituted for both of these, poetry appears rather as an incidental and, so to speak, uncalled for phenomenon, whether it may have come into existence by itself, or as an accompaniment to the movements of the dancers.

Religious chants. The earliest chant, in the view of the Romans, was that which the leaves sang to themselves in the green solitude of the forest. The whispers and pipings of the "favourable spirit" (Faunus, from favere) in the grove were repeated to men by the singer[errata 1], or by the songstress (casmena, carmenta) who had the gift of listening to him, with the accompaniment of the pipe, and in rhythmically measured language (casmen, afterwards carmen, from canere)[errata 2]. Of a kindred nature to these soothsaying songs were the incantations properly so called, the formulæ for conjuring away diseases and other troubles, and the evil spells by which they prevented the rain and called down the lightning, or even enticed the seed from one field to another; only in these instances, probably from the very first, formulæ of mere sounds appear side by side with formulæ of words.[1] More firmly rooted in tradition and equally primitive were the religious litanies which were sung and danced by the Salii and other priesthoods, and the only one of which that has come down to us, a dance-chant of the Arval Brethren in honour of Mars, probably composed to be sung in alternate parts, well deserves a place here.

Enos, Lases, iuvate!
Neve lue rue, Marmar, sins incurrere in pleores!
Satur fu, fere Mars! limen sali! sta! berber!
Semunis alternis advocapit conctos!
Enos, Marmor, iuvato!

To the gods. Nos, Lares, iuvate!
Ne luem ruem (= ruinam), Mamers, sinas incurrere in plures!
Satur esto, fere Mars!
To the individual brethren. In limen insili! sta! verbera (limen?)!
To all the brethren. Semones alterni advocate cunctos.
To the god. Nos, Mamers, iuvato!
To the individual brethren. Tripudia![2]

The Latin of this chant and of kindred fragments of the Salian songs, which were regarded even by the philologists of the Augustan age as the oldest documents of their mother-tongue, is related to the Latin of the Twelve Tables somewhat as the language of the Nibelungen is related to the language of Luther; and we may perhaps compare these venerable litanies, as respects both language and contents, with the Indian Vedas.

Panegyrics and lampoons. Lyrical panegyrics and lampoons belonged to a later epoch. We might infer from the national character of the Italian people, that satirical songs must have abounded in Latium in ancient times, even if their prevalence had not been attested by the very ancient measures of police directed against them. But the panegyrical chants were of more importance. When a burgess was borne to burial, the bier was followed by a female relative or friend, who, accompanied by a piper, sang his dirge (nenia). In like manner at banquets boys who, according to the fashion of those days, attended their fathers even at feasts out of their own houses, sang by turns songs in praise of their ancestors, sometimes to the pipe, sometimes simply reciting them without accompaniment (assa voce canere). The custom of men singing at banquets in succession was probably borrowed from the Greeks, and that not till a later age. We know no further particulars of these ancestral lays, but it is self-evident that they must have attempted description and narration, and thus have developed along with and out of the lyrical element the features of epical poetry.

The masked farce. Other elements of poetry were called into action in the primitive popular carnival, the comic dance or satura (P. 29), which beyond doubt reached back to a period anterior to the separation of the stocks. On such occasions song would never be wanting; and the circumstances under which such pastimes were exhibited, chiefly at public festivals and marriages, as well as the eminently practical shape which they did certainly assume, very naturally suggested that several dancers, or sets of dancers, should take up reciprocal parts; so that the singing thus came to be associated with a species of acting, which of course was chiefly of a comical, and often of a licentious character. In this way there arose not merely alternating chants, such as afterwards went by the name of Fescennine songs, but also the elements of a popular comedy—which were in this instance planted in a soil admirably adapted for their growth, as an acute sense of the outward and the comic, and a delight in gesticulation and masquerade have ever been leading traits of Italian character.

No remains have been preserved of these germs of the Roman epos and drama. That the ancestral lays were traditional is self-evident, and is abundantly demonstrated by the fact that they were regularly recited by children; but even in the time of Cato the Elder they had completely passed into oblivion. The comedies, again, if it be allowable to apply to them such a name, were at this period and long afterwards altogether improvised. Consequently nothing of this popular poetry and popular melody could be handed down but the measure, the accompaniment of music and choral dancing, and perhaps the masks.

Metre. Whether what we call metre existed in the earlier times is doubtful; the litany of the Arval Brethren scarcely accommodates itself to an outwardly fixed musical system, and presents to us rather the appearance of an animated recitation. On the other hand we find in subsequent times a very ancient rhythm, the so-called Saturnian[3] or Faunian metre, which is foreign to the Greeks, and may be conjectured to arisen contemporaneously with the oldest Latin popular poetry. The following poem, belonging, it is true, to a far later age, may give an idea of it:—

Quod ré suá difeídens—âsperé afleícta
Paréns timens heic vóvit—vóto hóc solúto
De͡cumá factá poloúcta—leíbereís lubéntes
Donú danúnt ‿ Herco͡lei—máxsumé ‿ mére͡to
Semól te͡ oránt se vóti—crébro cón ‿ démnes.

‿ —′ ‿ —′ ‿ —′ ͝— || —′ ‿ —′ ‿ —′ ͝—

That which, misfortune dreading—sharply to′ afflict him,
An anxious parent vowed here,—when his wish was granted,
A sacred tenth for banquet—gladly give his children
To Hercules a tribute—most of all deserving;
And now they thee beseech, that—often thou wouldst hear them.

Panegyrics as well as comic songs appear to have been uniformly sung in Saturnian metre, of course to the pipe, and probably in such a way that the cæsura in particular in each line was strongly marked; and in alternate singing the second singer probably took up the verse at this point. The Saturnian measure is, like every other occurring in Roman and Greek antiquity, based on quantity; but of all the antique metres perhaps it is the least thoroughly elaborated, for besides many other liberties it allows itself the greatest license in omitting the short syllables, and it is at the same time the most imperfect in construction, for these iambic and trochaic half-lines opposed to each other were but little fitted to develop a rhythmical structure adequate for the purposes of the higher poetry.

Melody. The fundamental elements of the national music and Melody. choral dancing of Latium, which must likewise have been established during this period, are buried in oblivion; except that the Latin pipe is reported to have been a short and slender instrument, provided with only four holes, and originally, as the name shows, made out of the light thighbone of some animal.

Masks. Lastly, the masks used in after times for the standing characters of the Latin popular comedy or the Atellana, as it was called; Maccus the harlequin, Bucco the glutton, Pappus the good papa, and the wise Dossennus (masks which have been cleverly and strikingly compared to the two servants, the pantalon and the dottore, in the Italian comedy of Punch) already belonged to the earliest Latin popular art. That they did so cannot of course be strictly proved; but as the use of masks for the face in Latium in the case of the national drama was of immemorial antiquity, while the Greek drama in Rome did not adopt them for a century after its first establishment, as moreover those Atellane masks were of decidedly Italian origin, and as, in fine, the origination as well as the execution of improvised pieces cannot well be conceived apart from fixed masks assigning once for all to the player his proper position throughout the piece, we must associate fixed masks with the rudiments of the Roman drama, or rather regard them as constituting those rudiments themselves.

Earliest Hellenic influences. If our information respecting the earliest indigenous civilization and art of Latium is so scanty, it may easily be conceived that our knowledge will be still scantier regarding the earliest impulses imparted in this respect to the Romans from without. In a certain sense we may include under this head their becoming acquainted with foreign languages, particularly the Greek. To this latter language, of course, the Latins generally were strangers, as was shown by their enactment in respect to the Sibylline oracles (P. 187); but an acquaintance with it must have been not at all uncommon in the case of merchants. The same may be affirmed of the knowledge of reading and writing, closely connected as it was with the knowledge of Greek (P. 221). The culture of the ancient world, however, was not based on the knowledge of foreign languages, nor on elementary technical accomplishments. An influence more important than any thus imparted was exercised over the development of Latium by the elements of the fine arts, which were already in very early times received from the Hellenes. For it was the Hellenes alone, and not the Phœnicians or the Etruscans, that in this respect exercised influence on the Italians. We nowhere find among the latter any stimulus given to the fine arts which can be traced to Carthage or Cære, and the Phœnicians and Etruscans may be in general regarded as presenting barren and unproductive types of civilization.[4] But the influence of Greece did not fail to fruit. The Greek seven-stringed lyra, the "strings" (fides, from σφίδη, gut, also barbitus, βάρβιτος) was not like indigenous in Latium, and was always regarded in instrument of foreign origin; but the early period ririch it gained a footing is demonstrated partly by the barbarous mutilation of its Greek name, partly by its being employed even in ritual.[5] That some of the legendary stores of the Greeks already during this period found their way into Latium, is shown by the ready reception of Greek works ulpture with their representations based so thoroughly upon the poetical treasures of the nation; and the old Latin barbarous conversions of Persephone into Prosepna, Bellerophontes into Melerpanta, Kyklops into Cocles, Laomedon into Alumentus, Ganymedes into Catamitus, Neilos into Melus, Semele into Stimula, enable us to perceive at how remote a period such stories had been already heard and repeated by the Latins. Lastly and especially, the Roman chief or city festival (ludi maximi, Romani) must have derived, if not its origin, at any rate its later arrangements, from a Greek source. It was an extraordinary festival, celebrated in honour of the Capitoline Jupiter and the gods associated with him, the observance of which was, as a rule, the result of a vow made by the general before battle, and therefore usually took place on the return home of the burgess force in autumn. A festal procession proceeded towards the circus staked off between the Palatine and Aventine, and furnished with an arena and places for spectators; in front the whole boys of Rome, arranged according to the divisions of the burgess-force, on horseback and on foot; then the competitors and the groups of dancers whom we have described above, each with their own music; thereafter the servants of the gods with vessels of frankincense and other sacred utensils; lastly the biers with the images of the gods themselves. The spectacle itself was the counterpart of war, as it was waged in primitive times, a contest with chariots, on horseback, and on foot. First there ran the war-chariots, each of which carried in Homeric fashion a charioteer and a combatant; then the combatants who had leaped off; then the horsemen, each of whom appeared after the Roman style of fighting with a horse which he rode and another led by the hand (desultor); lastly, the combatants on foot, naked to the girdle round their loins, measured their mutual powers in racing, wrestling, and boxing. In each species of contest there was but one competition, and that between not more than two competitors. A chaplet rewarded the victor, and the honour in which the simple branch which formed the wreath was held is shown by the law permitting it to be laid on the bier of the victor when he died. The festival thus lasted only one day, and the competitions probably still left time on that day for the real carnival, at which the groups of dancers displayed their art and above all exhibited their farces; and perhaps other representations also, such as competitions in juvenile horsemanship, took place.[6] The honours won in real war played their part in this festival; the brave warrior exhibited on this day the equipments of the antagonists he had slain, and was decorated with a chaplet by the grateful community.

Such was the nature of the Roman festival of victory or civic festival; and the other public festivities of Rome may be conceived to have been of a similar character, although less ample in point of resources. At the celebration of a public funeral dancers regularly bore a part, and along with them, if there was to be any further exhibition, horse-racers; in that case the burgesses were specially invited beforehand to the funeral by the public crier.

But this city-festival, so intimately bound up with the manners and exercises of the Romans, coincides in all essentials with the Hellenic national festivals; particularly, in the fundamental idea of combining a religious solemnity and a competition in warlike sports; in the selection of the several exercises, which at the Olympic festival, according to Pindar's testimony, consisted from the first in running, wrestling, boxing, chariot-racing, and throwing the spear and stone; in the quality of the prize of victory, which in Rome as well as in the Greek national festivals was a chaplet, and in the one as well as in the other was assigned not to the charioteer, but to the owner of the team; lastly, in the introducing the feats and rewards of general patriotism in connection with the general national festival. This agreement cannot have been accidental, but must have been either a remnant of the primitive connection between the peoples, or a result of the earliest international intercourse; and the probabilities preponderate in favour of the latter hypothesis. The city-festival, in the form in which we are acquainted with it, was not one of the oldest institutions of Rome, for the circus itself was only laid out in the later regal period (P. 118); and just as the reform of the constitution then took place under Greek influence (P. 103), the city-festival may have been at the same time so far transformed as to combine Greek races with, and eventually to a certain extent to substitute them for, an older mode of amusement—the "leap" (triumpus, P. 29), or possibly swinging, which was a primitive Italian custom and long continued in use at the festival on the Alban mount. Moreover while there is some trace of the use of the war-chariot in actual warfare in Hellas, no such trace exists in Latium. In fine the Greek term στάδιον (Doric σπάδιον) was at a very early period transferred to the Latin language, retaining its signification, as spatium; and there exists even an express statement that the Romans derived their horse and chariot races from the people of Thurii, although, it is true, another account derives them from Etruria. It thus appears that in addition to the impulses imparted by the Hellenes in music and poetry, the Romans were indebted to them for the fruitful idea of gymnastic competitions.

Character of poetry and of education in Latium. Thus there not only existed in Latium the same fundamental elements in which Hellenic culture and art originated, but Hellenic culture and art themselves exercised a powerful influence over Latium in very early times. Not only did the Latins possess the elements of gymnastic training, seeing that the Roman boy learned like every farmer's son to manage horses and waggon and to handle the huntingspear, and that in Rome every burgess was at the same time a soldier; but the art of dancing was from the first an object of public care, and a powerful impulse was further given to such culture at an early period by the introduction of the Hellenic games. The lyrical poetry and tragedy of Hellas grew out of songs similar to the festal lays of Rome; the ancestral lay contained the germs of epos, the masked farce the germs of comedy; and in this field also Grecian influences were not wanting.

In such circumstances it is the more remarkable that these germs either did not spring up at all, or were soon arrested in their growth. The bodily training of the Latin youth continued to be solid and substantial, but it remained altogether alien from the idea of an artistic bodily culture, such as was the aim of Hellenic gymnastics. The public games of the Hellenes, when introduced into Italy, changed not so much their normal form as their essential character. While they were intended to be competitions of burgesses and beyond doubt were so at first in Rome, they became contests of trained riders and trained boxers, and, while the proof of free and Hellenic descent formed the first condition for participating in the Greek festal games, those of Rome soon passed into the hands of freedmen and foreigners and even of persons not free at all. Consequently the circle of fellow-competitors became converted into a public of spectators, and the chaplet of the victorious champion, which has been with justice called the true badge of Hellas, was afterwards hardly ever mentioned in Latium.

A similar fate befel poetry and her sisters. The Greeks and Germans alone possess a fountain of song that wells up spontaneously; from the golden vase of the Muses only a few drops have fallen on the green soil of Italy. There was no formation of legend in the strict sense there. The Italian gods were abstractions and remained such; they never became elevated into or, as some would prefer to say, never were obscured under a true personal shape. In like manner men, even the greatest and noblest, remained in the view of the Italians without exception mortals, and were not, as in Greece, through longing recollection and affectionately cherished tradition elevated in the conception of the multitude into godlike heroes. But above all no development of national poetry took place in Latium. It is the deepest and noblest effect of the fine arts and above all of poetry, that they do away with the barriers of civil communities, and create out of tribes one nation and out of the nations one world. As in the present day by means of our cosmopolitan literature the distinctions of civilized nations are done away, so Greek poetic art transformed the narrow and egotistical sense of tribe-relationship into the consciousness of an Hellenic nation, and that again into the consciousness of a broad humanity. But in Latium nothing similar occurred. There might be poets in Alba and in Rome, but there arose no Latin epos, nor (even what were still more conceivable) a catechism for the Latin farmer of a kind similar to the Works and Days of Hesiod. The Latin federal festival might well have become a national festival of the Muses, like the Olympia and Isthmia of the Greeks. A cycle of legends might well have gathered around the fall of Alba, such as was woven around the conquest of Ilion, and every community and every noble gens of Latium might have discovered or inserted the story of its own origin there. But neither of these results took place, and Italy remained without national poetry or art.

The inference which of necessity follows from these facts, that the development of the fine arts in Latium was rather a shrivelling up than an expanding into bloom, is confirmed in a manner not to be mistaken by tradition. The beginnings of poetry everywhere, perhaps, belong rather to women than to men; the spell of incantation and the chant for the dead pertain pre-eminently to the former, and not without reason the spirits of song, the Camenæ of Latium and the Muses of Hellas, were conceived as feminine. But the time came in Hellas, when the poet relieved the songstress and Apollo took his place at the head of the Muses. In Latium, however, there was no national god of song, and the language of the land had no current word of native growth to designate the poet who composed what he sang.[7] That the power of song appeared there weak out of all proportion, and was rapidly arrested in its growth, is most clearly attested by the early restriction of the exercise of the fine arts partly to women and children, partly to incorporated or unincorporated tradesmen. We have already mentioned that funeral chants were sung by women, and banquet-lays by boys; the religious litanies also were chiefly executed by children. The musicians formed an incorporated, the dancers and the wailing women (præficæ) unincorporated, trades. While dancing, music, and singing remained constantly in (as they were originally also in Latium) reputable employments redounding to the honour of the burgess and of the community to which he belonged, in Latium the better portion of the burgesses recoiled from the practice of such vain arts, and that more decidedly in proportion as art came to be more publicly exhibited and more thoroughly penetrated by the quickening impulses communicated from other lands. The use of the native pipe was sanctioned, but the lyre remained despised; and while the national amusement of masks was allowed, the foreign amusements of the palæstra were not only regarded with indifference, but were esteemed disgraceful. While the fine arts in Greece became more and more the common property of the Hellenes individually and collectively, and thereby became channels for the diffusion of a universal culture, they gradually disappeared in Latium from the thoughts and feelings of the people; and, as they degenerated into utterly insignificant handicrafts, the idea of a general national culture to be communicated to youth never suggested itself at all. The education of youth remained thoroughly confined within the limits of the narrowest domesticity. The boy never left his father's side, and accompanied him not only to the field with the plough and the sickle, but also to the house of a friend or to the council-hall, when his father was invited as a guest or summoned to the senate. This domestic education was well adapted to train man wholly for the household and wholly for the state. The permanent intercommunion of life between father and son, and the mutual reverence felt by adolescence for ripened manhood and by the mature man for the innocence of youth, lay at the root of the steadfastness of the domestic and political traditions, of the closeness of the family bond, and in general of the grave earnestness (gravitas) and character of moral worth in Roman life. This mode of educating youth was in truth one of those institutions of homely and scarce conscious wisdom, which are as simple as they are profound. But amidst the admiration which it awakens we may not overlook the fact that it could only be carried out, and was only carried out, by the sacrifice of true individual culture, and by complete renunciation of the equally charming and perilous gifts of the Muses.

Dance, music, and song among the Sabellians and Etruscans. Regarding the development of the fine arts among the Etruscans and Sabellians our knowledge is little better than none.[8] We can only notice the fact that in Etruria the dancers (histri, histriones) and the pipe-players (subulones) early made a trade of their art, probably earlier even than in Rome, and exhibited themselves in public not only at home, but also in Rome for small remuneration and less honour. It is a circumstance more remarkable that at the Etruscan national festival, in the exhibition of which the whole twelve cities were represented by a federal priest, games were given like those of the Roman city festival; we are, however, no longer in a position to answer the question which it suggests, how far the Etruscans were more successful than the Latins in attaining a national art not confined to the narrow bounds of the individual communities. On the other hand a foundation probably was laid in Etruria, even in early times, for that insipid accumulation of learned lumber, particularly of a theological and astrological nature, by virtue of which afterwards, when amidst the general decay antiquarian dilettantism began to flourish, the Tuscans divided with the Jews, Chaldeans, and Egyptians the honour of being accounted the primitive sources of divine wisdom. We know still less, if possible, of Sabellian art; but that of course by no means warrants the inference that the Sabellians were inferior to the neighbouring stocks. On the contrary, it may be conjectured from what we otherwise know of the character of the three chief races of Italy, that in artistic gifts the Samnites approached nearest to the Hellenes and the Etruscans were farthest removed from them; and a sort of confirmation of this hypothesis is furnished by the fact, that the most gifted and most original of the Roman poets, such as Nævius, Eunius, Lucilius, and Horace, belonged to the Samnite lands, whereas Etruria has almost no representatives in Roman literature, except the Arretine Mæcenas, the most insufferable of all heartless and effeminate court-poets, and the Volaterran Persius, the true ideal of a conceited and languid poetry-smitten boy.

Earliest Italian architecture. The elements of architecture were, as has been already indicated, a primitive common possession of the stocks. The dwelling-house constituted the first attempt of structural art; and it was the same among Greeks and Italians. Built of wood, and covered with a pointed roof of straw or shingles, it formed a square dwelling-chamber, which let out the smoke and let in the light by an opening in the roof, corresponding with a hole for carrying off the rain in the ground (cavum ædium). Under this blackened roof (atrium) the meals were prepared and consumed; there the household gods were worshipped, and the marriage bed and the bier were set out; there the husband received his guests, and the wife sat spinning amid the circle of her maidens. The house had no porch, unless we take as such the uncovered space between the house door and the street, which obtained its name, vestibulum, i. e. dressing-place, from the circumstance that the Romans were in the habit of going about in the house in their tunics, and only wrapped the toga around them when they went abroad. There was, moreover, no division of apartments, except that sleeping and store closets might be provided around the dwelling-room; and still less were there stairs, or stories placed one above another.

Earliest Hellenic influence. Whether, or to what extent, there arose out of these beginnings a national Italian architecture can scarcely be determined, for in this field Greek influence, even in the earliest times, had a very powerful effect, and almost wholly overgrew such national attempts as possibly had preceded it. The very oldest Italian architecture with which we ore acquainted is not much less under the influence of that of Greece than the architecture of the Augustan age. The primitive tombs of Cære and Alsium, and probably the oldest also of those recently discovered at Præneste, have been, exactly like the thesauroi of Orchomenos and Mycenæ, roofed over with layers of stone placed one above another, gradually overlapping, and closed by a large stone cover. A very ancient building near the city wall of Tusculum was roofed in the same way, and so was originally the well-house (tullianum) at the foot of the Capitol, till the top was pulled down to make room for another building. The gates constructed on the same system are entirely similar in Arpinum and in Mycenæ. The emissary of the Alban (P. 40), presents the greatest resemblance to that of the Copaic, lake. What are called Cyclopean[errata 3] ring-walls frequently occur in Italy, especially in Etruria, Umbria, Latium, and Sabina, and decidedly belong, in point of design, to the most ancient buildings of Italy, although the greater portion of those now extant were probably not executed till a later age, several of them certainly not till the seventh century of the city. They are, just like those of Greece, sometimes quite roughly formed of large unwrought blocks of rock with smaller stones inserted between them, sometimes squared in horizontal layers[9] sometimes disposed in courses of polygonal dressed blocks fitting into each other. The selection of one or other of these systems was doubtless ordinarily determined by the material, and accordingly the polygonal masonry does not occur in Home, where in the most ancient times tufo alone was employed for building. The resemblance in the case of the two former and simpler styles may perhaps be traceable to the similarity of the materials employed and of the object in view in building; but it can hardly be deemed accidental that the artistic polygonal wall-masonry, and the gate with the road leading up to it universally bending to the left and so exposing the unshielded right side of the assailant to the defenders, belong to the Italian fortresses as well as to the Greek. It is a significant circumstance, that this wall-masonry was only usual in that portion of Italy which was neither reduced to subjection by the Hellenes nor cut off from intercourse with them, and that the true polygonal masonry is found in Etruria only at Pyrgi, and in the towns, not very far distant from it, of Cosa and Saturnia; and as the design of the walls of Pyrgi, especially when we take into account the significant name ("Towers"), may just as certainly be ascribed to the Greeks as that of the walls of Tiryns, in them most probably there still stands before our eyes one of the models from which the Italians learned how to build their walls. The temple, in fine, which in the period of the Empire was called the Tuscanic, and was regarded as a style of the same order with the various Greek temple-structures, not only generally resembles the Greek temple in an enclosed space (cella) usually quadrangular, over which walls and columns raised aloft a sloping roof, but is also in details, especially in the column itself and its architectural features, thoroughly dependent on the Greek system. It is, in accordance with all these facts, probable, as it is credible in itself, that Italian architecture previous to its contact with the Hellenes was confined to wooden huts, abattis, and mounds of earth and stones, and that construction in stone was only adopted in consequence of the example and the better tools of the Greeks. It is scarcely to be doubted that the Italians first learned from them the use of iron, and derived from them the preparation of mortar (cal[e]x calecare, from χάλιξ), the machine, (machina, μηχανή) the measuring-rod (groma, a corruption from γνώμων, γνῶμα). and the artificial lattice-work (clathri, κλῇθρον). Accordingly we can scarcely speak of an architecture peculiarly Italian, except that in the woodwork of the Italian dwelling-houses (alongside of alterations produced in them by Greek influence) many peculiarities were retained or were for the first time developed, and these again exercised a reflex influence on the building of the Italian temples. The architectural development of the house, however, proceeded in Italy from the Etruscans. The Latins and even the Sabellians still adhered to the hereditary wooden hut, and to the good old custom of assigning to the god or spirit not a consecrated dwelling, but only a consecrated space, while the Etruscan had already begun artistically to transform his dwelling-house, and to erect after the model of the dwelling-house of man a temple also for the god and a sepulchral chamber for the spirit. That the advance to such luxurious structures first took place in Latium under Etruscan influence, is proved by the designation of the oldest style of temple architecture and of the oldest style of house architecture respectively as Tuscanic.[10] As concerns the character of this transference, the Grecian temple probably imitated the general outlines of the tent or dwelling-house; but it was essentially built of square stones and covered with tiles, and the nature of the hewn stone and baked clay suggested to the Greek the laws of necessity and beauty. The Etruscan on the other hand remained a stranger to the strict Greek distinction between the dwelling of man necessarily erected of wood and the dwelling of the gods necessarily formed of stone. The peculiar characteristics of the Tuscan temple, the outline approaching nearer to a square, the higher gable, the greater breadth of the intervals between the columns, above all, the increased inclination of the roof and the singular projection of the roof-corbels beyond the supporting columns, all arose out of the greater approximation of the temple to the dwelling-house, and out of the peculiarities of wooden architecture.

Plastic art in Italy. The plastic and delineative arts are more recent than architecture; the house must first be built ere any attempt is made to decorate gable and walls. It is not probable that these arts really gained a place in Italy during the regal period of Rome: it was only in Etruria, where commerce and piracy early gave rise to a great concentration of riches, that art or handicraft, if the term be preferred, obtained a footing in the earliest times. Greek art, when it acted on Etruria, was still, as its copy shows, at a very primitive stage, and the Etruscans probably learned from the Greeks the art of working in clay and metal at a period not much later than that at which they borrowed from them the alphabet. The silver coins of Populonia, almost the only works that can be with any precision assigned to this period, give no very high idea of Etruscan artistic skill as it then stood. It is not unlikely, however, that the best of the Etruscan works in bronze, to which the later writers of art assigned so high a place, may have belonged to this primitive age; and the Etruscan terra-cottas also cannot have been altogether despicable, for the oldest works in baked clay placed in the Roman temples—the statue of the Capitoline Jupiter, and the quadriga on the roof of his temple—were executed in Veii, and the large ornaments of a similar kind placed on the roofs of temples passed generally among the later Romans under the name of "Tuscanic works."

On the other hand, among the Italians—not among the Sabellian stocks merely, but even among the Latins—native sculpture and design were at this period only coming into existence. The most considerable works of art appear to have been executed abroad. We have just mentioned the statues of clay alleged to have been executed in Veii; and very recent excavations have shown that works in bronze made in Etruria, and furnished with Etruscan inscriptions, circulated in Præneste at least, if not generally throughout Latium. The statue of Diana in the Romano-Latin federal temple on the Aventine, which was considered the oldest statue of a divinity in Rome,[11] exactly resembled the Massiliot statue of the Ephesian Artemis, and was perhaps manufactured in Velia or Massilia. The guilds, which from ancient times existed in Rome, of potters, coppersmiths, and goldsmiths (P. 202), are almost the only proofs of the existence of native sculpture and design there; respecting the stand-point of their art it is no longer possible to gain any clear idea

If we endeavour to obtain historical results from these archives of the tradition and practice of primitive art, it is in the first place manifest that Italian art, like the Italian measures and Italian writing, developed itself not under Phænician, but exclusively under Hellenic influence. There is not a single one of the aspects of Italian art which has not found its definite models in the art of ancient Greece; und, so far, the legend is fully warranted which traces the manufacture of painted clay vases, beyond doubt the most ancient form of art, in Italy to the three Greek artists, the "moulder," "fitter," and "draughtsman," Eucheir, Diopos, and Eugrammos, although it is more than doubtful whether this art came in the first instance from Corinth or to Tarquinii. There is as little trace of any direct imitation of oriental models as there is of an independently-developed form of art. The Etruscan lapidaries adhered to the form of the beetle or scarabæus, which was originally Egyptian; but scarabæi were also used as models in carving in Greece in very early times (e. g. such a beetle-stone, with a very ancient Greek inscription, has been found in Ægina), and therefore they may very well have come to the Etruscans through the Greeks. The Italians may have bought from the Phœnician; they learned only from the Greek.

To the further question, from what Greek stock the Etruscans in the first instance received their art-models, a categorical answer can as little be given as to the similar inquiry regarding the alphabet; yet there subsisted relations of a remarkable kind between the Etruscan and the oldest Attic art. The three forms of art, which were practised in Etruria at least in after times very extensively, but in Greece only to an extent very limited, tomb-painting, mirror-designing, and graving on stone, have been hitherto met with on Grecian soil only in Athens or Ægina. The Tuscan temple does not correspond exactly either to the Doric or to the Ionic, but in the more important points of distinction, in the course of columns carried round the cella, as well as in the placing of a separate pedestal under each particular column, the Etruscan style follows the more recent Ionic; and it is this same Ionico-Attic style of building still pervaded by a Doric element, which in its general scheme stands nearest of all the Greek styles to the Tuscan. In the case of Latium there is an almost total absence of any reliable traces of intercourse bearing on the history of art. If it was (as must indeed very evidently have been the case) the general relations of traffic and intercourse that determined also the introduction of models in art, it may be assumed with certainty that the Campanian and Sicilian Hellenes were the master-instructors of Latium in art as in the alphabet; and the analogy between the Aventine Diana and the Ephesian Artemis is at least not inconsistent with such an hypothesis. Of course the older Etruscan art also served as a model for Latium. As to the Sabellian tribes, if Greek architectural and plastic art reached them at all, they must, like the Greek alphabet, have come to them only through the medium of the more western Italian stocks.

If, in fine, we are to form a judgment respecting the endowments of the different Italian nations, we already at this stage perceive—what becomes indeed far more obvious in the later stages of the history of art—that while the Etruscans perhaps practised art at an earlier period and produced more massive and rich workmanship, their works are interior to those of the Latins and Sabellians in appositeness and utility no less than in spirit and beauty. This certainly is apparent, in the case of our present epoch, only in architecture. The polygonal wall-masonry, as appropriate to its object as it was beautiful, was frequent in Latium and in the inland country behind it; while in Etruria it was rare, and not even the walls of Cære present layers of polygonal blocks. Even in the religious prominence (remarkable also as respects the history of art) assigned to the arch (P. 173) and to the bridge (P. 178) in Latium, we may be allowed to perceive, as it were, an anticipation of the future aqueducts and consular highways of Rome. On the other hand, the Etruscans repeated, and at the same time corrupted, the ornamental architecture of the Greeks: for while they transferred the laws established for building in stone to architecture in wood, they displayed no thorough skill of adaptation, and by the lowness of their roof, and by the wide intervals between their columns, gave to their temples, to use the language of an ancient architect, a "heavy, mean, straggling, and clumsy appearance." The Latins found in the rich stores of Greek art but very little that was congenial to their thoroughly realistic tastes; but what they did adopt they appropriated truly and heartily as their own, and in the development of the polygonal wall-architecture perhaps excelled their instructors. Etruscan art is a remarkable evidence of dexterity mechanically acquired and mechanically retained, but it is, as little as the Chinese, an evidence even of genial receptivity. As scholars have long since desisted from the attempt to derive Greek art from that of the Etruscans, so they must, with whatever reluctance, make up their minds to transfer the Etruscans from the first to the lowest place in the history of Italian art.

  1. Thus Cato the Elder (de R. R. 160), gives as potent against sprains the formula: hauat hauat hauat ista pista sista damia bodanna ustra, which was probably as obscure to its inventor as it is to us. Of course, along with these there were also formulæ of words; e. g. it was a remedy for gout, to think, while fasting, on some other person, and thrice nine times to utter the words, touching the earth at the same time and spitting:—"I am thinking of thee, mend my feet. Let the earth receive the ill, let health with me dwell" (terra pestem teneto, salus hic maneto. Varro de R. R. i. 2, 27).
  2. Each of the first five lines was repeated thrice, and the call at the close five times. Various points in the interpretation are uncertain, particularly as respects the third and fourth lines.
  3. The name probably denotes nothing but "chant-measure," inasmuch as the sătura was originally the chant sung at the carnival. The god of sowing, Sæturnus, or Saiturnus afterwards Sāturnus, received his name from the same root; but the immediate association of the versus Sāturnius with him, and the lengthening of the first syllable in connection with that view, probably belong to later times.
  4. The statement that "formerly the Roman boys were trained in Etruscan culture, as they were in later times in Greek" (Liv. ix. 36), is quite irreconcilable with the original nature of the Roman system of education; and it is not easy to discover what the Roman boys could have learnt in Etruria. Even the most zealous modern partisans of Tages-worship will not maintain that the study of the Etruscan language played such a part in Rome then, as e. g. the learning of French does now with us; that one who was not an Etruscan should have any understanding of the art of the Etruscan haruspices, was considered, even by those who availed themselves of that art, to be a disgrace, or an impossibility (Müller, Etr. ii. 4). Probably the whole statement was concocted by the Etruscizing antiquaries of the last age of the republic, out of rationalistic stories of the older annals, such as that which makes Mucius Scævola learn Etruscan when a child, for the sake of his conversation with Porsena (Dionysius, v. 28; Plutarch, Poplicola, 17; comp. Dionysius, iii. 70).
  5. The employment of the lyre in ritual is attested by Cicero de Orat. iii. 51, 197; Disc. iv. 2, 4; Dionysius, vii. 72; Appian, Pun. 66; and the inscription in Orelli, 2448 compared with 1803. It was likewise used at the nenice (Varro ap. Nonium, v. nenia and præficæ). But playing on the lyre remained none the less unbecoming (Scipio ap. Macrob. Sat. ii. 10, et al.). The prohibition of music in 639 u.c. [114], exempted only the "Latin player on the 1 14. with the singer," not the player on the lyre, and the guests at pipe (Cato in Cic. Tusc. i. 2, 3; iv. 2, 3; Varro ap. Horace, Carm. iv. 15, 30). Quintilian, who asserts the reverse (Inst. i. 10, 20), has inaccurately transferred to private banquets what Cicero (de Orat. iii. 51) states in reference to the feasts of the gods.
  6. The city-festival can have only lasted at first for a single day, for in the sixth century it still consisted of four days of scenic and one day of Circensian sports (Ritschl, Parerga, i. 313) and it is well known that the scenic amusements were only a subsequent addition. That in each kind of contest there was originally only one competition, follows from Livy, xliv. 9; the running of five-and-twenty pairs of chariots in succession on one day was a subsequent innovation (Varro ap. Serv. Georg. iii. 18). That only two chariots (and likewise beyond doubt only two horsemen and two wrestlers) strove for the. prize, may be inferred from the circumstance, that at all periods, in the Roman chariot-race, only as many chariots competed as there were so-called factions; and of these there were originally only two, the white and the red. The horsemanship competition of patrician youths, which belonged to the Circensian games, the so-called Troia, was, as is well known, revived by Cæsar; beyond doubt it was connected with the cavalcade of the boy-militia, which Dionysius mentions (vii. 72).
  7. It is a circumstance common to all languages that the idea and the name of the poet are late in presenting themselves; but it is a circumstance peculiar to the Latin that it has not produced any name at all for the poet, but has borrowed its appellations for him from neighbouring languages. Poeta, which is in use already in Ennius, is, as everybody knows, borrowed from the Greek; the other term similarly employed, vates, is most probably of Celtic origin. Vates, having no demonstrable root or analogy in the Latin language, sounds altogether foreign to it. On the other hand, it corresponds exactly (as Zeuss has observed in his Gramm. Celtica, i. p. 57) to the old Erse word of the same meaning, faith, and Strabo (iv. 4, 4, p. 197, Casaub.) names, doubtless on the authority of Posidonius, as the three prominent orders among the Celts, the Bards, Vates, and Druids. Moreover vates denoted both among the Celts and the Romans primarily the soothsayer, as is indicated both by Strabo's explanation (l. c. ἱεροποιὸι καὶ φυσιόλογοι) and by the older usus loquendi in Latin. Ennius, for instance (Trag. 356, Vahlen), speaks of superstitiosi vates impudentesque arioli; and in a similar sense of reproach rather than of commendation, he uses the term at two other passages (Ann. 222, 370, Vahlen) as it is al«o employed by Cato (Fragm. p. 77, Jordan). Vates denoted the poet only in so far as the oracle was frequently given forth in verse; in this sense, and with special reference to the vates Marcius, Ennius, at the second of the passage! cited, speaks of the verses quos olim Faunci vatesque canebant. The nobler significance of the word, and the habit of applying it directly to the godinspired singer, belong to the age of the empire.

    The hypothesis, moreover, that words from the Celtic languages already in early times passed over into the languages of Italy, has nothing in it startling, because the two peoples early came into contact in Lombardy. Besides, the certainly Celtic word ambactus is likewise found in Ennius.

  8. We shall show in due time that the Atellanæ and Fescenninæ belonged not to Campanian and Etruscan, but to Latin art.
  9. Of this character were the Servian walls, the remains of which, recently discovered at the Aventine, both on the side towards S. Paolo in the Vigna Maccarana, and on the side towards the Tiber below S. Sabina, have been figured or described in the Annali dell' Inst. Rom. 1855, plates XXI.—XXV., p. 87, seq. The blocks of tufo are hewn in longish rectangles, and at some places, for the sake of greater solidity, are laid alternately with the long and with the narrow sides outermost. At one place, in the upper part of the wall, a large regular arch has been inserted, which is similar in style, but appears to have been added at a later date. The portions of the wall preserved consist of about fourteen courses; the upper portion is wanting, and the lower is for the most part concealed by later buildings, and often covered over with opus reticulatum. The wall evidently stretched quite along the edge of the hill. The continuation of these excavations inwards showed that mines and sewers traversed the Aventine hill just as they traversed the Capitoline in all directions. The latter belong to the system of cloacæ, the extent and importance of which in ancient Rome has been instructively discussed by Braun (Annali dell' Inst.1852, p. 331). Of another piece of the Servian wall found at an early date, not far from the Porta Capena, a representation is given in Gell (Topography of Rome, p. 494).

    Essentially similar to the Servian walls are those discovered in the Vigna Nussiner, on the slope of the Palatine, towards the Capitoline (Braun, l. c.), which have been, probably with justice, pronounced to be remains of the primitive circumvallation of the Roma quadrata (P. 51).

  10. Ratio Tuscanica: cavum ædium Tuscanicum.
  11. When Varro (ap. Augustin. De Civ. Dei, iv. 31; comp. Plutarch, Num. 8) affirms that the Romans for more than one hundred and seventy years worshipped the gods without images, he is evidently thinking of this primitive piece of sculpture, which, according to the conventional chronology, was dedicated between 176 [577] and 219 [534], and, beyond doubt, was the first statue of the 577, 534. gods, the consecration of which was mentioned in the authorities which Varro had before him.


  1. Original: singer (vates) was amended to singer: detail
  2. Original: and the names of several of these divinely inspired interpreters, above all that of an ancient seer and singer, Marcius, lingered long in the memory of posterity was amended to : detail
  3. Original: Cyclopian was amended to Cyclopean: detail