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47 — defeated Pharnaces, son of Mithridates, and returned
to Rome. 46 — He soon passed into Africa, where he defeated his ene
mies. The celebrated Cato, an inflexible enemy of Cæsar, committed suicide rather than submit to him. In Spain he soon after defeated the sons of Pompey,
the last of his foes in arms. He rebuilt Carthage and 45 — Corinth. He projected many great public works and
useful reforms. The whole power of Roman sovereign44 — ty was formally conferred on him by the people, when
he was suddenly assassinated by a band of senators and certain conspirators, who imagined it possible to restore the ancient Republic. His nephew, Augustus, succeed
ed him soon after. 43 — The eminent Cicero, never a friend to Cæsar, was assas
sinated by the connivance of Augustus. 42— The republican and aristocratic conspirators were de
feated by Augustus and Antony at Philippi, in Greece. Brutus and Cassius, the republican leaders, and assassins of Cæsar, were slain. The second “Triumvirate," composed of Augustus, Antony and Lepidus, having acquired possession of all the powers of the state, ruthlessly murdered thousands of their political enemies. They soon grew jealous of each other, and fought and intrigned for eleven years, Augustus, with great prudence, firmly settling himself in Rome, and Antony becoming the slave of the beautiful and infamous Cleo
patra, queen of Egypt. 81 — At length, at the battle of Actium, Antony was de
feated, and soon after both Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide. Egypt became formally a Roman province, and Augustus absolute emperor of the world.
THE ROMAN EMPIRE.
1. B.C. 28—In this year Augustus, having fully consolidated his power, was formally recognized emperor. During all the contests of factions, and when Rome was itself in the throes of revolution, the subjection of all the provinces to the imperial city, and whoever was in power there, was rigorously maintained. The inhabitants were protected from invasion, and if they were often oppressed by Roman governors, it was far less than under their native rulers, and, in general, they were not desirous of a change. Roman law and order, and the power of appeal from great injustice to the Roman senate or emperor, maintained a state of generally tranquil prosperity, only disturbed by the contests of rivals for the control of the imperial city and its power.
A long period of almost absolute quiet followed the establishment of the empire, which gave Rome and Italy great satisfaction, after nearly a hundred years of civil war. It is called the “ Augustan Age," when industry and commerce, literature and the arts, reached their highest development.
The Roman Empire and the Christian era commenced nearly together. During the thirty years that followed the battle of Actium, which secured to Augustus the sole control of the civilized world, by the defeat of his last rival, Antony, he was occupied in organizing the vast machinery of his government, and centralizing all the parts of the administration in his own person. For near three hundred years Western Asia and Greece had been a scene of violent commotion. Rival adventurers were constantly seeking to reconstruct the empire of Alexander. Some of these had the genius and the good fortune to succeed, in part at least, and swayed a powerful scepter over a large region during their own lives, and, in some instances, their dominions were held together for several generations. But there was no sufficient base for a strong and permanent government. There was no stable element on
which to rest it. The Greeks were brave, intelligent and enterprising, and no Asiatic people could withstand a Greek army under Greek leaders; but the Greeks were too restless, too easily carried away by enthusiasm for a new leader or a new idea to be capable of upholding an empire.
2. Thus, Asia and Greece had been a vast battle field, and the battles served no general interest and founded no permanent state. The Greeks grow tired of supporting the claims of each new aspirant, who returned their favor by depriving them of liberty, and the whole eastern world readily submitted to the Romans, under whom there was, at least, a prospect of civil order. Augustus, then, had little trouble in settling the affairs of the whole empire, and, about thirty years after the battle of Actium, finding the entire world quietly content and the administration everywhere in fair working order, directed the gates of the temple of Janus to be closed, and a census to be made of all his subjects. At this time Jesus Christ was horn and the Christian era commenced.
The Roman Empire under Augustus was the culmination of the ancient and pagan civilization. It had great vitality, and strength enough to rule the world four hundred years longer; but it had also fatal weaknesses. We have seen that the existence of the empire originated in the inability of the old society to free itself from the vices which long and great prosperity had developed. It had no purifying element strong enough to drive out the disease which its moral weakness had allowed to fasten on it. It was, in fact, based on wrong and could not but perish. Its fall was only a question of time. Its ferocious valor and contempt of the rights of nations broke down the very virtue that was essential to the stability of society. The Romans were robbers on a grand scale, and it was very natural that, when there were no more foreign nations to slay and plurder, the citizens should fall to cutting each others throats and robbing their neighbors. As this would lead to the imme. diate ruin of society and the state, the empire, which gave them an absolute master, was a necessity.
3. But a full comprehension of the moral laws on which society, institutions and states are founded, was the last to be gained. Most modern nations have not yet attained it, notwithstanding that Christianity has so long stated the principles with clearness and force.
The common mind of humanity could master them only by growth through thousands of years and innumerable experiences. The .bject of all earthly experience is to develop the value of the individual man; and the object of society, of institutions and of government, is to protect the rights and to favor the development of each man of the race. When this end is fully secured, history will have solved its problem. As the commencement of the Christian era was the turning point of history in some most important respects, it is proper to glance back and forward over the state of this problem, and the relation of Christianity to it, before proceeding with the general course of events.
At first men were like children, with everything to learn; and, like children, they learned one thing at a time; and they also made an addition to their common stock of knowledge at every remove of the centre of growth. In Asia and Egypt the general lesson was industry and obedience, while the Jews, on the western shore, more or less assisted by the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Greeks, labored at the development of a pure religion which culminated in Christianity. The removal of the centre to Greece added mental and artistic culture, and the further westward journey to Rome gave them a new class of most important ideas concerning public organization, law and order.
4. If each of these lessons had been perfect in themselves the addition made by Christianity, which defined the relations between men, the law of human rights and the doctrines essential to the stability and purity of society, would have enabled mankind to build up satisfactory institutions and a complete civilization from the Roman period. But the elementary lessons were very incomplete. The Asiatics became very super
stitious; the Greeks could teach men the art of thinking, or exercising their minds, but they could not find the true starting point; they did not discover what subjects it was useful, and what it was nseless, to reason upon; and wasted a good part of the thought of their times on profitless questions. Their failure to obtain a clear and valuable result from philosophy made men skeptical and contributed much to the decline of civilization in the time of the Roman empire. The Romans built their whole structure of law and order on force and a wholesale violation of the rights of mankind, and the minds of men became greatly confused. The doctrine of the Epicurean philosophers — " Let us eat and drink for to-morrow we
" a despair of working out the problem of life to a satisfactory answer, became the most popular in the empire. The splendor and glory of Oriental, Grecian and Roman civilization seemed to end in degrading servility and superstition, in the endless and absurd speculations of so-called philosophers, and in the vast brutal tyranny of the emperors. The east failed of a pure religion that was generally accepted. Greek philosophy did not have science to guide her thought, and Rome could not be just as well as strong.
5. It was only in modern times that these lessons were made complete. The discoveries in Geography, in Astronomy, in Natural Philosophy, in Chemistry, in Geology, made men acquainted with the structure of the universe, the properties and the laws of matter, and corrected the extravagances of the ancient speculative philosophy. For want of science, Greek thought wandered about in an unreal world and lost a good part of its labor. A long experience under the control of this corrected thought was required to construct a science of Government that should supply what was wanting to Roman jurisprudence, and Christianity itself could not be rightly understood while so many false theories and wrong practices prevailed.
But the ancient times were as essential to the building up of the modern as the modern to the completion of the ancient.