Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The National Policy
By Victor Duruy (1811–1894)
From the ‘History of Rome’

THE ROMAN power, till then confined to the West, was now to penetrate into another universe,—that of the successors of Alexander. The eternal glory of Rome, the immense benefaction by which she effaces the memory of so many unjust wars, is to have reunited those two worlds that in all former ages were divided in interest, and strangers to each other; is to have mingled and fused the brilliant but corrupt civilization of the East with the barbaric energy of the West. The Mediterranean became a Roman lake,—mare nostrum, they said,—and the same life circulated on all its shores, called for the first and the last time to a common existence.  1
  In this work were employed a century and a half of struggles and diplomacy; for Rome, working for a patient aristocracy and not for a man, was not compelled to attain her end at a bound. Instead of rearing suddenly one of those colossal monarchies formed like the statue of gold with feet of clay, she founded slowly an empire which fell only under the weight of years and of the Northern hordes. After Zama she could have attempted the conquest of Africa, but she left Carthage and the Numidians to enfeeble each other. After Cynoscephalæ and Magnesia, Greece and Asia were all ready for the yoke, but she accorded them fifty years more of liberty. This was because, along with the pride of the Roman name and the necessity for dominion, she always retained some of her ancient virtues. The Popiliuses were more numerous than the Verreses. Now she preferred to rule the world; later she will put it to pillage. Thus, wherever Rome saw strength she sent her legions; all power was broken; the ties of States and leagues were shattered; and when her soldiers were recalled they left behind them only weakness and anarchy. But the task of the legions accomplished, that of the Senate began. After force came craft and diplomacy. Those senators, grown old amidst the terrors of the second Punic war, seemed now to have less pleasure in arms than in the game of politics,—the first, in all ages, of Italian arts.  2
  Several other causes dictated this policy of reserve. Against the Gauls, the Samnites, Pyrrhus, and Hannibal,—in other words, for the defense of Latium and of Italy,—Rome had employed all her strength; it was then a question of her existence: whereas, in the wars with Greece and with Asia, her ambition and her pride alone were interested; and wisdom demanded that some relaxation be given to the plebeians and the allies. The Senate had moreover too many affairs on its hands—the wars with Spain, with Corsica, with Cisalpina, and with Istria—to admit of its becoming deeply involved in the East. Therefore two legions only will fight Philip and Antiochus—that will suffice to conquer, but would be too little to despoil them. Furthermore, the Senate believed that in penetrating into this Greek world, where an old glory concealed so much weakness, they could not accord too much to prudence. These pitiless enemies of the Volscians and the Samnites will not proceed in their next wars by exterminating their adversaries and wasting their country. “It was not with such a purpose,” said they, “that they came to pour out their blood; they took in hand the cause of oppressed Greece.” And that language and that policy they will not change after victory. The first act of Flamininus, on the day after Cynoscephalæ, was to proclaim the liberty of the Greeks. All who bore that respected name seemed to have the right to Roman protection; and the little Greek cities of Caria, and of the coasts of Asia and Thrace, received with astonishment their liberty from a people that they hardly knew. All were captivated by this apparent generosity. None perceived that in restoring independence to the cities and States, Rome wished to break up the confederations that sought to reorganize and would perhaps have given new force to Greece. In isolating them and attaching them to herself by grateful ties, she placed them almost insensibly under her influence. She made allies of them; and every one knows what the allies of Rome became. Thus the Senate was so well satisfied with this policy, which created division everywhere and awakened extinct rivalries, that for half a century it followed no other.  3

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.