The early government of Rome by magis trates, Senate and assemblies, although admir ably adapted to a small community, proved un equal to its new and complex functions. The assemblies, now becoming corrupt, were in the hands of magistrates, ministers of the Senate, which as a whole was controlled by a small knot of members, the curule ex-magistrates. This inner circle formed in the beginning a nobility of merit; it saved the state from Hannibal and conquered the Mediterranean world. But it soon transformed itself into an hereditary caste, which, monopolizing the domestic and imperial offices, used them as a means of absorbing the wealth of the world. In brief the nobility de generated into a corrupt, self-seeking plutoc racy. As to the general condition of the world at this time it should be noted that the want of competition, such as exists among nations of approximately equal power, or stated p..sitively, the monopolistic greed of Rome, by reducing the vitality of mankind, stopped progress, and decay was already setting in. Thorough reform was needed even to postpone the collapse of an cient civilization.
The Gracchi sacrificed their lives in a vain attempt to regenerate the peasantry and to re store Italy to its old condition of economic health; at the same time they showed the enor mous power of the plebeian tribunate for purposes of reform or revolution. Far prefera ble to government by the corrupt aristocracy or by the mob, which Gaius Gracchus organized, would be the strong rule of one man; and the task of creating in the army a solid foundation for a government of the kind was accomplished by Gams Marius. After him the governor (proconsul) of a military province employed his position as a means of acquiring an army for political use; and the proconsuls became rivals for the mastery of Rome. Finally Gaius Julius Caesar, an aristocrat by birth but a cham pion of the people, allying himself with the tribunes, overthrew the republic and created a virtual monarchy. This great statesman planned many radical reforms, includng the aaolition of the pernicious system of tax-farming, the reorganization of the municipalities and the subjection of the provincial governors to a stricter supervision. His enemies, however, did not permit him to live long enough to carry out his reforms,• and it is in fact doubt ful whether the absolute monarchy which he planned would have proved a blessing. The assassination of the monarch, far from restor ing the republic, was followed by a war of suc cession, in which his grand-nephew Octavius 27 a.c. Augustus— won the imperial prize (31 ac.).
VIII. The Empire at Its Height, 27 Viii. The Empire at Its Height, 27 180 A.D.— Instead of recurring to the autocracy of Caesar, Augustus hit upon a compromise be tween republic and monarchy (27 ac.). The Senate through its magistrates and promagis trates was still to govern Rome, Italy and the peaceful provinces, while Augustus as holder of the military authority (imperator, hence em peror) was to rule directly the exposed and unquiet provinces and to exercise supervision even over those administered by the Senate; the republic was to continue for Italy, the monarchy was established for the subject countries. In Rome, Augustus held the tribunician power, and was sometimes elected to republican offices; but his chief influence over the home government was exercised not through office but in the capacity of political a position which the Romans dignified with the name of princeps (foremost citizen). The prince and the Senate
had not only their separate fields of administra don but also separate treasuries and separate sets of officials. Augustus and his successor, Tiberius, strove to maintain what was left of the republic ; the Claudian and Flavian princes, by gradual encroachment on the senatorial prerogatives, aimed to convert the principate into a monarchy. As the Senate declined, the officials of the prince, originally his friends and i household servants, developed into an imperial bureaucracy. After the tyranny, of Domitian the eGood Emperors') (96-180 A.D.), in recon ciling the nobility to the principate, laid more firmly the constitutional basis of their power. The government may now be termed a monarchy, although the Senate, with its repub lican traditions, continued to be a material check upon the powers of the prince.
The emperors made few permanent con quests,— chiefly Britain and the Danubian prov inces. Their fundamental task was to extend Latin civilization to the un-Hellenized parts of their dominion. In Africa west of Egypt, not withstanding the survival of the Phoenician language in private life, Latin civilization took deep root. Spain and southern Gaul became perhaps even more thoroughly Latinized. Northern Gaul was less affected, and Britain still less, by the Romans, while the northern provinces east of Gaul varied greatly in their receptivity of Latin culture. The principal factor in the work of civilization was the city; in most of their European domains the Romans superseded the old tribal organization by, the Italian municipal system, which gave the nations the refining and disciplining influence of com fortable homes, useful and artistic public works, schools, courts of justice and local self-govern ment. Each city was a centre from which Latin modes of life and Latin ideas radiated. Imperial rule cured most of the ills of repub lican administration. Abolishing the farming of direct taxes, it placed their collection in the hands of imperial officials, and distributed them on the basis of a careful census. The gov ernors, now drawing their salaries from Rome, and deprived of their former unlimited oppor tunity for extortion, were held responsible to the emperor. The armies, placed under strict discipline and controlled by one will, no longer wasted the empire by civil wars. For the vast extent of the frontier the soldiers were few, and the burden of their support was light. The republic had looked upon the provinces as its estates; in the 2d century A.D. the emperor came to regard himself as the parent of the subject peoples, whom he was in duty bound to treat with love as well as with justice. Though op pression was not wholly eradicated, the imperial government was in a high degree efficient, just and humane. The progress of civilization was followed by the extension of the Roman citizen ship. The liberal policy of Claudius in bestow ing it was continued by his successors, till shortly after the period under discussion all freemen of good standing in the empire be came Romans by the edict of Caracalla (212 A.D.