Index Previous Page Next Page
The old stories of Horatius and Cincinnatus and other heroes well illustrate the splendid character of the early farmer-citizens of Rome, and they show us the qualities that the Romans themselves most valued. They expected a man to be grave or responsible (gravis in Latin), to be pious and to respect the traditions of their ancestors (pius), to see facts and keep in touch with them (simplex).
When Cincinnatus addressed the Roman citizens he went -- as Pericles did in Athens -- to the Forum. This was the market-place of Rome. At one end of it was an enclosure where the people met in the open air to vote and to do business of all kinds. In course of time the Forum was enlarged and beautified with monuments. Around it the citizens built the great public buildings for the work of the state -- the law courts, the temples or places of worship, and spacious colonnades where the merchants and bankers had their offices.
For a thousand years the Forum was the heart of Rome, and Rome was the heart of the world. Today only a few remains mark the site of this great centre of the life of the ancient world.
The farmer-citizens of Rome made the finest soldiers the world had yet known. Gradually they conquered other tribes, until they made themselves masters of Italy, south of the river Arno. During these and other wars it was the great pride of the Roman soldiers to guard at all costs the famous Roman standard, with its gilt or silver eagle, holding a thunderbolt in its claws, at the top of the staff.
It is in these early centuries that we see the real source of the greatness of Rome. Then was founded her true strength.
"What tales of heroism, dignity, and endurance have they not left us! There are no types of public virtue greater than these. Brutus condemning his traitor sons to death; Horatius defending the bridge against an army; Cincinnatus taken from the plough to rule the state, returnlng from ruling the state again to the plough; the Decii, father and son, devoting themselves to death to propitiate the gods of Rome; Regulus, the prisoner, going to his home only to exhort his people not to yield, and returning calmly to his prison; Cornelia, offering up her children to death and shame for the cause of the people; great generals content to live like simple yeomen; old and young ready to march to certain death; hearts proof against eloquence, gold, or pleasure; noble matrons training their children to duty; senates ever confident in their country; generals returning from conquered nations in poverty; the leader of triumphant armies becoming the equal of the humblest citizen."