Hegel’s Philosophy of History
Napoleon, in a conversation which he once had with Goethe on the nature of Tragedy, expressed the opinion that its modern phase differed from the ancient, through our no longer recognizing a Destiny to which men are absolutely subject, and that Policy occupies the place of the ancient Fate [La politique est la fatalitÚ]. This therefore he thought must be used as the modern form of Destiny in Tragedy – the irresistible power of circumstances to which individuality must bend. Such a power is the Roman World, chosen for the very purpose of casting the moral units into bonds, as also of collecting all Deities and all Spirits into the Pantheon of Universal dominion, in order to make out of them an abstract universality of power. The distinction between the Roman and the Persian principle is exactly this – that the former stifles all vitality, while the latter allowed of its existence in the fullest measure. Through its being the aim of the State, that the social units in their moral life should be sacrificed to it, the world is sunk in melancholy: its heart is broken, and it is all over with the Natural side of Spirit, which has sunk into a feeling of unhappiness. Yet only from this feeling could arise the supersensuous, the free Spirit in Christianity.
In the Greek principle we have seen spiritual existence in its exhilaration – its cheerfulness and enjoyment: Spirit had not yet drawn back into abstraction; it was still involved with the Natural element – the idiosyncrasy of individuals; – on which account the virtues of individuals themselves became moral works of art. Abstract universal Personality had not yet appeared, for Spirit must first develop itself to that form of abstract Universality which exercised the severe discipline over humanity now under consideration. Here, in Rome, then, we find that free universality, that abstract Freedom, which on the one hand sets an abstract state, a political constitution and power, over concrete individuality; on the other side creates a personality in opposition to that universality – the inherent freedom of the abstract Ego, which must be distinguished from individual idiosyncrasy. For Personality constitutes the fundamental condition of legal Right: it appears chiefly in the category of Property, but it is indifferent to the concrete characteristics of the living Spirit with which individuality is concerned. These two elements, which constitute Rome – political Universality on the one hand, and the abstract freedom of the individual on the other – appear, in the first instance, in the form of Subjectivity. This Subjectivity – this retreating into one’s self which we observed as the corruption of the Greek Spirit – becomes here the ground on which a new side of the World’s History arises. In considering the Roman World, we have not to do with a concretely spiritual life, rich in itself; but the world-historical element in it is the abstractum of Universality, and the object which is pursued with soulless and heartless severity, is mere dominion, in order to enforce that abstractum.
In Greece, Democracy was the fundamental condition of political life, as in the East, Despotism; here we have Aristocracy of a rigid order, in a state of opposition to the people. In Greece also the Democracy was rent asunder, but only in the way of factions; in Rome it is principles that keep the entire community in a divided state – they occupy a hostile position towards, and struggle with each other: first the Aristocracy with the Kings, then the Plebs with the Aristocracy, till Democracy gets the upper hand ; then first arise factions in which originated that later aristocracy of commanding individuals which subjugated the world. It is this dualism that, properly speaking, marks Rome’s inmost being.
Erudition has regarded the Roman History from various points of view, and has adopted very different and opposing opinions: this is especially the case with the more ancient part of the history, which has been taken up by three different classes of literati – Historians, Philologists, and Jurists. The Historians hold to the grand features, and show respect for the history as such; so that we may after all see our way best under their guidance, since they allow the validity of the records in the case of leading events. It is otherwise with the Philologists, by whom generally received traditions are less regarded, and who devote more attention to small details which can be combined in various ways. These combinations gain a footing first as historical hypotheses, but soon after as established facts. To the same degree as the Philologists in their department, have the Jurists in that of Roman law, instituted the minutest examination and involved their inferences with hypothesis. The result is that the most ancient part of Roman History has been declared to be nothing but fable; so that this department of inquiry is brought entirely within the province of learned criticism, which always finds the most to do where the least is to be got for the labor. While on the one side the poetry and the myths of the Greeks are said to contain profound historical truths, and are thus transmuted into history, the Romans on the contrary have myths and poetical views affiliated upon them; and epopees are affirmed to be at the basis of what has been hitherto taken for prosaic and historical.
With these preliminary remarks we proceed to describe the Locality.
The Roman World has its centre in Italy; which is extremely similar to Greece, and, like it, forms a peninsula, only not so deeply indented. Within this country, the city of Rome itself formed the centre of the centre. Napoleon in his Memoirs takes up the question, which city – if Italy were independent and formed a totality – would be best adapted for its capital. Rome, Venice, and Milan may put forward claims to the honor; but it is immediately evident that none of these cities would supply a centre. Northern Italy constitutes a basin of the river Po, and is quite distinct from the body of the peninsula; Venice is connected only with Higher Italy, not with the south; Rome, on the other hand, would, perhaps, be naturally a centre for Middle and Lower Italy, but only artificially and violently for those lands which were subjected to it in Higher Italy. The Roman State rests geographically, as well as historically, on the clement of force. The locality of Italy, then, presents no natural unity – as the valley of the Nile; the unity was similar to that which Macedonia by its sovereignty gave to Greece; though Italy wanted that permeation by one spirit, which Greece possessed through equality of culture; for it was inhabited by very various races. Niebuhr has prefaced his Roman history by a profoundly erudite treatise on the peoples of Italy; but from which no connection between them and the Roman History is visible. In fact, Niebuhr’s History can only be regarded as a criticism of Roman History, for it consists of a series of treatises which by no means possess the unity of history.
We observed subjective inwardness as the general principle of the Roman World. The course of Roman History, therefore, involves the expansion of undeveloped subjectivity – inward conviction of existence – to the visibility of the real world. The principle of subjective inwardness receives positive application in the first place only from without – through the particular volition of the sovereignty, the government, etc. The development consists in the purification of inwardness to abstract personality, which gives itself reality in the existence of private property; the mutually repellent social units can then be held together only by despotic power. The general course of the Roman World may be defined as this; the transition from the inner sanctum of subjectivity to its direct opposite. The development is here not of the same kind as that in Greece – the unfolding and expanding of its own substance on the part of the principle; but it is the transition to its opposite, which latter does not appear as an element of corruption, but is demanded and posited by the principle itself. – As to the particular sections of the Roman History, the common division is that into the Monarchy, the Republic, and the Empire – as if in these forms different principles made their appearance; but the same principle – that of the Roman Spirit – underlies their development. In our division, we must rather keep in view the course of History generally. 1 he annals of every Worldhistorical people were divided above into three periods, and this statement must prove itself true in this case also. The first period comprehends the rudiments of Rome, in which the elements which are essentially opposed, still repose in calm unity; until the contrarieties have acquired strength, and the unity of the State becomes a powerful one, through that antithetical condition having been produced and maintained within it. In this vigorous condition the State directs its forces outwards – i.e., in the second period – and makes its debut on the theatre of general history; this is the noblest Period of Rome – the Punic Wars and the contact with the antecedent World-Historical people. A wider stage is opened, towards the East; the history at the epoch of this contact has been treated by the noble Polybius. The Roman Empire now acquired that world-conquering extension which paved the way for its fall. Internal distraction supervened, while the antithesis was developing itself to self-contradiction and utter incompatibility; it closes with Despotism, which marks the third period. The Roman power appears here in its pomp and splendor; but it is at the same time profoundly ruptured within itself, and the Christian Religion, which begins with the imperial dominion, receives a great extension. The third period comprises the contact of Rome with the North and the German peoples, whose turn is now come to play their part in History.
Before we come to the Roman History, we have to consider the Elements of the Roman Spirit in general, and mention and investigate the origin of Rome with a reference to them. Rome arose outside recognised countries, viz., in an angle where three different districts met – those of the Latins, Sabines and Etruscans; it was not formed from some ancient stem, connected by natural patriarchal bonds, whose origin might be traced up to remote times (as seems to have been the case with the Persians, who, however, even then ruled a large empire); but Rome was from the very beginning, of artificial and violent, not spontaneous growth. It is related that the descendants of the Trojans, led by Ăneas to Italy, founded Rome; for the connection with Asia was a much cherished tradition, and there are in Italy, France, and Germany itself (Xanten) many towns which refer their origin, or their names, to the fugitive Trojans. Livy speaks of the ancient tribes of Rome, the Ramnenses, Titienses, and Luceres. Now if we look upon these as distinct nations, and assert that they were really the elements from which Rome was formed – a view which in recent times has very often striven to obtain currency – we directly subvert the historical tradition. All historians agree that at an early period, shepherds, under the leadership of chieftains, roved about on the hills of Rome; that the first Roman community constituted itself as a predatory state; and that it was with difficulty that the scattered inhabitants of the vicinity were thus united. The details of these circumstances are also given Those predatory shepherds received every contribution to their community that chose to join them (Livy calls it a colluvies). The rabble of all the three districts between which Rome lay, was collected in the new city. The historians state that this point was very well chosen on a hill close to the river, and particularly adapted to make it an asylum for all delinquents. It is equally historical that in the newly formed state there were no women, and that the neighboring states would enter into no connubia with it: both circumstances characterize it as predatory union, with which the other states wished to have no connection. They also refused the invitation to their religious festivals; and only the Sabines – a simple agricultural people, among whom, as Livy says, prevailed a tristis atque tetrica superstitio – partly from superstition, partly from fear, presented themselves at them. The seizure of the Sabine women is also a universally received historical fact. This circumstance itself involves a very characteristic feature, viz., that Religion is used as a means for furthering the purposes of the infant State. Another method of extension was the conveying to Rome of the inhabitants of neighboring and conquered towns. At a later date there was also a voluntary migration of foreigners to Rome; as in the case of the so celebrated family of the Claudii, bringing their whole clientela. The Corinthian Demaratus, belonging to a family of consideration, had settled in Etruria; but as being an exile and a foreigner, he was little respected there, and his son, Lucumo, could no longer endure this degradation. He betook himself to Rome, says Livy, because a new people and a repentin a atque ex virtute nobilitas were to be found there. Lucumo attained, we are told, such a degree of respect, that he afterwards became king.
It is this peculiarity in the founding of the State which must be regarded as the essential basis of the idiosyncrasy of Rome. For it directly involves the severest discipline, and self-sacrifice to the grand object of the union. A State which had first to form itself, and which is based on force, must be held together by force. It is not a moral, liberal connection, but a compulsory condition of subordination, that results from such an origin. The Roman virtus is valor; not, however, the merely personal, but that which is essentially connected with a union of associates ; which union is regarded as the supreme interest, and may be combined with lawless violence of all kinds. While the Romans formed a union of this kind, they were not, indeed, like the Lacedaemonians, engaged in an internal contest with a conquered and subjugated people; but there arose a distinction and a struggle between Patricians and Plebeians. This distinction was mythically adumbrated in the hostile brothers, Romulus and Remus. Remus was buried on the Aventine mount; this is consecrated to the evil genii, and to it are directed the Secessions of the Plebs. The question comes, then, how this distinction originated? It has been already said, that Rome was formed by robber-herdsmen, and the concourse of rabble of all sorts. At a later date, the inhabitants of captured and destroyed towns were also conveyed thither. The weaker, the poorer, the later additions of population are naturally underrated by, and in a condition of dependence upon those who originally founded the state, and those who were distinguished by valor, and also by wealth. It is not necessary, therefore, to take refuge in a hypothesis which has recently been a favorite one – that the Patricians formed a particular race.
The dependence of the Plebeians on the Patricians is often represented as a perfectly legal relation – indeed, even a sacred one; since the Patricians had the sacra in their hands, while the plebs would have been godless, as it were, without them. The Plebeians left to the Patricians their hypocritical stuff (ad decipiendam plebem, Cic.) and cared nothing for their sacra and auguries; but in disjoining political rights from these ritual observances, and making good their claim to those rights, they were no more guilty of a presumptuous sacrilege than the Protestants, when they emancipated the political power of the State, and asserted the freedom of conscience. The light in which, as previously stated, we must regard the relation of the Patricians and Plebeians is, that those who were poor, and consequently helpless, were compelled to attach themselves to the richer and more respectable, and to seek for their patrocinium: in this relation of protection on the part of the more wealthy, the protected are called clientes. But we find very soon a fresh distinction between the plebs and the clientes. In the contentions between the Patricians and the Plebeians, the clientes held to their patroni, though belonging to the plebs as decidedly as any class. That this relation of the clientes had not the stamp of right and law is evident from the fact, that with the introduction and knowledge of the laws among all classes, the cliental relation gradually vanished; for as soon as individuals found protection in the law, the temporary necessity for it could not but cease.
In the first predatory period of the state, every citizen was necessarily a soldier, for the state was based on war; this burden was oppressive, since every citizen was obliged to maintain himself in the field. This circumstance, therefore, gave rise to the contracting of enormous debts – the Patricians becoming the creditors of the Plebeians. With the introduction of laws, this arbitrary relation necessarily ceased; but only gradually, for the Patricians were far from being immediately inclined to release the plebs from the cliental relation; they rather strove to render it permanent. The laws of the Twelve Tables still contained much that was undefined; very much was still left to the arbitrary will of the judge – the Patricians alone being judges; the antithesis, therefore, between Patricians and Plebeians, continues till a much later period. Only by degrees do the Plebeians scale all the heights of official station, and attain those privileges which formerly belonged to the Patricians alone.
In the life of the Greeks, although it did not any more than that of the Romans originate in the patriarchal relation, Family love and the Family tie appeared at its very commencement, and the peaceful aim of their social existence had for its necessary condition the extirpation of freebooters both by sea and land. The founders of Rome, on the contrary – Romulus and Remus – are, according to the tradition, themselves freebooters – represented as from their earliest days thrust out from the Family, and as having grown up in a state of isolation from family affection. In like manner, the first Romans are said to have got their wives, not by free courtship and reciprocated inclination, but by force. This commencement of the Roman life in savage rudeness excluding the sensibilities of natural morality, brings with it one characteristic element – harshness in respect to the family relation; a selfish harshness, which constituted the fundamental condition of Roman manners and laws, as we observe them in the sequel. We thus find family relations among the Romans not as a beautiful, free relation of love and feeling; the place of confidence is usurped by the principle of severity, dependence, and subordination. Marriage, in its strict and formal shape, bore quite the aspect of a mere contract; the wife was part of the husband’s property (in manum conventio), and the marriage ceremony was based on a cocmtio, in a form such as might have been adopted on the occasion of any other purchase. The husband acquired a power over his wife, such as he had over his daughter; nor less over her property; so that everything which she gained, she gained for her husband. During the good times of the republic, the celebration of marriages included a religious ceremony – confarreatio – but which was omitted at a later period. The husband obtained not less power than by the coemtio, when he married according to the form called usiis, that is, when the wife remained in the house of her husband without having been absent a trinoctium in a year. If the husband had not married in one of the forms of the in manum conventio, the wife remained either in the power of her father, or under the guardianship of her agnates, and was free as regarded her husband. The Roman matron, therefore, obtained honor and dignity only through independence of her husband, instead of acquiring her honor through her husband and by marriage. If a husband who had married under the freer condition – that is, when the union was not consecrated by the confarreatio – wished to separate from his wife, he dismissed her without further ceremony. The relation of sons was perfectly similar: they were, on the one hand, about as dependent on the paternal power as the wife on the matrimonial; they could not possess property – it made no difference whether they filled a high office in the State or not (though the peculia castrensia, and adventitia were differently regarded) ; but on the other hand, when they were emancipated, they had no connection with their father and their family. An evidence of the degree in which the position of children was regarded as analogous to that of slaves, is presented in the imaginaria servitus (mancipium), through which emancipated children had to pass. In reference to inheritance, morality would seem to demand that children should share equally. Among the Romans, on the contrary, testamentary caprice manifests itself in its harshest form. Thus perverted and demoralized, do we here see the fundamental relations of ethics. The immoral active severity of the Romans in this private side of character, necessarily finds its counterpart in the passive severity of their political union. For the severity which the Roman experienced from the State he was compensated by a severity, identical in nature, which he was allowed to indulge towards his family – a servant on the one side, a despot on the other. This constitutes the Roman greatness, whose peculiar characteristic was stern inflexibility in the union of individuals with the State, and with its law and mandate. In order to obtain a nearer view of this Spirit, we must not merely keep in view the actions of Roman heroes, confronting the enemy as soldiers or generals, or appearing as ambassadors – since in these cases they belong, with their whole mind and thought, only to the state and its mandate, without hesitation or yielding – but pay particular attention also to the conduct of the plebs in times of revolt against the patricians. How often in insurrection and in anarchical disorder was the plebs brought back into a state of tranquillity by a mere form, and cheated of the fulfilment of its demands, righteous or unrighteous! How often was a Dictator, e.g., chosen by the senate, when there was neither war nor danger from an enemy, in order to get the plebeians into the army, and to bind them to strict obedience by the military oath! It took Licinius ten years to carry laws favorable to the plebs; the latter allowed itself to be kept back by the mere formality of the veto on the part of other tribunes, and still more patiently did it wait for the long-delayed execution of these laws. It may be asked: By what were such a disposition and character produced? Produced it cannot be, but it is essentially latent in the origination of the State from that primal robber-community, as also in the idiosyncrasy of the people who composed it, and lastly, in that phase of the World-Spirit which was just ready for development. The elements of the Roman people were Etruscan, Latin and Sabine; these must have contained an inborn natural adaptation to produce the Roman Spirit. Of the spirit, the character, and the life of the ancient Italian peoples we know very little – thanks to the non-intelligent character of Roman historiography! – and that little, for the most part, from the Greek writers on Roman history. But of the general character of the Romans we may say that, in contrast with that primeval wild poetry and transmutation of the finite, which we observe in the East – in contrast with the beautiful, harmonious poetry and well-balanced freedom of Spirit among the Greeks – here, among the Romans the prose of life makes its appearance – the self-consciousness of finiteness – the abstraction of the Understanding and a rigorous principle of personality, which even in the Family does not expand itself to natural morality, but remains the unfeeling non-spiritual unit, and recognizes the uniting bond of the several social units only in abstract universality.
This extreme prose of the Spirit we find in Etruscan art, which though technically perfect and so far true to nature, has nothing of Greek Ideality and Beauty: we also observe it in the development of Roman Law and in the Roman religion. To the constrained, non-spiritual, and unfeeling intelligence of the Roman world we owe the origin and the development of positive law. For we saw above, how in the East, relations in their very nature belonging to the sphere of outward or inward morality, were made legal mandates; even among the Greeks, morality was at the same time juristic right, and on that very account the constitution was entirely dependent on morals and disposition, and had not yet a fixity of principle within it, to counterbalance the mutability of men’s inner life and individual subjectivity. The Romans then completed this important separation, and discovered a principle of right, which is external – i.e. one not dependent on disposition and sentiment. While they have thus bestowed upon us a valuable gift, in point of form, we can use and enjoy it without becoming victims to that sterile Understanding – without regarding it as the ne plus ultra of Wisdom and Reason. They were its victims, living beneath its sway; but they thereby secured for others Freedom of Spirit – viz., that inward Freedom which has consequently become emancipated from the sphere of the Limited and the External. Spirit, Soul, Disposition, Religion have now no longer to fear being involved with that abstract juristical Understanding. Art too has its external side; when in Art the mechanical side has been brought to perfection, Free Art can arise and display itself. But those must be pitied who knew of nothing but that mechanical side, and desired nothing further; as also those who, when Art has arisen, still regard the Mechanical as the highest. We see the Romans thus bound up in that abstract understanding which pertains to finiteness. This is their highest characteristic, consequently also their highest consciousness, in Religion. In fact, constraint was the religion of the Romans; among the Greeks, on the contrary, it was the cheerfulness of free fantasy. We are accustomed to regard Greek and Roman religion as the same, and use the names Jupiter, Minerva, etc. as Roman deities, often without distinguishing them from those of Greeks. This is admissible inasmuch as the Greek divinities were more or less introduced among the Romans; but as the Egyptian religion is by no means to be regarded as identical with the Greek, merely because Herodotus and the Greeks form to themselves an idea of the Egyptian divinities under the names “Latona,” “Pallas,” etc., so neither must the Roman be confounded with the Greek. We have said that in the Greek religion the thrill of awe suggested by Nature was fully developed to something Spiritual – to a free conception, a spiritual form of fancy – that the Greek Spirit did not remain in the condition of inward fear, but proceeded to make the relation borne to man by Nature, a relation of freedom and cheerfulness. The Romans, on the contrary, remained satisfied with a dull, stupid subjectivity; consequently, the external was only an Object – something alien, something hidden. The Roman spirit which thus remained involved in subjectivity, came into a relation of constraint and dependence, to which the origin of the word “re-ligio” (lig-are) points. The Roman had always to do with something secret; in everything he believed in and sought for something concealed; and while in the Greek religion everything is open and clear, present to sense and contemplation – not pertaining to a future world, but something friendly, and of this world – among the Romans everything exhibits itself as mysterious, duplicate: they saw in the object first itself, and then that which lies concealed in it: their history is pervaded by this duplicate mode of viewing phenomena. The city of Rome had besides its proper name another secret one, known only to a few. It is believed by some to have been “Valentia,” the Latin translation of “Roma”; others think it was “Amor” (“Roma” read backwards). Romulus, the founder of the State, had also another, a sacred name – “Quirinus” – by which title he was worshipped: the Romans too were also called Quirites. (This name is connected with the term “curia”: in tracing its etymology the name of the Sabine town “Cures,” has been had recourse to.) Among the Romans the religious thrill of awe remained undeveloped; it was shut up to the mere subjective certainty of its own existence. Consciousness has therefore given itself no spiritual objectivity – has not elevated itself to the theoretical contemplation of the eternally divine nature, and to freedom in that contemplation; it has gained no religious substantiality for itself from Spirit. The bare subjectivity of conscience is characteristic of the Roman in all that he does and undertakes – in his covenants, political relations, obligations, family relations, etc.; and all these relations receive thereby not merely a legal sanction, but as it were a solemnity analogous to that of an oath. The infinite number of ceremonies at the comitia, on assuming offices, etc., are expressions and declarations that concern this firm bond. Everywhere the sacra play a very important part. Transactions, naturally the most alien to constraint, became a sacrum, and were petrified, as it were, into that. To this category belongs, e.g., in strict marriages, the confarreatio, and the auguries and auspices generally. The knowledge of these sacra is utterly uninteresting and wearisome, affording fresh material for learned research as to whether they are of Etruscan, Sabine, or other origin. On their account the Roman people have been regarded as extremely pious, both in positive and negative observances; though it is ridiculous to hear recent writers speak with unction and respect of these sacra. The Patricians were especially fond of them; they have therefore been elevated in the judgment of some, to the dignity of sacerdotal families, and regarded as the sacred gentes – the possessors and conservators of Roman religion: the plebeians then become the godless element. On this head what is pertinent has already been said. The ancient kings were at the same time also reges sacrorum. After the royal dignity had been done away with, there still remained a Rex Sacrorum; but he, like all the other priests, was subject to the Pontifex Maximus, who presided over all the “sacra,” and gave them such a rigidity and fixity as enabled the patricians to maintain their religious power so long.
But the essential point in pious feeling is the subject matter with which it occupies itself – though it is often asserted, on the contrary, in modern times, that if pious feelings exist, it is a matter of indifference what object occupies them. It has been already remarked of the Romans, that their religious subjectivity did not expand into a free spiritual and moral comprehensiveness of being. It can be said that their piety did not develop itself into religion; for it remained essentially formal, and this formalism took its real side from another quarter. From the very definition given, it follows that it can only be of a finite, unhallowed order, since it arose outside the secret sanctum of religion. The chief characteristic of Roman Religion is therefore a hard and dry contemplation of certain voluntary aims, which they regard as existing absolutely in their divinities, and whose accomplishment they desire of them as embodying absolute power, These purposes constitute that for the sake of which they worship the gods, and by which, in a constrained, limited way, they are bound to their deities. The Roman religion is therefore the entirely prosaic one of narrow aspirations, expediency, profit. The divinities peculiar to them are entirely prosaic; they are conditions [of mind or body], sensations, or useful arts, to which their dry fancy, having elevated them to independent power, gave objectivity; they are partly abstractions, which could only become frigid allegories – partly conditions of being which appear as bringing advantage or injury, and which were presented as objects of worship in their original bare and limited form. We can but briefly notice a few examples. The Romans worshipped “Pax,” “Tranquillitas,” “Vacuna” (Repose), “Angeronia” (Sorrow and Grief), as divinities; they consecrated altars to the Plague, to Hunger, to Mildew (Robigo), to Fever, and to the Dea Cloacina. Juno appears among the Romans not merely as “Lucina,” the obstetric goddess, but also as “Juno Ossipagina,” the divinity who forms the bones of the child, and as “Juno Unxia,” who anoints the hinges of the doors at marriages (a matter which was also reckoned among the “sacra”). How little have these prosaic conceptions in common with the beauty of the spiritual powers and deities of the Greeks! On the other hand, Jupiter as “Jupiter Capitolinus” represents the generic essence of the Roman Empire, which is also personified in the divinities “Roma” and “Fortuna Publica.”
It was the Romans especially who introduced the practice of not merely supplicating the gods in time of need, and celebrating “lectisternia,” but of also making solemn promises and vows to them. For help in difficulty they sent even into foreign countries, and imported foreign divinities and rites. The introduction of the gods and most of the Roman temples thus arose from necessity – from a vow of some kind, and an obligatory, not disinterested acknowledgment of favors. The Greeks on the contrary erected and instituted their beautiful temples, and statues, and rites, from love to beauty and divinity for their own sake.
Only one side of the Roman religion exhibits something attractive, and that is the festivals, which bear a relation to country life, and whose observance was transmitted from the earliest times. The idea of the Saturnian time is partly their basis – the conception of a state of things antecedent to and beyond the limits of civil society and political combination; but their import is partly taken from Nature generally – the Sun, the course of the year, the seasons, months, etc., (with astronomical intimations) – partly from the particular aspects of the course of Nature, as bearing upon pastoral and agricultural life. There were festivals of sowing and harvesting and of the seasons; the principal was that of the Saturnalia, etc. In this aspect there appears much that is naive and ingenuous in the tradition. Yet this series of rites, on the whole, presents a very limited and prosaic appearance; deeper views of the great powers of nature and their generic processes are not deducible from them; for they are entirely directed to external vulgar advantage, and the merriment they occasioned, degenerated into a buffoonery unrelieved by intellect. While among the Greeks their tragic art developed itself from similar rudiments, it is on the other hand remarkable that among the Romans the scurrilous dances and songs connected with the rural festivals were kept up till the latest periods without any advance from this naive but rude form to anything really artistic.
It has already been said that the Romans adopted the Greek Gods, (the mythology of the Roman poets is entirely derived from the Greeks); but the worship of these beautiful gods of the imagination appears to have been among them of a very cold and superficial order. Their talk of Jupiter, Juno, Minerva sounds like a mere theatrical mention of them. The Greeks made their Pantheon the embodiment of a rich intellectual material, and adorned it with bright fancies; it was to them an object calling forth continual invention and exciting thoughtful reflection; and an extensive, nay inexhaustible, treasure has thus been created for sentiment, feeling and thought in their mythology. The Spirit of the Romans did not indulge and delight itself in that play of a thoughtful fancy; the Greek mythology appears lifeless and exotic in their hands. Among the Roman poets – especially Virgil – the introduction of the gods is the product of a frigid Understanding and of imitation. The gods are used in these poems as machinery, and in a merely superficial way; regarded much in the same way as in our didactic treatises on the belleslettres, where among other directions we find one relating to the use of such/machinery in epics – in order to produce astonishment.
The Romans were as essentially different from the Greeks in respect to their public games. In these the Romans were, properly speaking, only spectators. The mimetic and theatrical representation, the dancing, foot-racing and wrestling, they left to manumitted slaves, gladiators, or criminals condemned to death. Nero’s deepest degradation was his appearing on a public stage as a singer, lyrist and combatant. As the Romans were only spectators, these diversions were something foreign to them; they did not enter into them with their whole souls. With increasing luxury the taste for the baiting of beasts and men became particularly keen. Hundreds of bears, lions, tigers, elephants, crocodiles, and ostriches, were produced, and slaughtered for mere amusement. A body consisting of hundreds, nay thousands of gladiators, when entering the amphitheatre at a certain festival to engage in a sham sea-fight, addressed the Emperor with the words: “Those who are devoted to death salute thee,” to excite some compassion. In vain! the whole were devoted to mutual slaughter. In place of human sufferings in the depths of the soul and spirit, occasioned by the contradictions of life, and which find their solution in Destiny, the Romans instituted a cruel reality of corporeal sufferings: blood in streams, the rattle in the throat which signals death, and the expiring gasp were the scenes that delighted them. – This cold negativity of naked murder exhibits at the same time that murder of all spiritual objective aim which had taken place in the soul. I need only mention, in addition, the auguries, auspices, and Sibylline books, to remind you how fettered the Romans were by superstitions of all kinds, and how they pursued exclusively their own aims in all the observances in question. The entrails of beasts, flashes of lightning, the flight of birds, the Sibylline dicta determined the administration and projects of the State. All this was in the hands of the patricians, who consciously made use of it as a mere outward [non-spiritual, secular] means of constraint to further their own ends and oppress the people.
The distinct elements of Roman religion are, according to what has been said, subjective religiosity and a ritualism having for its object purely superficial external aims. Secular aims are left entirely free, instead of being limited by religion – in fact they are rather justified by it. The Romans are invariably pious, whatever may be the substantial character of their actions. But as the sacred principle here is nothing but an empty form, it is exactly of such a kind that it can be an instrument in the power of the devotee; it is taken possession of by the individual, who seeks his private objects and interests; whereas the truly Divine possesses on the contrary a concrete power in itself. But where there is only a powerless form, the individual – the Will, possessing an independent concreteness able to make that form its own, and render it subservient to its views – stands above it. This happened in Rome on the part of the patricians. The possession of sovereignty by the patricians is thereby made firm, sacred, incommunicable, peculiar: the administration of government, and political privileges, receive the character of hallowed private property. There does not exist therefore a substantial national unity – not that beautiful and moral necessity of united life in the Polis; but every “gens” is itself firm, stern, having its own Penates and sacra; each has it own political character, which it always preserves: strict, aristocratic severity distinguished the Claudii; benevolence towards the people, the Valerii; nobleness of spirit, the Cornelii. Separation and limitation were extended even to marriage, for the connubia of patricians with plebeians were deemed profane. But in that very subjectivity of religion we find also the principle of arbitrariness: and while on the one hand we have arbitrary choice invoking religion to bolster up private possession, we have on the other hand the revolt of arbitrary choice against religion. For the same order of things can, on the one side, be regarded as privileged by its religious form, and on the other side wear the aspect of being merely a matter of choice – of arbitrary volition on the part of man. When the time was come for it to be degraded to the rank of a mere form, it was necessarily known and treated as a form – trodden under foot – represented as formalism. – The inequality which enters into the domain of sacred things forms the transition from religion to the bare reality of political life. The consecrated inequality of will and of private property constitutes the fundamental condition of the change. The Roman principle admits of aristocracy alone as the constitution proper to it, but which directly manifests itself only in an antithetical form – internal inequality. Only from necessity and the pressure of adverse circumstances is this contradiction momentarily smoothed over; for it involves a duplicate power, the sternness and malevolent isolation of whose components can only be mastered and bound together by a still greater sternness, into a unity maintained by force.
In the first period, several successive stages display their characteristic varieties. The Roman State here exhibits its first phase of growth, under Kings; then it receives a republican constitution, at whose head stand Consuls. The struggle between patricians and plebeians begins; and after this has been set at rest by the concession of the plebeian demands, there ensues a state of contentment in the internal affairs of Rome, and it acquires strength to combat victoriously with the nation that preceded it on the stage of general history. As regards the accounts of the first Roman kings, every datum has met with flat contradiction as the result of criticism; but it is going too far to deny them all credibility. Seven kings in all, are mentioned by tradition; and even the “Higher Criticism” is obliged to recognize the last links in the series as perfectly historical. Romulus is called the founder of this union of freebooters; he organized it into a military state. Although the traditions respecting him appear fabulous, they only contain what is in accordance with the Roman Spirit as above described. To the second king, Numa, is ascribed the introduction of the religious ceremonies. This trait is very remarkable from its implying that religion was introduced later than political union, while among other peoples religious traditions make their appearance in the remotest periods and before all civil institutions. The king was at the same time a priest (rex is referred by etymologists to rexein – to sacrifice. As is the case with states generally, the Political was at first united with the Sacerdotal, and a theocratical state of things prevailed. The King stood here at the head of those who enjoyed privileges in virtue of the sacra.
The separation of the distinguished and powerful citizens as senators and patricians took place as early as the first kings. Romulus is said to have appointed 100 patres, respecting which however the Higher Criticism is sceptical. In religion, arbitrary ceremonies – the sacra – became fixed marks of distinction, and peculiarities of the gentes and orders. The internal organization of the State was gradually realized. Livy says that as Numa established all divine matters, so Servius Tullius introduced the different Classes, and the Census, according to which the share of each citizen in the administration of public affairs was determined. The patricians were discontented with this scheme, especially because Servius Tullius abolished a part of the debts owed by the plebeians, and gave public lands to the poorer citizens, which made them possessors of landed property. He divided the people into six classes, of which the first together with the knights formed ninety-eight centuries, the inferior classes proportionately fewer. Thus, as they voted by centuries, the class first in rank had also the greatest weight in the State. It appears that previously the patricians had the power exclusively in their hands, but that after Servius’s division they had merely a preponderance; which explains their discontent with his institutions. With Servius the history becomes more distinct; and under him and his predecessor, the elder Tarquinius, traces of prosperity are exhibited. Niebuhr is surprised that according to Dionysius and Livy, the most ancient constitution was democratic, inasmuch as the vote of every citizen had equal weight in the assembly of the people. But Livy only says that Servius abolished the suffragium viritim. Now in the comitia curiata – the cliental relation, which absorbed the plebs, extending to all – the patricians alone had a vote, and populus denoted at that time only the patricians. Dionysius therefore does not contradict himself, when he says that the constitution according to the laws of Romulus was strictly aristocratic. Almost all the Kings were foreigners – a circumstance very characteristic of the origin of Rome. Numa, who succeeded the founder of Rome, was according to the tradition, one of the Sabines – a people which under the reign of Romulus, led by Tatius, is said to have settled on one of the Roman hills. At a later date however the Sabine country appears as a region entirely separated from the Roman State. Numa was followed by Tullus Hostilius, and the very name of this king points to his foreign origin. Ancus Martius, the fourth king, was the grandson of Numa. Tarquinius Priscus sprang from a Corinthian family, as we had occasion to observe above. Servius Tullius was from Corniculum, a conquered Latin town; Tarquinius Superbus was descended from the elder Tarquinius. Under this last king Rome reached a high degree of prosperity: even at so early a period as this, a commercial treaty is said to have been concluded with the Carthaginians; and to be disposed to reject this as mythical would imply forgetfulness of the connection which Rome had, even at that time, with the Etrurians and other bordering peoples whose prosperity depended on trade and maritime pursuits. The Romans were probably even then acquainted with the art of writing, and already possessed that clearsighted comprehension which was their remarkable characteristic, and which led to that perspicuous historical composition for which they are famous. In the growth of the inner life of the state, the power of the Patricians had been much reduced; and the kings often courted the support of the people – as we see was frequently the case in the mediaeval history of Europe – in order to steal a march upon the Patricians. We have already observed this in Servius Tullius. The last king, Tarquinius Superbus, consulted the senate but little in state affairs; he also neglected to supply the place of its deceased members, and acted in every respect as if he aimed at its utter dissolution. Then ensued a state of political excitement which only needed an occasion to break out into open revolt. An insult to the honor of a matron – the invasion of that sanctum sanctorum – by the son of the king, supplied such an occasion. The kings were banished in the year 244 of the City and 510 of the Christian Era (that is, if the building of Rome is to be dated 753 B.C.) and the royal dignity abolished forever. The Kings were expelled by the patricians, not by the plebeians ; if therefore the patricians are to be regarded as possessed of “divine right” as being a sacred race, it is worthy of note that we find them here contravening such legitimation; for the King was their High Priest. We observe on this occasion with what dignity the sanctity of marriage was invested in the eyes of the Romans. The principle of subjectivity and piety (pudor) was with them the religious and guarded element; and its violation becomes the occasion of the expulsion of the Kings, and later on of the Decemvirs too. We find monogamy therefore also looked upon by the Romans as an understood thing. It was not introduced by an express law; we have nothing but an incidental testimony in the Institutes, where it is said that marriages under certain conditions of relationship are not allowable, because a man may not have two wives. It is not until the reign of Diocletian that we find a law expressly determining that no one belonging to the Roman empire may have two wives, “since according to a pretorian edict also, infamy attaches to such a condition” (cum etiam in edicto praetoris hujusmodi viri infamia notati sunt). Monogamy therefore is regarded as naturally valid, and is based on the principle of subjectivity. – Lastly, we must also observe that royalty was not abrogated here as in Greece by suicidal destruction on the part of the royal races, but was exterminated in hate. The King, himself the chief priest, had been guilty of the grossest profanation; the principle of subjectivity revolted against the deed, and the patricians, thereby elevated to a sense of independence, threw off the yoke of royalty. Possessed by the same feeling, the plebs at a later date rose against the patricians, and the Latins and the Allies against the Romans; until the equality of the social units was restored through the whole Roman dominion (a multitude of slaves, too, being emancipated) and they were held together by simple Despotism. Livy remarks that Brutus hit upon the right epoch for the expulsion of the kings, for that if it had taken place earlier, the state would have suffered dissolution. What would have happened, he asks, if this homeless crowd had been liberated earlier, when living together had not yet produced a mutual conciliation of dispositions? – The constitution now became in name republican. If we look at the matter more closely it is evident (Livy ii. 1) that no other essential change took place than the transference of the power which was previously permanent in the King, to two annual Consuls. These two, equal in power, managed military and judicial as well as administrative business; for praetors, as supreme judges, do not appear till a later date. At first all authority remained in the hands of the consuls; and at the beginning of the republic, externally and internally, the state was in evil plight. In the Roman history a period occurs as troubled as that in the Greek which followed the extinction of the dynasties. The Romans had first to sustain a severe conflict with their expelled King, who had sought and found help from the Etrurians. In the war against Porsena the Romans lost all their conquests, and even their independence : they were compelled to lay down their arms and to give hostages; according to an expression of Tacitus (Hist. 3, 72) it seems as if Porsena had even taken Rome. Soon after the expulsion of the Kings we have the contest between the patricians and plebeians; for the abolition of royalty had taken place exclusively to the advantage of the aristocracy, to which the royal power was transferred, while the plebs lost the protection which the Kings had afforded it. All magisterial and juridical power, and all property in land was at this time in the hands of the patricians; while the people, continually dragged out to war, could not employ themselves in peaceful occupations: handicrafts could not flourish, and the only acquisition the plebeians could make was their share in the booty. The patricians had their territory and soil cultivated by slaves, and assigned some of their land to their clients, who on condition of paying taxes and contributions – as tenant cultivators, therefore – had the usufruct of it. This relation, on account of the form in which the dues were paid by the Clientes, was very similar to vassalage: they were obliged to give contributions towards the marriage of the daughters of the Patronus, to ransom him or his sons when in captivity, to assist them in obtaining magisterial offices, and to make up the losses sustained in suits at law. The administration of justice was likewise in the hands of the patricians, and that without the limitations of definite and written laws; a desideratum which at a later period the Decemvirs were created to supply. All the power of government belonged moreover to the patricians, for they were in possession of all offices – first of the consulship, afterwards of the military tribuneship and censorship (instituted A.U.C. 311) – by which the actual administration of government as likewise the oversight of it, was left to them alone. Lastly, it was the patricians who constituted the Senate. The question as to how that body was recruited appears very important. But in this matter no systematic plan was followed. Romulus is said to have founded the senate, consisting then of one hundred members; the succeeding kings increased this number, and Tarquinius Priscus fixed it at three hundred. Junius Brutus restored the senate, which had very much fallen away, de novo. In after times it would appear that the censors and sometimes the dictators filled up the vacant places in the senate. In the second Punic War, A.U.C. 538, a dictator was chosen, who nominated one hundred and seventyseven new senators: he selected those who had been invested with curule dignities, the plebeian Ădiles, Tribunes of the People and Quaestors, citizens who had gained spolia opima or the corona civica. Under Caesar the number of the senators was raised to eight hundred; Augustus reduced it to six hundred. It has been regarded as great negligence on the part of the Roman historians, that they give us so little information respecting the composition and redintegration of the senate. But this point which appears to us to be invested with infinite importance, was not of so much moment to the Romans at large; they did not attach so much weight to formal arrangements, for their principal concern was, how the government was conducted. How in fact can we suppose the constitutional rights of the ancient Romans to have been so well defined, and that at a time which is even regarded as mythical, and its traditionary history as epical? The people were in some such oppressed condition as, e.g. the Irish were a few years ago in the British Isles, while they remained at the same time entirely excluded from the government. Often they revolted and made a secession from the city. Sometimes they also refused military service; yet it always remains a very striking fact that the senate could so long resist superior numbers irritated by oppression and practised in war; for the main struggle lasted for more than a hundred years. In the fact that the people could so long be kept in check is manifested its respect for legal order and the sacra. But of necessity the plebeians at last secured their righteous demands, and their debts were often remitted. The severity of the patricians their creditors, the debts due to whom they had to discharge by slave-work, drove the plebs to revolts. At first it demanded and received only what it had already enjoyed under the kings – landed property and protection against the powerful. It received assignments of land, and Tribunes of the People – functionaries that is to say, who had the power to put a veto on every decree of the senate. When this office commenced, the number of tribunes was limited to two: later there were ten of them; which however was rather injurious to the plebs, since all that the senate had to do was to gain over one of the tribunes, in order to thwart the purpose of all the rest by his single opposition. The plebs obtained at the same time the provocatio ad populum: that is, in every case of magisterial oppression, the condemned person might appeal to the decision of the people – a privilege of infinite importance to the plebs, and which especially irritated the patricians. At the repeated desire of the people the Decemviri were nominated – the Tribunate of the People being suspended – to supply the desideratum of a determinate legislation; they perverted, as is well known, their unlimited power to tyranny; and were driven from power on an occasion entailing similar disgrace to that which led to the punishment of the Kings. The dependence of the clientela was in the meantime weakened; after the decemviral epoch the clientes are less and less prominent and are merged in the plebs, which adopts resolutions (plebiscita); the senate by itself could only issue senatus consulta, and the tribunes, as well as the senate, could now impede the comitia and elections. By degrees the plebeians effected their admissibility to all dignities and offices; but at first a plebeian consul, aedile, censor, etc., was not equal to the patrician one, on account of the sacra which the latter kept in his hands; and a long time intervened after this concession before a plebeian actually became a consul. It was the tribunus plebis, Licinius, who established the whole cycle of these political arrangements – in the second half of the fourth century, A.U.C. 387. It was he also who chiefly commenced the agitation for the lex agraria, respecting which so much has been written and debated among the learned of the day. The agitators for this law excited during every period very great commotions in Rome. The plebeians were practically excluded from almost all the landed property, and the object of the Agrarian Laws was to provide lands for them – partly in the neighborhood of Rome, partly in the conquered districts, to which colonies were to be then led out. In the time of the Republic we frequently see military leaders assigning lands to the people; but in every case they were accused of striving after royalty, because it was the kings who had exalted the plebs. The Agrarian Law required that no citizen should possess more than five hundred jugera: the patricians were consequently obliged to surrender a large part of their property. Niebuhr in particular has undertaken extensive researches respecting the agrarian laws, and has conceived himself to have made great and important discoveries: he says, viz. that an infringement of the sacred right of property was never thought of, but that the state had only assigned a portion of the public lands for the use of the plebs, having always had the right of disposing of them as its own property. I only remark in passing that Hegewisch had made this discovery before Niebuhr, and that Niebuhr derived the particular data on which his assertion rests from Appian and Plutarch; that is from Greek authors, respecting whom he himself allows that we should have recourse to them only in an extreme case. How often does Livy, as well as Cicero and others, speak of the Agrarian laws, while nothing definite can be inferred from their statements! – This is another proof of the inaccuracy of the Roman historians. The whole affair ends in nothing but a useless question of jurisprudence. The land which the patricians had taken into possession or in which colonies settled, was originally public land; but it also certainly belonged to those in possession, and our information is not at all promoted by the assertion that it always remained public land. This discovery of Niebuhr’s turns upon a very immaterial distinction, existing perhaps in his ideas, but not in reality. – The Licinian law was indeed carried, but soon transgressed and utterly disregarded. Licinius Stolo himself, who had first “agitated” for the law, was punished because he possessed a larger property in land than was allowed, and the patricians opposed the execution of the law with the greatest obstinacy. We must here call especial attention to the distinction which exists between the Roman, the Greek, and our own circumstances. Our civil society rests on other principles, and in it such measures are not necessary. Spartans and Athenians, who had not arrived at such an abstract idea of the State as was so tenaciously held by the Romans, did not trouble themselves with abstract rights, but simply desired that the citizens should have the means of subsistence; and they required of the state that it should take care that such should be the case. This is the chief point in the first period of Roman History – that the plebs attained the right of being eligible to the higher political offices, and that by a share which they too managed to obtain in the land and soil, the means of subsistence were assured to the citizens.
By this union of the patriciate and the plebs, Rome first attained true internal consistency ; and only after this had been realized could the Roman power develop itself externally. A period of satisfied absorption in the common interest ensues, and the citizens are weary of internal struggles. When after civil discords nations direct their energies outward, they appear in their greatest strength; for the previous excitement continues, and no longer having its object within, seeks for it without. This direction given to the Roman energies was able for a moment to conceal the defect of that union; equilibrium was restored, but without an essential centre of unity and support. The contradiction that existed could not but break out again fearfully at a later period; but previously to this time the greatness of Rome had to display itself in war and the conquest of the world. The power, the wealth, the glory derived from these wars, as also the difficulties to which they led, kept the Romans together as regards the internal affairs of the state. Their courage and discipline secured their victory. As compared with the Greek or Macedonian, the Roman art of war has special peculiarities. The strength of the phalanx lay in its mass and in its massive character. The Roman legions also present a close array, but they had at the same time an articulated organization: they united the two extremes of massiveness on the one hand, and of dispersion into light troops on the other hand: they held firmly together, while at the same time they were capable of ready expansion. Archers and slingers preceded the main body of the Roman army when they attacked the enemy – afterwards leaving the decision to the sword.
It would be a wearisome task to pursue the wars of the Romans in Italy; partly because they are in themselves unimportant – even the often empty rhetoric of the generals in Livy cannot very much increase the interest – partly on account of the unintelligent character of the Roman annalists, in whose pages we see the Romans carrying on war only with “enemies” without learning anything further of their individuality – e.g., the Etruscans, the Samnites, the Ligurians, with whom they carried on wars during many hundred years. – It is singular in regard to these transactions that the Romans, who have the justification conceded by World- History on their side, should also claim for themselves the minor justification in respect to manifestoes and treaties on occasion of minor infringements of them, and maintain it as it were after the fashion of advocates. But in political complications of this kind, either party may take offence at the conduct of the other, if it pleases, and deems it expedient to be offended. – The Romans had long and severe contests to maintain with the Samnites, the Etruscans, the Gauls, the Marsi, the Umbrians and the Bruttii, before they could make themselves masters of the whole of Italy. Their dominion was extended thence in a southerly direction; they gained a secure footing in Sicily, where the Carthaginians had long carried on war; then they extended their power towards the west: from Sardinia and Corsica they went to Spain. They thus soon came into frequent contact with the Carthaginians, and were obliged to form a naval power in opposition to them. This transition was easier in ancient times than it would perhaps be now, when long practice and superior knowledge are required for maritime service. The mode of warfare at sea was not very different from that on land. We have thus reached the end of the first epoch of Roman History, in which the Romans by their retail military transactions had become capitalists in a strength proper to themselves, and with which they were to appear on the theatre of the world. The Roman dominion was, on the whole, not yet very greatly extended: only a few colonies had settled on the other side of the Po, and on the south a considerable power confronted that of Rome. It was the Second Punic War, therefore, that gave the impulse to its terrible collision with the most powerful states of the time; through it the Romans came into contact with Macedonia, Asia, Syria, and subsequently also with Egypt. Italy and Rome remained the centre of their great far-stretching empire, but this centre was, as already remarked, not the less an artificial, forced, and compulsory one. This grand period of the contact of Rome with other states, and of the manifold complications thence arising, has been depicted by the noble Achaean, Polybius, whose fate it was to observe the fall of his country through the disgraceful passions of the Greeks and the baseness and inexorable persistency of the Romans.
The second period, according to our division, begins with the Second Punic War, that epoch which decided and stamped a character upon Roman dominion. In the first Punic War the Romans had shown that they had become a match for the mighty Carthage, which possessed a great part of the coast of Africa and southern Spain, and had gained a firm footing in Sicily and Sardinia. The second Punic War laid the might of Carthage prostrate in the dust. The proper element of that state was the sea; but it had no original territory, formed no nation, had no national army; its hosts were composed of the troops of subjugated and allied peoples. In spite of this, the great Hannibal with such a host, formed from the most diverse nations, brought Rome near to destruction. Without any support he maintained his position in Italy for sixteen years against Roman patience and perseverance; during which time however the Scipios conquered Spain and entered into alliances with the princes of Africa. Hannibal was at last compelled to hasten to the assistance of his hard-pressed country; he lost the battle of Zatna in the year 552 A.U.C. and after six and thirty years revisited his paternal city, to which he was now obliged to offer pacific counsels. The second Punic War thus eventually established the undisputed power of Rome over Carthage; it occasioned the hostile collision of the Romans with the king of Macedonia, who was conquered five years later. Now Antiochus, the king of Syria, is involved in the melee. He opposed a huge power to the Romans, was beaten at Thermopylae and Magnesia, and was compelled to surrender to the Romans Asia Minor as far as the Taurus. After the conquest of Macedonia both that country and Greece were declared free by the Romans – a declaration whose meaning we have already investigated, in treating of the preceding Historical nation. It was not till this time that the Third Punic War commenced, for Carthage had once more raised its head and excited the jealousy of the Romans. After long resistance it was taken and laid in ashes. Nor could the Achaean league now long maintain itself in the face of Roman ambition: the Romans were eager for war, destroyed Corinth in the same year as Carthage, and made Greece a province. The fall of Carthage and the subjugation of Greece were the central points from which the Romans gave its vast extent to their sovereignty.
Rome seemed now to have attained perfect security; no external power confronted it: she was the mistress of the Mediterranean – that is of the media terra of all civilization. In this period of victory, its morally great and fortunate personages, especially the Scipios, attract our attention. They were morally fortunate – although the greatest of the Scipios met with an end outwardly unfortunate – because they devoted their energies to their country during a period when it enjoyed a sound and unimpaired condition. But after the feeling of patriotism – the dominant instinct of Rome – had been satisfied, destruction immediately invades the state regarded en masse; the grandeur of individual character becomes stronger in intensity, and more vigorous in the use of means, on account of contrasting circumstances. We see the internal contradiction of Rome now beginning to manifest itself in another form; and the epoch which concludes the second period is also the second mediation of that contradiction. We observed that contradiction previously in the struggle of the patricians against the plebeians: now it assumes the form of private interest, contravening patriotic sentiment; and respect for the state no longer holds these opposites in the necessary equipoise. Rather, we observe now side by side with wars for conquest, plunder and glory, the fearful spectacle of civil discords in Rome, and intestine wars. There does not follow, as among the Greeks after the Median wars, a period of brilliant splendor in culture, art and science, in which Spirit enjoys inwardly and ideally that which it had previously achieved in the world of action. If inward satisfaction was to follow the period of that external Prosperity in war, the principle of Roman life must be more concrete, But if there were such a concrete life to evolve as an object of consciousness from the depths of their souls by imagination and thought, what would it have been! Their chief spectacles were triumphs, the treasures gained in war, and captives from all nations, unsparingly subjected to the yoke of abstract sovereignty. The concrete element, which the Romans actually find within themselves, is only this unspiritual unity, and any definite thought or feeling of a non-abstract kind, can lie only in the idiosyncrasy of individuals. The tension of virtue is now relaxed, because the danger is past. At the time of the first Punic War, necessity united the hearts of all for the saving of Rome. In the following wars too, with Macedonia, Syria, and the Gauls in Upper Italy, the existence of the entire state was still concerned. But after the danger from Carthage and Macedon was over, the subsequent wars were more and more the mere consequences of victories, and nothing else was needed than to gather in their fruits. The armies were used for particular expeditions, suggested by policy, or for the advantages of individuals – for acquiring wealth, glory, sovereignty in the abstract. The relation to other nations was purely that of force. The national individuality of peoples did not, as early as the time of the Romans, excite respect, as is the case in modern times. The various peoples were not yet recognized as legitimated; the various states had not yet acknowledged each other as real essential existences. Equal right to existence entails a union of states, such as exists in modern Europe, or a condition like that of Greece, in which the states had an equal right to existence under the protection of the Delphic god. The Romans do not enter into such a relation to the other nations, for their god is only the Jupiter Capitolinus; neither do they respect the sacra of the other nations (any more than the plebeians those of the patricians) ; but as conquerors in the strict sense of the term, they plunder the Palladia of the nations. Rome kept standing armies in the conquered provinces, and proconsuls and propraetors were sent into them as viceroys. The Equites collected the taxes and tributes, which they farmed under the State. A net of such fiscal farmers (publicani) was thus drawn over the whole Roman world. – Cato used to say, after every deliberation of the senate: “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam:” and Cato was a thorough Roman. The Roman principle thereby exhibits itself as the cold abstraction of sovereignty and power, as the pure egotism of the will in opposition to others, involving no moral element of determination, but appearing in a concrete form only in the shape of individual interests. Increase in the number of provinces issued in the aggrandizement of individuals within Rome itself, and the corruption thence arising. From Asia, luxury and debauchery were brought to Rome. Riches flowed in after the fashion of spoils in war, and were not the fruit of industry and honest activity; in the same way as the marine had arisen, not from the necessities of commerce, but with a warlike object. The Roman state, drawing its resources from rapine, came to be rent in sunder by quarrels about dividing the spoil. For the first occasion of the breaking out of contention within it was the legacy of Attalus, King of Pergamus, who had bequeathed his treasures to the Roman State. Tiberius Gracchus came forward with the proposal to divide it among the Roman citizens; he likewise renewed the Licinian Agrarian laws, which had been entirely set aside during the predominance of individuals in the state. His chief object was to procure property for the free citizens, and to people Italy with citizens instead of slaves. This noble Roman, however, was vanquished by the grasping nobles, for the Roman constitution was no longer in a condition to be saved by the constitution itself. Caius Gracchus, the brother of Tiberius, prosecuted the same noble aim as his brother, and shared the same fate. Ruin now broke in unchecked, and as there existed no generally recognized and absolutely essential object to which the country’s energy could be devoted, individualities and physical force were in the ascendant. The enormous corruption of Rome displays itself in the war with Jugurtha, who had gained the senate by bribery, and so indulged himself in the most atrocious deeds of violence and crime. Rome was pervaded by the excitement of the struggle against the Cimbri and Teutones, who assumed a menacing position towards the State. With great exertions the latter were utterly routed in Provence, near Aix; the others in Lombardy at the Adige by Marius the conqueror of Jugurtha. Then the Italian allies, whose demand of Roman citizenship had been refused, raised a revolt; and while the Romans had to sustain a struggle against a vast power in Italy, they received the news that, at the command of Mithridates, 80,000 Romans had been put to death in Asia Minor. Mithridates was King of Pontus, governed Colchis and the lands of the Black Sea, as far as the Tauric peninsula, and could summon to his standard in his war with Rome the populations of the Caucasus, of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and a part of Syria, through his son-in-law Tigranes. Sulla, who had already led the Roman hosts in the Social War, conquered him. Athens, which had hitherto been spared, was beleaguered and taken, but “for the sake of their fathers” – as Sulla expressed himself – not destroyed. He then returned to Rome, reduced the popular faction, headed by Marius and Cinna, became master of the city, and commenced systematic massacres of Roman citizens of consideration. Forty senators and six hundred knights were sacrificed to his ambition and lust of power.
Mithridates was indeed defeated, but not overcome, and was able to begin the war anew. At the same time, Sertorius, a banished Roman, arose in revolt in Spain, carried on a contest there for eight years, and perished only through treachery. The war against Mithridates was terminated by Pompey; the King of Pontus killed himself when his resources were exhausted. The Servile War in Italy is a contemporaneous event. A great number of gladiators and mountaineers had formed a union under Spartacus, but were vanquished by Crassus. To this confusion was added the universal prevalence of piracy, which Pompey rapidly reduced by a large armament.
We thus see the most terrible and dangerous powers arising against Rome; yet the military force of this state is victorious over all. Great individuals now appear on the stage as during the times of the fall of Greece. The biographies of Plutarch are here also of the deepest interest. It was from the disruption of the state, which had no longer any consistency or firmness in itself, that these colossal individualities arose, instinctively impelled to restore that political unity which was no longer to be found in men’s dispositions. It was their misfortune that they could not maintain a pure morality, for their course of action contravened things as they are, and was a series of transgressions. Even the noblest – the Gracchi – were not merely the victims of injustice and violence from without, but were themselves involved in the corruption and wrong that universally prevailed. But that which these individuals purpose and accomplish has on its side the higher sanction of the World-Spirit, and must eventually triumph. The idea of an organization for the vast empire being altogether absent, the senate could not assert the authority of government. The sovereignty was made dependent on the people – that people which was now a mere mob, and was obliged to be supported by corn from the Roman provinces. We should refer to Cicero to see how all affairs of state were decided in riotous fashion, and with arms in hand, by the wealth and power of the grandees on the one side, and by a troop of rabble on the other. The Roman citizens attached themselves to individuals who flattered them, and who then became prominent in factions, in order to make themselves masters of Rome. Thus we see in Pompey and Caesar the two foci of Rome’s splendor coming into hostile opposition: on the one side, Pompey with the Senate, and therefore apparently the defender of the Republic – on the other, Caesar with his legions and a superiority of genius. This contest between the two most powerful individualities could not be decided at Rome in the Forum. Caesar made himself master in succession, of Italy, Spain, and Greece, utterly routed his enemy at Pharsalia, forty-eight years before Christ, made himself sure of Asia, and so returned victor to Rome. In this way the world-wide sovereignty of Rome became the property of a single possessor. This important change must not be regarded as a thing of chance; it was necessary – postulated by the circumstances. The democratic constitution could no longer be really maintained in Rome, but only kept up in appearance. Cicero, who had procured himself great respect through his high oratorical talent, and whose learning acquired him considerable influence, always attributes the corrupt state of the republic to individuals and their passions. Plato, whom Cicero professedly followed, had the full consciousness that the Athenian state, as it presented itself to him, could not maintain its existence, and therefore sketched the plan of a perfect constitution accordant with his views. Cicero, on the contrary, does not consider it impossible to preserve the Roman Republic, and only desiderates some temporary assistance for it in its adversity. The nature of the State, and of the Roman State in particular, transcends his comprehension. Cato, too, says of Caesar: “His virtues be execrated, for they have ruined my country!” But it was not the mere accident of Caesar’s existence that destroyed the Republic – it was Necessity. All the tendencies of the Roman principle were to sovereignty and military force: it contained in it no spiritual centre which it could make the object, occupation, and enjoyment of its Spirit. The aim of patriotism – that of preserving the State – ceases when the lust of personal dominion becomes the impelling passion. The citizens were alienated from the state, for they found in it no objective satisfaction; and the interests of individuals did not take the same direction as among the Greeks, who could set against the incipient corruption of the practical world, the noblest works of art in painting, sculpture and poetry, and especially a highly cultivated philosophy. Their works of art were only what they had collected from every part of Greece, and therefore not productions of their own; their riches were not the fruit of industry, as was the case in Athens, but the result of plunder. Elegance – Culture – was foreign to the Romans per se; they sought to obtain it from the Greeks, and for this purpose a vast number of Greek slaves were brought to Rome. Delos was the centre of this slave trade, and it is said that sometimes on a single day, ten thousand slaves were purchased there. To the Romans, Greek slaves were their poets, their authors, the superintendents of their manufactories, the instructors of their children.
The Republic could not longer exist in Rome. We see, especially from Cicero’s writings, how all public affairs were decided by the private authority of the more eminent citizens – by their power, their wealth; and what tumultuary proceedings marked all political transactions. In the republic, therefore, there was no longer any security; that could be looked for only in a single will. Caesar, who may be adduced as a paragon of Roman adaptation of means to ends – who formed his resolves with the most unerring perspicuity, and executed them with the greatest vigor and practical skill, without any superfluous excitement of mind – Caesar, judged by the great scope of history, did the Right; since he furnished a mediating element, and that kind of political bond which men’s condition required. Caesar effected two objects: he calmed the internal strife, and at the same time originated a new one outside the limits of the empire. For the conquest of the world had reached hitherto only to the circle of the Alps, but Caesar opened a new scene of achievement: he founded the theatre which was on the point of becoming the centre of History. He then achieved universal sovereignty by a struggle which was decided not in Rome itself, but by his conquest of the whole Roman World.
His position was indeed hostile to the republic, but, properly speaking, only to its shadow; for all that remained of that republic was entirely powerless. Pompey, and all those who were on the side of the senate, exalted their dignitas auctoritas – their individual rule – as the power of the republic; and the mediocrity which needed protection took refuge under this title. Caesar put an end to the empty formalism of this title, made himself master, and held together the Roman world by force, in opposition to isolated factions. Spite of this we see the noblest men of Rome supposing Caesar’s rule to be a merely adventitious thing, and the entire position of affairs to be dependent on his individuality. So thought Cicero, so Brutus and Cassius. They believed that if this one individual were out of the way, the Republic would be ipso facto restored. Possessed by this remarkable hallucination, Brutus, a man of highly noble character, and Cassius, endowed with greater practical energy than Cicero, assassinated the man whose virtues they appreciated. But it became immediately manifest that only a single will could guide the Roman State, and now the Romans were compelled to adopt that opinion; since in all periods of the world a political revolution is sanctioned in men’s opinions, when it repeats itself. Thus Napoleon was twice defeated, and the Bourbons twice expelled. By repetition that which at first appeared merely a matter of chance and contingency becomes a real and ratified existence.
During this period the Romans come into contact with the people destined to succeed them as a World-Historical nation; and we have to consider that period in two essential aspects, the secular and the spiritual. In the secular aspect two leading phases must be specially regarded: first, the position of the Ruler; and secondly, the conversion of mere individuals into persons – the world of legal relations.
The first thing to be remarked respecting the imperial rule is that the Roman government was so abstracted from interest, that the great transition to that rule hardly changed anything in the constitution. The popular assemblies alone were unsuited to the new state of things, and disappeared. The emperor was princeps senatus, Censor, Consul, Tribune: he united all their nominally continuing offices in himself; and the military power – here the most essentially important – was exclusively in his hands. The constitution was an utterly unsubstantial form, from which all vitality, consequently all might and power, had departed; and the only means of maintaining its existence were the legions which the Emperor constantly kept in the vicinity of Rome. Public business was indeed brought before the senate, and the Emperor appeared simply as one of its members; but the senate was obliged to obey, and whoever ventured to gainsay his will was punished with death, and his property confiscated. Those therefore who had certain death in anticipation, killed themselves, that if they could do nothing more, they might at least preserve their property to their family. Tiberius was the most odious to the Romans on account of his power of dissimulation: he knew very well how to make good use of the baseness of the senate, in extirpating those among them whom he feared. The power of the Emperor rested, as we have said, on the army, and the Pretorian bodyguard which surrounded him. But the legions, and especially the Pretorians, soon became conscious of their importance, and arrogated to themselves the disposal of the imperial throne. At first they continued to show some respect for the family of Caesar Augustus, but subsequently the legions chose their own generals; such, viz., as had gained their good will and favor, partly by courage and intelligence, partly also by bribes, and indulgence in the administration of military discipline.
The Emperors conducted themselves in the enjoyment of their power with perfect simplicity, and did not surround themselves with pomp and splendor in Oriental fashion. We find in them traits of simplicity which astonish us. Thus, e.g., Augustus writes a letter to Horace, in which he reproaches him for having failed to address any poem to him, and asks him whether he thinks that that would disgrace him with posterity. Sometimes the Senate made an attempt to regain its consequence by nominating the Emperor: but their nominees were either unable to maintain their ground, or could do so only by bribing the Pretorians. The choice of the senators and the constitution of the senate was moreover left entirely to the caprice of the Emperor. The political institutions were united in the person a the Emperor; no moral bond any longer existed; the will of the Emperor was supreme, and before him there was absolute equality. The freedmen who surrounded the Emperor were often the mightiest in the empire; for caprice recognizes no distinction. In the person of the Emperor isolated subjectivity has gained a perfectly unlimited realization. Spirit has renounced its proper nature, inasmuch as Limitation of being and of volition has been constituted an unlimited absolute existence. This arbitrary choice, moreover, has only one limit, the limit of all that is human – death; and even death became a theatrical display. Nero, e.g., died a death, which may furnish an example for the noblest hero, as for the most resigned of sufferers. Individual subjectivity thus entirely emancipated from control, has no inward life, no prospective nor retrospective emotions, no repentance, nor hope, nor fear – not even thought; for all these involve fixed conditions and aims, while here every condition is purely contingent. The springs of action are none other than desire, lust, passion, fancy – in short, caprice absolutely unfettered. It finds so little limitation in the will of others, that the relation of will to will may be called that of absolute sovereignty to absolute slavery. In the whole known world, no will is imagined that is not subject to the will of the Emperor. But under the sovereignty of that One, everything is in a condition of order; for as it actually is [as the Emperor has willed it], it is in due order, and government consists in bringing all into harmony with the sovereign One. The concrete element in the character of the Emperors is therefore of itself of no interest, because the concrete is not of essential importance. Thus there were Emperors of noble character and noble nature, and who highly distinguished themselves by mental and moral culture. Titus, Trajan, the Antonines, are known as such characters, rigorously strict in self-government; yet even these produced no change in the state. The proposition was never made during their time, to give the Roman Empire an organization of free social relationship: they were only a kind of happy chance, which passes over without a trace, and leaves the condition of things as it was. For these persons find themselves here in a position in which they cannot be said to act, since no object confronts them in opposition; they have only to will – well or ill – and it is so. The praiseworthy emperors Vespasian and Titus were succeeded by that coarsest and most loathsome tyrant, Domitian: yet the Roman historian tells us that the Roman world enjoyed tranquillizing repose under him. Those single points of light, therefore, effected no change; the whole empire was subject to the pressure of taxation and plunder; Italy was depopulated; the most fertile lands remained untilled: and this state of things lay as a fate on the Roman world.
The second point which we have particularly to remark, is the position taken by individuals as persons. Individuals were perfectly equal (slavery made only a trifling distinction), and without any political right. As early as the termination of the Social War, the inhabitants of the whole of Italy were put on an equal footing with Roman citizens; and under Caracalla all distinction between the subjects of the entire Roman empire was abolished. Private Right developed and perfected this equality. The right of property had been previously limited by distinctions of various kinds, which were now abrogated. We observed the Romans proceeding from the principle of abstract Subjectivity, which now realizes itself as Personality in the recognition of Private Right. Private Right, viz., is this, that the social unit as such enjoys consideration in the state, in the reality which he gives to himself – viz., in property. The living political body – that Roman feeling which animated it as its soul – is now brought back to the isolation of a lifeless Private Right. As, when the physical body suffers dissolution, each point gains a life of its own, but which is only the miserable life of worms; so the political organism is here dissolved into atoms – viz., private persons. Such a condition is Roman life at this epoch: on the one side, Fate and the abstract universality of sovereignty; on the other, the individual abstraction. “Person,” which involves the recognition of the independent dignity of the social unit – not on the ground of the display of the life which he possesses – in his complete individuality – but as the abstract individuum. It is the pride of the social units to enjoy absolute importance as private persons; for the Ego is thus enabled to assert unbounded claims; but the substantial interest thus comprehended – the meum – is only of a superficial kind, and the development of private right, which this high principle introduced, involved the decay of political life. – The Emperor domineered only, and could not be said to rule; for the equitable and moral medium between the sovereign and the subjects was wanting – the bond of a constitution and organization of the state, in which a gradation of circles of social life, enjoying independent recognition, exists in communities and provinces, which, devoting their energies to the general interest, exert an influence on the general government. There are indeed Curiae in the towns, but they are either destitute of weight, or used only as means for oppressing individuals, and for systematic plunder. That, therefore, which was abidingly present to the minds of men was not their country, or such a moral unity as that supplies: the whole state of things urged them to yield themselves to fate, and to strive for a perfect indifference to life – an indifference which they sought either in freedom of thought or in directly sensuous enjoyment. Thus man was either at war with existence, or entirely given up to mere sensuous existence. He either recognized his destiny in the task of acquiring the means of enjoyment through the favor of the Emperor, or through violence, testamentary frauds, and cunning; or he sought repose in philosophy, which alone was still able to supply something firm and independent: for the systems of that time – Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Scepticism – although within their common sphere opposed to each other, had the same general purport, viz., rendering the soul absolutely indifferent to everything which the real world had to offer. These philosophies were therefore widely extended among the cultivated: they produced in man a selfreliant immobility as the result of Thought, i.e., of the activity which produces the Universal. But the inward reconciliation by means of philosophy was itself only an abstract one – in the pure principle of personality; for Thought, which, as perfectly refined, made itself its own object, and thus harmonized itself, was entirely destitute of a real object, and the immobility of Scepticism made aimlessness itself the object of the Will. This philosophy knew nothing but the negativity of all that assumed to be real, and was the counsel of despair to a world which no longer possessed anything stable. It could not satisfy the living Spirit, which longed after a higher reconciliation,
It has been remarked that Caesar inaugurated the Modern World on the side of reality, while its spiritual and inward existence was unfolded under Augustus. At the beginning of that empire, whose principle we have recognized as finiteness and particular subjectivity exaggerated to infinitude, the salvation of the World had its birth in the same principle of subjectivity – viz., as a particular person, in abstract subjectivity, but in such a way that conversely, finiteness is only the form of his appearance, while infinity and absolutely independent existence constitute the essence and substantial being which it embodies. The Roman World, as it has been described – in its desperate condition and the pain of abandonment by God – came to an open rupture with reality, and made prominent the general desire for a satisfaction such as can only be attained in “the inner man,” the Soul – thus preparing the ground for a higher Spiritual World. Rome was the Fate that crushed down the gods and all genial life in its hard service, while it was the power that purified the human heart from all speciality. Its entire condition is therefore analogous to a place of birth, and its pain is like the travail-throes of another and higher Spirit, which manifested itself in connection with the Christian Religion. This higher Spirit involves the reconciliation and emancipation of Spirit; while man obtains the consciousness of Spirit in its universality and infinity. The Absolute Object, Truth, is Spirit; and as man himself is Spirit, he is present [is mirrored] to himself in that object, and thus in his Absolute Object has found Essential Being and his own essential being. But in order that the objectivity of Essential Being may be done away with, and Spirit be no longer alien to itself – may be with itself [self- harmonized] – the Naturalness of Spirit – that in virtue of which man is a special, empirical existence – must be removed; so that the alien element may be destroyed, and the reconciliation of Spirit be accomplished.
God is thus recognized as Spirit, only when known as the Triune. This new principle is the axis on which the History of the World turns. This is the goal and the starting point of History. “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son,” is the statement of the Bible. This means nothing else than that self-consciousness had reached the phases of development [Momente], whose resultant constitutes the Idea of Spirit, and had come to feel the necessity of comprehending those phases absolutely. This must now be more fully explained. We said of the Greeks, that the law for their Spirit was: “Man, know thyself.” The Greek Spirit was a consciousness of Spirit, but under a limited form, having the element of Nature as an essential ingredient. Spirit may have had the upper hand, but the unity of the superior and the subordinate was itself still Natural. Spirit appeared as specialized in the idiosyncrasies of the genius of the several Greek nationalities and of their divinities, and was represented by Art, in whose sphere the Sensuous is elevated only to the middle ground of beautiful form and shape, but not to pure Thought. The element of Subjectivity that was wanting to the Greeks, we found among the Romans: but as it was merely formal and in itself indefinite, it took its material from passion and caprice; – even the most shameful degradations could be here connected with a divine dread (vide the declaration of Hispala respecting the Bacchanalia, Livy xxxix. 13). This element of subjectivity ‘s afterwards further realized as Personality of Individuals – a realization which is exactly adequate to the principle, and is equally abstract and formal. As such an Ego [such a personality], I am infinite to myself, and my phenomenal existence consists in the property recognized as mine, and the recognition of my personality. This inner existence goes no further; all the applications of the principle merge in this. Individuals are thereby posited as atoms; but they are at the same time subject to the severe rule of the One, which as monas monadum is a power over private persons [the connection between the ruler and the ruled is not mediated by the claim of Divine or of Constitutional Right, or any general principle, but is direct and individual, the Emperor being the immediate lord of each subject in the Empire]. That Private Right is therefore, ipso facto, a nullity, an ignoring of the personality; and the supposed condition of Right turns out to be an absolute destitution of it. This contradiction is the misery of the Roman World. Each person is, according to the principle of his personality, entitled only to possesion, while the Person of Persons lays claim to the possession of all these individuals, so that the right assumed by the social unit is at once abrogated and robbed of validity. But the misery of this contradiction is the Discipline of the World. “Zucht” (discipline) is derived from “Ziehen” (to draw). This “drawing” must be towards something; there must be some fixed unity in the background in whose direction that drawing takes place, and for which the subject of it is being trained, in order that the standard of attainment may be reached. A renunciation, a disaccustoming, is the means of leading to an absolute basis of existence. That contradiction which afflicts the Roman World is the very state of things which constitutes such a discipline – the discipline of that culture which compels personality to display its nothingness. But it is reserved for us of a later period to regard this as a training; to those who are thus trained [traines, dragged], it seems a blind destiny, to which they submit in the stupor of suffering. The higher condition, in which the soul itself feels pain and longing – in which man is not only “drawn,” but feels that the drawing is into himself [into his own inmost nature] – is still absent. What has been reflection on our part must arise in the mind of the subject of this discipline in the form of a consciousness that in himself he is miserable and null. Outward suffering must, as already said, be merged in a sorrow of the inner man. He must feel himself as the negation of himself; he must see that his misery is the misery of his nature – that he is in himself a divided and discordant being. This state of mind, this self-chastening, this pain occasioned by our individual nothingness – the wretchedness of our [isolated] self, and the longing to transcend this condition of soul – must be looked for elsewhere than in the properly Roman World. It is this which gives to the Jewish People their World-Historical importance and weight; for from this state of mind arose that higher phase in which Spirit came to absolute self-consciousness – passing from that alien form of being which is its discord and pain, and mirroring itself in its own essence. The state of feeling in question we find expressed most purely and beautifully in the Psalms of David, and in the Prophets; the chief burden of whose utterances is the thirst of the soul after God, its profound sorrow for its transgressions, and the desire for righteousness and holiness. Of this Spirit we have the mythical representation at the very beginning of the Jewish canonical books, in the account of the Fall. Man, created in the image of God, lost, it is said, his state of absolute contentment, by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Sin consists here only in Knowledge: this is the sinful element, and by it man is stated to have trifled away his Natural happiness. This is a deep truth, that evil lies in consciousness: for the brutes are neither evil nor good; the merely Natural Man quite as little. Consciousness occasions the separation of the Ego, in its boundless freedom as arbitrary choice, from the pure essence of the Will – i.e., from the Good. Knowledge, as the disannulling of the unity of mere Nature, is the “Fall,” which is no casual conception, but the eternal history of Spirit. For the state of innocence, the paradisaical condition, is that of the brute. Paradise is a park, where only brutes, not men, can remain. For the brute is one with God only implicitly [not consciously]. Only Man’s Spirit (that is) has a self-cognizant existence. This existence for self, this consciousness, is at the same time separation from the Universal and Divine Spirit. If I hold to my abstract Freedom, in contraposition to the Good, I adopt the standpoint of Evil. The Fall is therefore the eternal Mythus of Man – in fact, the very transition by which he becomes man. Persistence in this standpoint is, however, Evil, and the feeling of pain at such a condition, and of longing to transcend it, we find in David, when he says: “Lord, create for me a pure heart, a new steadfast Spirit.” This feeling we observe even in the account of the Fall; though an announcement of Reconciliation is not made there, but rather one of continuance in misery. Yet we have in this narrative the prediction of reconciliation in the sentence, “The serpent’s head shall be bruised”; but still more profoundly expressed where it is stated that when God saw that Adam had eaten of that tree, he said, “Behold Adam is become as one of us, knowing Good and Evil.” God confirms the words of the Serpent. Implicitly and explicitly, then, we have the truth, that man through Spirit – through cognition of the Universal and the Particular – comprehends God Himself. But it is only God that declares this – not man: the latter remains, on the contrary, in a state of internal discord. The joy of reconciliation is still distant from humanity; the absolute and final repose of his whole being is not yet discovered to man. It exists, in the first instance, only for God. As far as the present is concerned, the feeling of pain at his condition is regarded as a final award. The satisfaction which man enjoys at first, consists in the finite and temporal blessings conferred on the Chosen Family and the possession of the Land of Canaan. His repose is not found in God. Sacrifices are, it is true, offered to Him in the Temple, and atonement made by outward offerings and inward penitence. But that mundane satisfaction in the Chosen Family, and its possession of Canaan, was taken from the Jewish people in the chastisement inflicted by the Roman Empire. The Syrian kings did indeed oppress it, but it was left for the Romans to annul its individuality. The Temple of Zion is destroyed; the God-serving nation is scattered to the winds. Here every source of satisfaction is taken away, and the nation is driven back to the standpoint of that primeval mythus – the standpoint of that painful feeling which humanity experiences when thrown upon itself. Opposed to the universal Fatum of the Roman World, we have here the consciousness of Evil and the direction of the mind Godwards. All that remains to be done, is that this fundamental idea should be expanded to an objective universal sense, and be taken as the concrete existence of man – as the completion of his nature. Formerly the Land of Canaan and themselves as the people of God had been regarded by the Jews as that concrete and complete existence. But this basis of satisfaction is now lost, and thence arises the sense of misery and failure of hope in God, with whom that happy reality had been essentially connected. Here, then, misery is not the stupid immersion in a blind Fate, but a boundless energy of longing. Stoicism taught only that the Negative is not – that pain must not be recognized as a veritable existence; but Jewish feeling persists in acknowledging Reality and desires harmony and reconciliation within its sphere; for that feeling is based on the Oriental Unity of Nature – i.e., the unity of Reality, of Subjectivity, with the substance of the One Essential Being. Through the loss of mere outward reality Spirit is driven back within itself; the side of reality is thus refined to Universality, through the reference of it to the One. The Oriental antithesis of Light and Darkness is transferred to Spirit, and the Darkness becomes Sin. For the abnegation of reality there is no compensation but Subjectivity itself – the Human Will as intrinsically universal; and thereby alone does reconciliation become possible. Sin is the discerning of Good and Evil as separation; but this discerning likewise heals the ancient hurt, and is the fountain of infinite reconciliation. The discerning in question brings with it the destruction of that which is external and alien in consciousness, and is consequently the return of Subjectivity into itself. This, then, adopted into the actual self-consciousness of the World is the Reconciliation [atonement] of the World. From that unrest of infinite sorrow – in which the two sides of the antithesis stand related to each other – is developed the unity of God with Reality (which latter had been posited as negative i.e., with Subjectivity which had been separated from Him. The infinite loss is counterbalanced only by its infinity, and thereby becomes infinite gain. The recognition of the identity of the Subject and God was introduced into the World when the fulness of Time was come: the consciousness of this identity is the recognition of God in his true essence. The material of Truth is Spirit itself – inherent vital movement. The nature of God as pure Spirit, is manifested to man in the Christian Religion.
But what is Spirit? It is the one immutably homogeneous infinite – pure Identity – which in its second phase separates itself from itself and makes this second aspect Its own polar opposite, viz. as existence for and in self as contrasted with the Universal. But this separation is annulled by the fact that atomistic Subjectivity, as simple relation to itself [as occupied with self alone] is itself the Universal, the Identical with self. If Spirit be defined as absolute reflection within itself in virtue of its absolute duality – Love on the one hand as comprehending the Emotional [Empfindung], Knowledge on the other hand as Spirit [including the penetrative and active faculties, as opposed to the receptive] – it is recognized as Triune: the “Father” and the “Son,” and that duality which essentially characterizes it as “Spirit.” It must further be observed, that in this truth, the relation of man to this truth is also posited. For Spirit makes itself its own [polar] opposite – and is the return from this opposite into itself. Comprehended in pure ideality, that antithetic form of Spirit is the Son of God; reduced to limited and particular conceptions, it is the World-Nature and Finite Spirit: Finite Spirit itself therefore is posited as a constituent element [Moment] in the Divine Being. Man himself therefore is comprehended in the Idea of God, and this comprehension may be thus expressed – that the unity of Man with God is posited in the Christian Religion. But this unity must not be superficially conceived, as if God were only Man, and Man, without further condition, were God. Man, on the contrary, is God only in so far as he annuls the merely Natural and Limited in his Spirit and elevates himself to God. That is to say, it is obligatory on him who is a partaker of the truth, and knows that he himself is a constituent [Moment] of the Divine Idea, to give up his merely natural being: for the Natural is the Unspiritual. In this Idea of God, then, is to be found also the Reconciliation that heals the pain and inward suffering of man. For Suffering itself is henceforth recognized as an instrument necessary for producing the unity of man with God. This implicit unity exists in the first place only for the thinking speculative consciousness; but it must also exist for the sensuous, representative consciousness – it must become an object for the World – it must appear, and that in the sensuous form appropriate to Spirit, which is the human. Christ has appeared – a Man who is God – God who is Man; and thereby peace and reconciliation have accrued to the World. Our thoughts naturally revert to the Greek anthropomorphism, of which we affirmed that it did not go far enough. For that natural elation of soul which characterized the Greeks did not rise to the Subjective Freedom of the Ego itself – to the inwardness that belongs to the Christian Religion – to the recognition of Spirit as a definite positive being. – The appearance of the Christian God involves further its being unique in its kind; it can occur only once, for God is realized as Subject, and as manifested Subjectivity is exclusively One Individual. The Lamas are ever and anon chosen anew; because God is known in the East as Substance, whose infinity of form is recognized merely in an unlimited multeity of outward and particular manifestations. But subjectivity as infinite relation to self, has its form in itself, and as manifested, must be a unity excluding all others. – Moreover the sensuous existence in which Spirit is embodied is only a transitional phase. Christ dies; only as dead, is he exalted to Heaven and sits at the right hand of God; only thus is he Spirit. He himself says: “When I am no longer with you, the Spirit will guide you into all truth.” Not till the Feast of Pentecost were the Apostles filled with the Holy Ghost. To the Apostles, Christ as living, was not that which he was to them subsequently as the Spirit of the Church, in which he became to them for the first time an object for their truly spiritual consciousness. On the same principle, we do not adopt the right point of view in thinking of Christ only as a historical bygone personality. So regarded, the question is asked, What are we to make of his birth, his Father and Mother, his early domestic relations, his miracles, etc.? – i.e., What is he unspiritually regarded? Considered only in respect of his talents, character and morality – as a Teacher and so forth – we place him in the same category with Socrates and others, though his morality may be ranked higher. But excellence of character, morality, etc. – all this is not the ne plus ultra in the requirements of Spirit – does not enable man to gain the speculative idea of Spirit for his conceptive faculty. If Christ is to be looked upon only as an excellent, even impeccable individual, and nothing more, the conception of the Speculative Idea, of Absolute Truth is ignored. But this is the desideratum, the point from which we have to start. Make of Christ what you will, exegetically, critically, historically – demonstrate as you please, how the doctrines of the Church were and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For he that doeth the will of my Father in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister and mother.” Yes, it is even said: “Think not that I am come to send peace on the Earth. I am not come to send peace but the sword. For I am come to set a man against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law.” Here then is an abstraction from all that belongs to reality, even from moral ties. We may say that nowhere are to be found such revolutionary utterances as in the Gospels; for everything that had been respected, is treated as a matter of indifference – as worthy of no regard.
The next point is the development of this principle; and the whole sequel of History is the history of its development. Its first realization is the formation by the friends of Christ, of a Society – a Church. It has been already remarked that only after the death of Christ could the Spirit come upon his friends; that only then were they able to conceive the true idea of God, viz., that in Christ man is redeemed and reconciled: for in him the idea of eternal truth is recognized, the essence of man acknowledged to be Spirit, and the fact proclaimed that only by stripping himself of his finiteness and surrendering himself to pure self-consciousness, does he attain the truth. Christ – man as man – in whom the unity of God and man has appeared, has in his death, and his history generally, himself presented the eternal history of Spirit – a history which every man has to accomplish in himself, in order to exist as Spirit, or to become a child of God, a citizen of his kingdom. The followers of Christ, who combine on this principle and live in the spiritual life as their aim, form the Church, which is the Kingdom of God. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name” (i.e., “in the character of partakers in my being”) says Christ, “there am I in the midst of them.” The Church is a real present life in the Spirit of Christ.
It is important that the Christian religion be not limited to the teachings of Christ himself: it is in the Apostles that the completed and developed truth is first exhibited. This complex of thought unfolded itself in the Christian community. That community, in its first experiences, found itself sustaining a double relation – first, a relation to the Roman World, and secondly, to the truth whose development was its aim. We will pursue these different relations separately. The Christian community found itself in the Roman world, and in this world the extension of the Christian religion was to take place. That community must therefore keep itself removed from all activity in the State – constitute itself a separate company, and not react against the decrees, views, and transactions of the state. But as it was secluded from the state, and consequently did not hold the Emperor for its absolute sovereign, it was the object of persecution and hate. Then was manifested that infinite inward liberty which it enjoyed, in the great steadfastness with which sufferings and sorrows were patiently borne for the sake of the highest truth. It was less the miracles of the Apostles that gave to Christianity its outward extension and inward strength, than the substance, the truth of the doctrine itself. Christ himself says: “Many will say to me at that day: Lord, Lord! have we not prophesied in thy name, have we not cast out devils in thy name, have we not in thy name done many wonderful deeds? Then will I profess unto them: I never knew you, depart from me all ye workers of iniquity.”
As regards its other relation, viz., that to the Truth, it is especially important to remark that the Dogma – the Theoretical – was already matured within the Roman World, while we find the development of the State from that principle, a much later growth. The Fathers of the Church and the Councils constituted the dogma; but a chief element in this constitution was supplied by the previous development of philosophy. Let us examine more closely how the philosophy of the time stood related to religion. It has already been remarked that the Roman inwardness and subjectivity, which presented itself only abstractly, as soulless personality in the exclusive position assumed by the Ego, was refined by the philosophy of Stoicism and Scepticism to the form of Universality. The ground of Thought was thereby reached, and God was known in Thought as the One Infinite. The Universal stands here only as an unimportant predicate – not itself a Subject, but requiring a concrete particular application to make it such. But the One and Universal, the Illimitable conceived by fancy, is essentially Oriental; for measureless conceptions, carrying all limited existence beyond its .proper bounds, are indigenous to the East. Presented in the domain of Thought itself, the Oriental One is the invisible and non-sensuous God of the Israelitish people, but whom they also make an object of conception as a person. This principle became World-Historical with Christianity. – In the Roman World, the union of the East and West had taken place in the first instance by means of conquest: it took place now inwardly, psychologically, also; – the Spirit of the East spreading over the West. The worship of Isis and that of Mithra had been extended through the whole Roman World; Spirit, lost in the outward and in limited aims, yearned after an Infinite. But the West desired a deeper, purely inward Universality – an Infinite possessed at the same time of positive qualities. Again, it was in Egypt – in Alexandria, viz., the centre of communication between the East and the West – that the problem of the age was proposed for Thought; and the solution now found was – Spirit. There the two principles came into scientific contact, and were scientifically worked out. It is especially remarkable to observe there, learned Jews such as Philo, connecting abstract forms of the concrete, which they derived from Plato and Aristotle, with their conception of the Infinite, and recognizing God according to the more concrete idea of Spirit, under the definition of the Logos. So, also, did the profound thinkers of Alexandria comprehend the unity of the Platonic and Aristotelian Philosophy; and their speculative thinking attained those abstract ideas which are likewise the fundamental purport of the Christian religion. The application, by way of postulate, to the pagan religion, of ideas recognized as true, was a direction which philosophy had already taken among the heathen. Plato had altogether repudiated the current mythology, and, with his followers, was accused of Atheism. The Alexandrians, on the contrary, endeavored to demonstrate a speculative truth in the Greek conceptions of the gods: and the Emperor Julian the Apostate resumed the attempt, asserting that the pagan ceremonials had a strict connection with rationality. The heathen felt, as it were, obliged to give to their divinities the semblance of something higher than sensuous conceptions; they therefore attempted to spiritualize them. Thus much is also certain, that the Greek religion contains a degree of Reason; for the substance of Spirit is Reason, and its product must be something Rational. It makes a difference, however, whether Reason is explicitly developed in Religion, or merely adumbrated by it, as constituting its hidden basis. And while the Greeks thus spiritualized their sensuous divinities, the Christians also, on their side, sought for a profounder sense in the historical part of their religion. Just as Philo found a deeper import shadowed forth in the Mosaic record, and idealized what he considered the bare shell of the narrative, so also did the Christians treat their records – partly with a polemic view, but still more largely from a free and spontaneous interest in the process. But the instrumentality of philosophy in introducing these dogmas into the Christian Religion, is no sufficient ground for asserting that they were foreign to Christianity and had nothing to do with it. It is a matter of perfect indifference where a thing originated; the only question is: “Is it true in and for itself?” Many think that by pronouncing the doctrine to be Neo- Platonic, they have ipso facto banished it from Christianity. Whether a Christian doctrine stands exactly thus or thus in the Bible – the point to which the exegetical scholars of modern times devote all their attention – is not the only question. The Letter kills, the Spirit makes alive: this they say themselves, yet pervert the sentiment by taking the Understanding for the Spirit. It was the Church that recognized and established the doctrines in question – i.e. the Spirit of the Church; and it is itself an Article of Doctrine: “I believe in a Holy Church;" as Christ himself also said: “The Spirit will guide you into all truth.” In the Nicene Council (A.D. 325), was ultimately established a fixed confession of faith, to which we still adhere: this confession had not, indeed, a speculative form, but the profoundly speculative is most intimately inwoven with the manifestation of Christ himself. Even in John (en arch hn o logos, ka o logos hn pros ton qewn un o logos) we see the commencement of a profounder comprehension. The profoundest thought is connected with the personality of Christ – with the historical and external; and it is the very grandeur of the Christian religion that, with all this profundity, it is easy of comprehension by our consciousness in its outward aspect, while, at the same time, it summons us to penetrate deeper. It is thus adapted to every grade of culture, and yet satisfies the highest requirements.
Having spoken of the relation of the Christian community to the Roman world on the one side, and to the truth contained in its doctrines on the other side, we come to the third point – in which both doctrine and the external world are concerned – the Church. The Christian community is the Kingdom of Christ – its influencing present Spirit being Christ: for this kingdom has an actual existence, not a merely future one. This spiritual actuality has, therefore, also a phenomenal existence; and that, not only as contrasted with heathenism, but with secular existence generally. For the Church, as presenting this outward existence, is not merely a religion as opposed to another religion, but is at the same time a particular form of secular existence, occupying a place side by side with other secular existence. The religious existence of the Church is governed by Christ; the secular side of its government is left to the free choice of the members themselves. Into this kingdom of God an organization must be introduced. In the first instance, all the members know themselves filled with the Spirit; the whole community perceives the truth and gives expression to it; yet, together with this common participation of spiritual influence, arises the necessity of a presidency of guidance and teaching – a body distinct from the community at large. Those are chosen as presidents who are distinguished for talents, character, fervor of piety, a holy life, learning, and culture generally. The presidents – those who have a superior acquaintance with that substantial Life of which all are partakers, and who are instructors in that Life – those who establish what is truth, and those who dispense its enjoyment – are distinguished from the community at large, as persons endowed with knowledge and governing power are from the governed. To the intelligent presiding body, the Spirit comes in a fully revealed and explicit form; in the mass of the community that Spirit is only implicit. While, therefore, in the presiding body, the Spirit exists as self-appreciating and self-cognizant, it becomes an authority in spiritual as well as in secular matters – an authority for the truth and for the relation of each individual to the truth, determining how he should conduct himself so as to act in accordance with the Truth. This distinction occasions the rise of an Ecclesiastical Kingdom in the Kingdom of God. Such a distinction is inevitable ; but the existence of an authoritative government for the Spiritual, when closely examined, shows that human subjectivity in its proper form has not yet developed itself. In the heart, indeed, the evil will is surrendered, but the will, as human, is not yet interpenetrated by the Deity; the human will is emancipated only abstractly – not in its concrete reality – for the whole sequel of History is occupied with the realization of this concrete Freedom. Up to this point, finite Freedom has been only annulled, to make way for infinite Freedom. The latter has not yet penetrated secular existence with its rays. Subjective Freedom has not yet attained validity as such: Insight [speculative conviction] does not yet rest on a basis of its own, but is content to inhere in the spirit of an extrinsic authority. That Spiritual [geistig] kingdom has, therefore, assumed the shape of an Ecclesiastical [geistlich] one, as the relation of the substantial being and essence of Spirit to human Freedom. Besides the interior organization already mentioned, we find the Christian community assuming also a definite external position, and becoming the possessor of property of its own. As property belonging to the spiritual world, it is presumed to enjoy special protection; and the immediate inference from this is, that the Church has no dues to pay to the state, and that ecclesiastical persons are not amenable to the jurisdiction of the secular courts. This entails the government by the Church itself of ecclesiastical property and ecclesiastical persons. Thus there originates with the Church the contrasted spectacle of a body consisting only of private persons and the power of the Emperor on the secular side; – on the other side, the perfect democracy of the spiritual community, choosing its own president. Priestly consecration, however, soon changes this democracy into aristocracy; – though the further development of the Church does not belong to the period now under consideration, but must be referred to the world of a later date. It was then through the Christian Religion that the Absolute Idea of God, in its true conception, attained consciousness. Here Man, too, finds himself comprehended in his true nature, given in the specific conception of “the Son.” Man, finite when regarded for himself, is yet at the same time the Image of God and a fountain of infinity in himself. He is the object of his own existence – has in himself an infinite value, an eternal destiny. Consequently he has his true home in a super-sensuous world – an infinite subjectivity, gained only by a rupture with mere Natural existence and volition, and by his labor to break their power within him. This is religious self- consciousness. But in order to enter the sphere and display the active vitality of that religious life, humanity must become capable of it. This capability is the dunamis for that energeia. What therefore remains to be considered is, those conditions of humanity which are the necessary corollary to the consideration that Man is Absolute Self-consciousness – his Spiritual nature being the starting-point and presupposition. These conditions are themselves not yet of a concrete order, but simply the first abstract principles, which are won by the instrumentality of the Christian Religion for the secular State. First, under Christianity Slavery is impossible; for man is man – in the abstract essence of his nature – is contemplated in God; each unit of mankind is an object of the grace of God and of the Divine purpose: “God will have all men to be saved.” Utterly excluding all speciality, therefore, man, in and for himself – in his simple quality of man – has infinite value; and this infinite value abolishes, ipso facto, all particularity attaching to birth or country. The other, the second principle, regards the subjectivity of man in its bearing on the Fortuitous – on Chance. Humanity has this sphere of free Spirituality in and for itself, and everything else must proceed from it. The place appropriated to the abode and presence of the Divine Spirit – the sphere in question – is Spiritual Subjectivity, and is constituted the place to which all contingency is amenable. It follows thence, that what we observed among the Greeks as a form of Customary Morality, cannot maintain its position in the Christian world. For that morality is spontaneous unreflected Wont; while the Christian principle is independent subjectivity – the soil on which grows the True. Now an unreflected morality cannot continue to hold its ground against the principle of Subjective Freedom. Greek Freedom was that of Hap and “Genius”; it was still conditioned by Slaves and Oracles; but now the principle of absolute Freedom in God makes its appearance. Man now no longer sustains the relation of Dependence, but of Love – in the consciousness that he is a partaker in the Divine existence. In regard to particular aims [such as the Greeks referred to oracular decision], man now forms his own determinations and recognizes himself as plenipotentiary in regard to all finite existence. All that is special retreats into the background before that Spiritual sphere of subjectivity, which takes a secondary position only in presence of the Divine Spirit. The superstition of oracles and auspices is thereby entirely abrogated: Man is recognized as the absolute authority in crises of decision.
It is the two principles just treated of, that now attach to Spirit in this its self-contained phase. The inner shrine of man is designed, on the one hand, to train the citizen of the religious life to bring himself into harmony with the Spirit of God; on the other hand, this is the point du dÚpart for determining secular relations, and its condition is the theme of Christian History. The change which piety effects must not remain concealed in the recesses of the heart, but must become an actual, present world, complying with the conditions prescribed by that Absolute Spirit. Piety of heart does not, per se, involve the submission of the subjective will, in its external relations, to that piety. On the contrary we see all passions increasingly rampant in the sphere of reality, because that sphere is looked down upon with contempt, from the lofty position attained by the world of mind, as one destitute of all claim and value. The problem to be solved is therefore the imbuing of the sphere of [ordinary] unreflected Spiritual existence, with the Idea of Spirit. A general observation here suggests itself. From time immemorial it has been customary to assume an opposition between Reason and Religion, as also between Religion and the World; but on investigation this turns out to be only a distinction. Reason in general is the Positive Existence [Wesen] of Spirit, divine as well as human. The distinction between Religion and the World is only this – that Religion as such, is Reason in the soul and heart – that it is a temple in which Truth and Freedom in God are presented to the conceptive faculty: the State, on the other hand, regulated by the selfsame Reason, is a temple of Human Freedom concerned with the perception and volition of a reality, whose purport may itself be called divine. Thus Freedom in the State is preserved and established by Religion, since moral rectitude in the State is only the carrying out of that which constitutes the fundamental principle of Religion. The process displayed in History is only the manifestation of Religion as Human Reason – the production of the religious principle which dwells in the heart of man, under the form of Secular Freedom. Thus the discord between the inner life of the heart and the actual world is removed. To realize this is, however, the vocation of another people – or other peoples – viz., the German. In ancient Rome itself, Christianity cannot find a ground on which it may become actual, and develop an empire.
With Constantine the Great the Christian religion ascended the throne of the empire. He was followed by a succession of Christian Emperors, interrupted only by Julian – who however, could do but little for the prostrate ancient faith. The Roman Empire embraced the whole civilized earth, from the Western Ocean to the Tigris – from the interior of Africa, to the Danube (Pannonia, Dacia). Christianity soon spread through the length and breadth of this enormous realm. Rome had long ceased to be the exclusive residence of the Emperors. Many of Constantine’s predecessors had resided in Milan or other places; and he himself established a second court in the ancient Byzantium, which received the name of Constantinople. From the first its population consisted chiefly of Christians, and Constantine lavished every appliance to render this new abode equal in splendor to the old. The empire still remained in its integrity till Theodosius the Great made permanent a separation that had been only occasional, and divided it between his two sons. The reign of Theodosius displayed the last faint glimmer of that splendor which had glorified the Roman world. Under him the pagan temples were shut, the sacrifices and ceremonies abolished, and paganism itself forbidden: gradually however it entirely vanished of itself. The heathen orators of the time cannot sufficiently express their wonder and astonishment at the monstrous contrast between the days of their forefathers and their own. “Our Temples have become Tombs. The places which were formerly adorned with the holy statues of the Gods are now covered with sacred bones (relics of the Martyrs); men who have suffered a shameful death for their crimes, whose bodies are covered with stripes, and whose heads have been embalmed, are the object of veneration.” All that was contemned is exalted; all that was formerly revered, is trodden in the dust. The last of the pagans express this enormous contrast with profound lamentation. The Roman Empire was divided between the two sons of Theodosius. The elder, Arcadius, received the Eastern Empire: – Ancient Greece, with Thrace, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt; the younger, Honorius, the Western: – Italy, Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain. Immediately after the death of Theodosius, confusion entered, and the Roman provinces were overwhelmed by alien peoples. Already, under the Emperor Valens, the Visigoths, pressed by the Huns, had solicited a domicile on the hither side of the Danube. This was granted them, on the condition that they should defend the border provinces of the empire. But maltreatment roused them to revolt. Valens was beaten and fell on the field. The later emperors paid court to the leader of these Goths. Alaric, the bold Gothic Chief, turned his arms against Italy. Stilicho, the general and minister of Honorius, stayed his course, A.D. 403, by the battle of Pollentia, as at a later date he also routed Radagaisus, leader of the Alans, Suevi, and others. Alaric now attacked Gaul and Spain, and on the fall of Stilicho returned to Italy. Rome was stormed and plundered by him A.D. 410. Afterwards Attila advanced on it with the terrible might of the Huns – one of those purely Oriental phenomena, which, like a mere storm-torrent, rise to a furious height and bear down everything in their course, but in a brief space are so completely spent, that nothing is seen of them but the traces they have left in the ruins which they have occasioned. Attila pressed into Gaul, where, A.D. 451, a vigorous resistance was offered him by Ătius, near Chalons on the Marne. Victory remained doubtful. Attila subsequently marched upon Italy and died in the year 453. Soon afterwards however Rome was taken and plundered by the Vandals under Genseric. Finally, the dignity of the Western Emperors became a farce, and their empty title was abolished by Odoacer, King of the Heruli.
The Eastern Empire long survived, and in the West a new Christian population was formed from the invading barbarian hordes. Christianity had at first kept aloof from the state, and the development which it experienced related to doctrine, internal organization, discipline, etc. But now it had become dominant: it was now a political power, a political motive. We now see Christianity under two forms: on the one side barbarian nations whose culture was yet to begin, who have to acquire the very rudiments of science, law, and polity; on other side civilized peoples in possession of Greek science and a highly refined Oriental culture. Municipal legislation among them was complete – having reached the highest perfection through the labors of the great Roman jurisconsults; so that the corpus juris compiled at the instance of the Emperor Justinian, still excites the admiration of the world. Here the Christian religion is placed in the midst of a developed civilization, which did not proceed from it. There, on the contrary, the process of culture has its very first step still to take, and that within the sphere of Christianity. These two empires, therefore, present a most remarkable contrast, in which we have before our eyes a grand example of the necessity of a people’s having its culture developed in the spirit of the Christian religion. The history of the highly civilized Eastern Empire – where as we might suppose, the Spirit of Christianity could be taken up in its truth and purity – exhibits to us a millennial series of uninterrupted crimes, weaknesses, basenesses and want of principle; a most repulsive and consequently a most uninteresting picture. It is evident here, how Christianity may be abstract, and how as such it is powerless, on account of its very purity and intrinsic spirituality. It may even be entirely separated from the World, as e.g. in Monasticism – which originated in Egypt. It is a common notion and saying, in reference to the power of Religion, abstractly considered, over the hearts of men, that if Christian love were universal, private and political life would both be perfect, and the state of mankind would be thoroughly righteous and moral. Such representations may be a pious wish, but do not possess truth; for religion is something internal, having to do with conscience alone. To it all the passions and desires are opposed, and in order that heart, will, intelligence may become true, they must be thoroughly educated; Right must become Custom – Habit; practical activity must be elevated to rational action; the State must have a rational organ-ization, and then at length does the will of individuals become a truly righteous one. Light shining in darkness may perhaps give color, but not a picture animated by Spirit. The Byzantine Empire is a grand example of how the Christian religion may maintain an abstract character among a cultivated people, if the whole organization of the State and of the Laws is not reconstructed in harmony with its principle. At Byzantium Christianity had fallen into the hands of the dregs of the population – the lawless mob. Popular license on the one side and courtly baseness on the other side, take refuge under the sanction of religion, and degrade the latter to a disgusting object. In regard to religion, two interests obtained prominence: first, the settlement of doctrine; and secondly, the appointment to ecclesiastical offices. The settlement of doctrine pertained to the Councils and Church authorities; but the principle of Christianity is Freedom – subjective insight. These matters therefore, were special subjects of contention for the populace; violent civil wars arose, and everywhere might be witnessed scenes of murder, conflagration and pillage, perpetrated in the cause of Christian dogmas. A famous schism e.g. occurred in reference to the dogma of the Trisagion. The words read: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God of Zebaoth.” To this, one party, in honor of Christ, added – “who was crucified for us.” Another party rejected the addition, and sanguinary struggles ensued. In the contest on the question whether Christ were omoousios or omoiousios – that is of the same or of similar nature with God – the one letter i cost many thousands their lives. Especially notorious are the contentions about Images, in which it often happened, that the Emperor declared for the images and the Patriarch against, or conversely. Streams of blood flowed as the result. Gregory Nazianzen says somewhere: “This city (Constantinople) is full of handicraftsmen and slaves, who are all profound theologians, and preach in their workshops and in the streets. If you want a man to change a piece of silver, he instructs you in what consists the distinction between the Father and the Son: if you ask the price of a loaf of bread, you receive for answer – that the Son is inferior to the Father; and if you ask, whether the bread is ready, the rejoinder is that the genesis of the Son was from Nothing.” The Idea of Spirit contained in this doctrine was thus treated in an utterly unspiritual manner. The appointment to the Patriarchate at Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria, and the jealousy and ambition of the Patriarchs likewise occasioned many intestine struggles. To all these religious contentions was added the interest in the gladiators and their combats, and in the parties of the blue and green color, which likewise occasioned the bloodiest encounters; a sign of the most fearful degradation, as proving that all feeling for what is serious and elevated is lost, and that the delirium of religious passion is quite consistent with an appetite for gross and barbarous spectacles.
The chief points in the Christian religion were at last, by degrees, established by the Councils. The Christians of the Byzantine Empire remained sunk in the dream of superstition – persisting in blind obedience to the Patriarchs and the priesthood. Image-Worship, to which we alluded above, occasioned the most violent struggles and storms. The brave Emperor Leo the Isaurian in particular, persecuted images with the greatest obstinacy, and in the year 754, Image-Worship was declared by a Council to be an invention of the devil. Nevertheless, in the year 787 the Empress Irene had it restored under the authority of a Nicene Council, and the Empress Theodora definitively established it – proceeding against its enemies with energetic rigor. The iconoclastic Patriarch received two hundred blows, the bishops trembled, the monks exulted, and the memory of this orthodox proceeding was celebrated by an annual ecclesiastical festival. The West, on the contrary, repudiated Image-Worship as late as the year 794, in the Council held at Frankfort; and, though retaining the images, blamed most severely the superstition of the Greeks. Not till the later Middle Ages did Image-Worship meet with universal adoption as the result of quiet and slow advances.
The Byzantine Empire was thus distracted by passions of all kinds within, and pressed by the barbarians – to whom the Emperors could offer but feeble resistance – without. The realm was in a condition of perpetual insecurity. Its general aspect presents a disgusting picture of imbecility; wretched, nay, insane passions, stifle the growth of all that is noble in thoughts, deeds, and persons. Rebellion on the part of generals, depositions of the Emperors by their means or through the intrigues of the courtiers, assassination or poisoning of the Emperors by their own wives and sons, women surrendering themselves to lusts and abominations of all kinds – such are the scenes which History here brings before us; till at last – about the middle of the fifteenth century (A.D. 1453) – the rotten edifice of the Eastern Empire crumbled in pieces before the might of the vigorous Turks.