Page images
PDF
EPUB

by able hands, the student looks in vain for any corresponding work on the most important period of the Roman annals. The posthumous volume of Niebuhr's immortal work leaves us at the First Punic War; and the third volume of Dr. Arnold's history, also published after its author's death, breaks off just before the battle of Zama. The interval between this point and that chosen by Gibbon for the opening of his history, a period which embraces the entire career of Rome as mistress of the world, is yet open, and offers unquestionably the noblest unappropriated field for historical composition. But one shudders to think of the almost impossible combination of powers which the successful execution of such a task must require. Nor is it likely soon to be accomplished, for a great work of this kind is not usually undertaken all at once. It is first dissected, and its several portions are worked out by various hands. Then comes the master mind, to sit in judgment on their labors, reducing them to their just proportions, and moulding them into a perfect whole.

But in the present case, the partial scenes and scattered biographies of this interesting period are by no means so thoroughly completed as to leave nothing for a diligent gleaner. The life of Julius Cæsar, for instance, has never been so written as to drive competition out of the field ; nor has Middleton's right to Cicero become so firmly vested as to silence every other claim. The reign of Augustus, too, forming as it does the transition stage from republicanism to monarchy, is a subject which has attracted far less attention than it deserves. What its capacities are may be guessed from Wieland's beautiful essays on the character of that emperor and his friend Mæcenas.

The imperfect and unsettled state of this portion of history imparts a high degree of interest to every contribution, however cursory or fragmentary, which it receives from respectable writers. But when those whose living voice was an oracle speak to us as from the grave, we catch with reverent curiosity these last memorials of departed wisdom. No man can have studied the writings of Niebuhr without being profoundly impressed with his amazing knowledge and his more amazing use of it. By his side, the herd of philologists, antiquaries, and compilers, great as they may have been in their generation, dwindle into dwarfs. The whole firmament of history lies open before him, and he awes the reader by the wonderful ease with which he draws from its recesses the scattered rays which had eluded less observant eyes, and collects them into obscure but yet distinguishable points. In the too much neglected constitutions of the early Swiss republics, for instance, he finds the best illustration of the relations subsisting between Rome and her municipalities and colonies; and attributes the removal of his doubts respecting the agrarian laws to a study of the ryot tenure in Hindosian.

We lay ourselves open, we are aware, to the charge of idolatry, when we say that he seems to us to have possessed the greatest intellect which has been applied to history in modern times. But we doubt if any one, after studying his works, — for they must be studied, and not merely read, — will venture to place any other name in competition with his.

Whatever comes from such a man, however casual and hasty, must bear the stamp of his mind, and be valuable. Dr. Schmitz, therefore, deserves our gratitude for the great pains he has taken to reproduce, from his own notes and those of his fellow-students, the Lectures on Roman history delivered by Niebuhr at the University of Bonn. The introductory course, in particular, on the historians of Rome, is inestimable, as containing his deliberate opinions on a subject of which no man was a more competent judge.

But it is not our purpose to enter on a discussion of the merits of these Lectures. We confine ourselves to a few remarks on the manner in which the editor has discharged his office. His labor was a difficult one, for Niebuhr's oral style, though farniliar and colloquial in its tone, was a series of "anacoluths"; a fault of which, as we are told, he was painfully conscious, though it was probably attributable in part to the perverse structure of the German language, which to his rapidity of thought must have been intolerable.

The style, therefore, of these volumes must belong chiefly to Dr. Schmitz; and he seems to us to have done his work remarkably well. He has succeeded in breaking up into correct and easy English sentences the crude materials with which he had to deal. More than this, however, was incumbent on him. He was bound, so far as was possible, to free the text from those oversights and misstatements, to which, in the haste of extemporaneous delivery, every one is liable. And it was especially his duty, in no instance to make Niebuhr accountable for any of his editor's mistakes. It appears from Dr. Schmitz's Preface, that he was fully aware of the delicacy and difficulty of his task; and in pointing out a few errors which have fallen under our notice, some of which, we suspect, are to be placed to the editor's account, we have no desire to call in question his pious zeal or his diligent care.

At page 188, Vol. I., we are told, that, after the battle of Trasimenus, “the Romans began even to enlist prisoners as soldiers, when they were willing to serve.” This is founded, we believe, on this passage in Livy (xxii. 11):—“Magna vis hominum conscripta Romæ erat ; libertini etiam, quibus liberi essent et ætas militaris, in verba juraverant." "The prisoners could not have been numerous enough to make it worth while to enlist them. On the same page, we have an account of a singular mistake into which Hannibal was led by the carelessness of one of his generals, who conducted the army, with Hannibal in it, to Casilinum, instead of Casinum. How any other general than Hannibal could be in command of Hannibal's own army is not accounted for. The passage in Livy (xxii. 13), which Dr. Schmitz refers to as his authority, is as follows: Ipse imperat duci, ut se in agrum Casinatem ducat. . . Sed Punicum abhorrens ab Latinorum nominum prolatione, pro Casino Casilinum ut dux acciperet, fecit; — where dux, of course, means simply the guide, and the context shows that he spoke Latin. Hannibal had him whipped and crucified; a punishment which he would not have inflicted on his own general for a venial mistake. Dr. Schmitz has copied both these misstatements into his own History of Rome ; Niebuhr, we think, could never have made either of them. At page 273, Perseus is said to have married " a daughter of Antiochus Epiphanes,” who is accurately described in the Bible as a savage tyrant ; only Livy (xlii. 12) is cited in confirmation, where, however, it is expressly stated that it was the daughter of Seleucus. This may have been a slip of the memory on Niebuhr's part; but Dr. Schmitz has indorsed it in his own history. At page 361, we read, “Respecting the internal history of Rome during this time [an early period of the Jugurthine War] little is known, and not even the names of those who were put to death by the quæstors. That Opimius and Bestia fell is certain." There is, however, in Roman history, a great difference between falling by a judicial sentence, and being put to death. Opimius died in exile ; a fact for which we have the express

[ocr errors]

testimony of Cicero (Pro Sextio, c. 67). Dr. Schmitz, we think, should have the credit of this. In Vol. II., p. 25, it is said that the ambassadors of the Allobroges “had been drawn into the conspiracy by Catiline, and were initiated into the whole plan.” Cicero and Sallust know nothing of this. Indeed, it is quite clear from their narratives, that the Allobroges were first tampered with by Catiline's accomplices at Rome, from whom they received letters to Catiline. Here, too, Dr. Schmitz has repeated the error in his own History. Niebuhr, as every one who is familiar with his works is

aware, was nearly infallible on points of genealogy, chronology, and geography. Yet at page 312, Vol. I., he is made to say that Q. Pompeius, who obtained the command in Spain in the year 613, was one of the ancestors of Pompey the Great." This is impossible, or at least incapable of proof; for this Pompeius was a Rufus, and Pompey the Great was a Strabo. Again, at p. 355, we read that the Balearian islands were conquered by one of the brothers of Metellus Numidicus. Metellus Balearicus was a cousin of Numidicus, as Drumann's Table of the Cæcilii is sufficient to show. These inadvertencies were possible in an oral lecture ; but Dr. Schmitz goes farther, and in the index to his History makes Balearicus and Numidicus one and the same person.

The editor of any of Niebuhr's works ought either to have a passable acquaintance with modern history, so frequent are the historian's allusions to modern times, or at least to be doubly cautious in his statements. At page 310, Vol. I., Niebuhr is made to speak thus : — " They (the Spaniards] have never fought a battle in the open field, except under the command of an Hamilcar and a Hannibal; and in modern times under a Gonsalvo, a Corduba, or an Alba.” This reminds one of the good lady who preferred the Waverley novels to Sir Walter Scott's. Again, at p. 301, we are told, that the Achæan league “resembled the American confederacy previous to the Constitution of Washington, when Delaware, for instance, with its 70,000 inhabitants, was on an equality with Virginia, which had a population of a million and a half.Americans have nearly ceased to wonder at any depth of ignorance on the part of European writers, in reference to the history or politics of this country ; but this passage is so grotesque in its errors, that it would have surprised us even in Mr. Alison.

לל

sense.

We turn now to the History of Rome, recently prepared by Dr. Schmitz. His chief object, as we gather from his Preface, is to furnish the young student with a manual, con: taining the results of the most recent, as well as the older and more familiar, researches in this field of inquiry. As a pupil and admirer of Niebuhr, he adopts many of his views, and draws upon his History and Lectures for a large portion of his volume. Down to the First Punic War, he could avail himself of the three volumes of the History; and in several chapters, which we have closely compared with that work, we find marks of care and skill. His style, though rather dry for a school or college class-book, is on the whole good, and in the Introduction, in particular, is excellent. He falls, however, into occasional errors, which he might have escaped by committing his manuscript to the revision of some native Englishman. For instance, at p. 136 of the New York edition, he says, “ This is the story of the sacking of Rome by the Gauls, and of her final delivery; a word which he uses elsewhere in the same

At p. 113, he says, “His friends had to pay the sureties which they had given for him.” At p. 211, he uses the expression, “would make recourse to them.” In one case, (on p. 252), he makes Hannibal proceed from Fæsulæ in Etruria “straightway to Rome.” Here the difference between to and towards is essential, as Hannibal found to his cost. We hope that, in another edition, these and other similar blemishes will be removed.

We could wish, too, that the proportions of Roman history had been better observed. The earlier chapters are worked out in disproportionate detail, quite as many pages being devoted to the period anterior to the Punic wars, as to the interval from the beginning of the first of those wars to the death of Julius Cæsar. In a compend of this sort, the importance of events is not in the ratio of the quantity of debate which they may have occasioned. Some points, also, of Roman antiquities are very meagrely treated. The notice of the military system of the Romans, for instance, a subject of some moment in the history of a warlike people, is wretched. Besides this, we find too few of those picturesque and characteristic traits which impart a rich coloring to the sober page of history. Anecdote and apothegm, which make up the chief part of our first lessons in history, form also the most convenient nucleus for subsequent knowledge, and should VOL. LXVI.

No. 139.

25

« PreviousContinue »