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Cæsar's Longing for the Title of King.


hand of a king. Cicero had surely often owned this to himself, but he saw no one who would have entered into such an idea. The title of king had a great fascination for Cæsar, as it had for Cromwell,—a surprising phenomenon in a practical mind like that of Cæsar. Every one knows the fact that while Cæsar was sitting on the suggestum, during the celebration of the Lupercalia, Antony presented to him the diadem, to try how the people would take it. Cæsar saw the great alarm which the act created, and declined the diadem for the sake of appearance; but had the people been silent, Cæsar would unquestionably have accepted it. His refusal was accompanied by loud shouts of acclamation, which, for the present, rendered all further attempts impossible. Antony afterwards had a statue of Cæsar adorned with the diadem, but two tribunes of the people, L. Cæsetius Flavus, and C. Marullus, took it away; and here Cæsar showed the real state of his feelings, for he treated the conduct of the tribunes as a personal insult towards himself. He had lost his self-possession, and his fate, which carried him onward, had become irresistible. He wished to have the tribunes imprisoned, and all that could be obtained of him was, that he was satisfied with their being stripped of their office and sent into exile. This created a great sensation at Rome. Cæsar had also been guilty of thoughtlessness, or perhaps merely of distraction, as might happen very easily to a man in his circumstances. When the senate had made its last decrees, conferring upon Cæsar unlimited power, the senators, consuls, and prætors, in festal attire, presented the decrees to him, and Cæsar at the moment forgot to show his respect for the senators; he did not rise from his sella curulis, and received the decrees in an unceremonious manner. This want of politeness was never forgiven him by the persons who had not scrupled to make him their master, for it had been expected that withal he should behave politely, and be grateful for such decrees. Cæsar himself had no design in the act, which was merely the consequence of distraction or thoughtlessness, but it made the senate his irreconcilable enemies. The affair with the tribunes, however, had made a deep impression upon the people. Cicero, who was surely not a democrat, wrote at the time, turpissimi consules, turpis senatus, populus fortis, proximus honorum infimus,' &c. The praise here bestowed upon the people may be somewhat exaggerated, but the rest is true. We must however remember that the people, under such circumstances, are most sensible to any thing affecting their honour, as we have seen at the beginning of the French revolution."- Lectures,' vol. ii., p. 88-90.

But the account of the conspiracy of Brutus and Cassius is feeble; and that of Cæsar's assassination is miserable:

"On the morning of the 15th of March, the day fixed upon for assassinating Cæsar, Decimus Brutus treacherously invited him to go with him to the curia, as it was impossible to delay the deed any longer. The detail of what happened on that day may be read in Plutarch. C. Tillius (not Tullius) Cimber made his way up to Cæsar, and in



sulted him with his importunities, and Casca gave the first stroke. Cæsar fell covered with twenty-three wounds. He was either in his fifty-sixth year, or had completed it, I am not quite certain on this point, though, if we judge by the time of his first consulship, he must have been fifty-six years old. His birthday, which is not generally known, was the 11th of Quinctilis, which month was afterwards called Julius." -Niebuhr, vol. ii., p. 95.

And these are the closing words of the lecture! these are the words in which the murder of Cæsar is dismissed! A more unpleasant specimen of the philologer usurping the historian, it would be difficult to quote. The death of the greatest man Rome ever produced; and, in his way, the greatest the world ever produced, excites no emotion in the historian, causes no pulse to beat faster, inspires him with no burning words' by which to rouse the minds of his auditors. Cæsar is slain. Three lines and a half record the event; six lines and a half are immediately added to discuss the age at which he died. And this is done in the coldest manner: in the very spirit of pedantry. Could such a lecturer have realised history, even to his own mind?-We doubt it.

Niebuhr's opinions on the Roman poets have somewhat surprised us: we were not prepared for such sound judgment on so contested a subject. He prefers Lucretius, Catullus, and Ovid, to all the others: an opinion which is daily gaining more ground. His criticism on Virgil is admirable, though not sufficiently discriminative of Virgil's picturesqueness and harmonious sweetness; the remarks on epic subjects go deeply into the question:

"Virgil was born on the 15th of October, 682, and died on the 22nd of September, 733. I have often expressed my opinion upon Virgil, and have declared that I am as opposed to the adoration with which the Romans venerated him, as any fair judge can demand. He did not possess the fertility of genius which was required for his task. His Eclogues are any thing but a successful imitation of the idyls of Theocritus; they could not, in fact, be otherwise than unsuccessful: they are productions which could not prosper in a Roman soil. The shepherds of Theocritus are characters of ancient Sicilian poetry, and I do not believe that they were taken from Greek poems. Daphnis, for example, is a Sicilian hero, and not a Greek. The idyls of Theocritus grew out of popular songs, and hence his poems have a genuineness, truth, and nationality. Now Virgil, in transplanting that kind of poetry to the plains of Lombardy, peoples that country with Greek shepherds, with their Greek names, and Greek peculiarities,-in short, with beings that never existed there. His didactic poem on Agriculture is more successful; it maintains a happy medium, and we cannot well speak of it otherwise than in terms of praise. His 'Eneid,' on the other hand, is a complete failure: it is an unhappy idea from beginning to end; but

Niebuhr's Opinions on Virgil.


this must not prevent us from acknowledging that it contains many exquisite passages. Virgil displays it in a learning of which an historian can scarcely avail himself enough, and the historian who studies the Æneid' thoroughly will ever find new things to admire. But no epic poem can be successful, if it is any thing else than a living and simple narrative of a portion of something which, as a whole, is the common property of a nation. I cannot understand how it is that, in manuals of Esthetics, the views propounded on epic poetry, and the subjects fit for it, are still full of lamentable absurdities. It is really a ludicrous opinion, which a living historian has set forth somewhere, that Tasso's 'Jerusalem Delivered' is a failure, because the subject is not old enough-as if it were necessary for it to lay by for some centuries to go through a kind of fermentation! The question is similar to that as to what subjects are fit for historical painting. Everything is fit for it, provided it is capable of suggesting to the beholder the whole of which it is only a part. This is the reason why Sacred History is so peculiarly fit for historical painting. Every one who sees, for example, a madonna or an apostle, immediately recollects all the particular circumstances connected with those personages; and this effect upon the beholder is still stronger, if he has lived some time surrounded by works of art. When Pietro of Albano or Domenichino paint mythological subjects, we scholars know indeed very well what the artist meant to express, and we are vexed at his little inaccuracies; but the majority of people do not understand the meaning of the painting, they cannot connect a definite idea with it, and the subject contains nothing that is suggestive to them. Mythological subjects, therefore, are at present a hazardous choice for an artist, and however excellently they may be treated, they cannot compete with those taken from Sacred History. Mythological subjects were as much the common property of the ancients, as the Sacred History is the common property of Christian nations. If a subject is generally known, much talked of, and if the external forms are not against it, a subject from modern history would be just as fit a subject for artistic representation as any other. But our costumes are unfavourable to art. The ancients however very seldom represented historical subjects in works of art, although their costumes were not against it. The case of epic poetry is of the same kind. If a narrative which every body knows, sings, or relates, is not treated as history in its details, and if we feel ourselves justified in choosing among the several parts of the whole for our purpose, then any of its parts is a fit subject for epic poetry. Cyclic poetry relates whole histories continuously, and is of the same extent as history; but epic poetry takes up only one portion of a whole, and the poet relates it just as if he had seen it. There cannot be a more unfortunate epic than Lucan's Pharsalia' it proceeds in the manner of annals, and the author wants to set forth prominently only certain particular events. There are passages in it like the recitative of an opera, and written in a language which is neither narrative nor poetry. Virgil had not considered all the difficulties of his task, when he undertook it. He took Roman history such


as it had been transmitted by Greek writers; if he had taken the Roman national traditions, he would have produced something which would have had at least an Italian nationality about it. The ancient Italian traditions, it is true, had already fallen into oblivion, and Homer was at that time better known than Nævius, but still the only way of producing a living epic would have been, to have taken the national Italian tradition. Virgil is a remarkable instance of a man mistaking his vocation: his real calling was lyric poetry, for his small lyric poems, for instance, that on the villa of Syron, and the one commencing Si mihi susceptum fuerit ducurrere munus,' show that he would have been a poet like Catullus, if he had not been led away by his desire to write a great Latin poem. It is sad to think that his mistake, that is, the work which is his most complete failure, has been so much admired by posterity; and it is remarkable that Catullus's superiority over Virgil was not acknowledged till the end of the eighteenth century. Markland was the first who ventured openly to speak against Virgil, but he was decried for it, as if he had committed an act of high treason. The fact of Virgil being so much liked in the middle ages arose from people not comparing or not being able to compare him with Homer, and from the many particular beauties of the Æneid.' It was surely no affectation of Virgil when he desired to have the Æneid' burnt: he had made that poem the task of his life, and in his last moments he had the feeling that he had failed in it. I rejoice that his wish was not carried into effect, but we must learn to keep our judgment free and independent in all things, and to honour and love that which is really great and noble in man. We must not assign to him a higher place than he deserves, but what the ancients say of his personal character is certainly good and true. It may be that the tomb of Virgil on mount Posilipo near Naples, which was regarded throughout the middle ages as genuine, is not the ancient original one, though I do not see why it should not have been preserved. It is adorned with a laurel tree. I have visited the spot with the feelings of a pilgrim, and the branch I plucked from the laurel tree is as dear to me as a sacred relic, although it never occurs to me to place him among the Roman poets of the first order.”—Lectures,' vol. ii., p. 155-159.

But what does he mean by calling Catullus 'a gigantic and extraordinary genius?' And surely there is some injustice in asserting that it shows the greatest prejudice to say that he (Catullus) is not equal to the Greeks of the classic age.' We have a hearty admiration for Catullus; but remembering how saturated his poems are with the Greek spirit, how obviously the best of his poems are but transcripts from Greck originals, we cannot rank him with the models he imitates; or, at any rate, cannot admit that prejudice alone would place him below those models.

We might continue extracting and gossiping to an indefinite length; but over long articles editors remonstrate and readers yawn; so we, deeming both remonstrance and yawn, things espe

Gallus; or Roman Scenes of the Time of Augustus.'


cially to be avoided, hasten to draw our lucubrations to a close. We close them with a brief notice of the last book on our list: 'Gallus; or, Roman Scenes of the time of Augustus.' Erudition and patient research, joined to a not inconsiderable amount of critical ability, have here produced a work acceptable to almost all classes of readers. The scholar will find it a collection and digest of an immense mass of materials, scattered over many regions; the general reader will find it an intelligible description of many Roman customs and peculiarities, which will enable him better to understand his Horace, Catullus, Martial, and Juvenal; the mere idler will find it a readable story. A work of art it is not; neither is it a complete picture of Roman life. But it is a most agreeable handbook of Roman Antiquities; being more readable and erudite than any other handbook we have met with. There may the curious learn much about the Marriages, Slaves, Studies, Books and Booksellers, Houses, Carriages, Inns, Gymnastics, Baths, Dresses, and Banquets, which he cannot learn elsewhere without considerable research. The story of Gallus' itself labours under the difficulty almost insurmountable in such undertakings: that of conveying the requisite information while preserving the character of fiction. The two objects are somewhat incompatible. We should prefer a series of dissertations, and then a story nourished with, but not dependent on them. As it is, however, the book will gain additional readers from amongst those who would not be induced to look at a series of dissertations.


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Though on the whole highly approving of Gallus,' there are separate portions to which we must demur. It strikes us, for instance, as a great deficiency in the excellent account of the slaves, that only their occupations are described; one would desire a fuller account of their moral condition. We miss also an important piece of information respecting them, viz.: the classification of occupations according to national aptitudes; thus the Greeks of Alexandria were the buffoons; the Greeks of the continent were the teachers, artists, and artisans; the Gauls, and other northern races were the gladiators, porters, &c. ; the natives of Asia Minor were the usual attendants on feasts and ministers of the debaucheries of their lords.

We have also to complain of an occasional want of distinctness in the references. This is a fault very common amongst the erudite; they never seem to consider that all their readers cannot be so familiar with every book as themselves; they never seem to consider that their books may be read by men who live elsewhere than in libraries, and have other things to occupy their minds than the titles of the obscure works of obscure authors. As an example, Becker gives this reference: Brisson. d. v. s. v. manus.' Who is


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