Society in Rome under the Caesarsby William Ralph Inge
THE manners and customs of the Romans at the time of their greatest power and civilisation have naturally been made the subject of much research and many speculative treatises. They have been reconstructed in the minutest details from the evidence of those ancient authorities which time has spared us, and from the relics which excavation has continually been bringing… See more details below
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THE manners and customs of the Romans at the time of their greatest power and civilisation have naturally been made the subject of much research and many speculative treatises. They have been reconstructed in the minutest details from the evidence of those ancient authorities which time has spared us, and from the relics which excavation has continually been bringing to light. Thanks to the labours of scholars and arch�ologists in Germany and elsewhere, we can picture to ourselves many scenes of Roman life with as much clearness and accuracy as those which we see around us. The dress which the Roman citizen wore, the structure and furniture of the house in which he lived, the library in which he studied, the banquets in which he shared, have all been described with a minuteness which leaves but little to be added. With equal accuracy and exhaustiveness, the names and functions of the different slaves, the ceremonies attending marriages and funerals, the position of the various buildings of public resort at Rome, have been discussed and determined, till there seems to be but little left for ingenuity to effect in the work of reconstruction, except by compelling the earth to yield up more of the treasures which she still hides beneath her surface.
To collect or endeavour to add to these details is not the purpose of this treatise. Such an attempt, if not utterly vain, would necessarily destroy the proportion of the parts, and encumber the pages with a mass of citation. Details of this kind can only be introduced in an essay of modest dimensions, where they seem required for the purpose of illustrating some larger feature of the subject. For the most part generalizations must take the place of minute description, and the subjective side of civilisation in the first century occupy more atten tion than the objective. If the really characteristic points in that civilisation can be seized, and the most important phenomena given their due prominence, the object of the essay will have been attained.
The scheme of arrangement which we have chosen will be easily understood from the headings of the chapters. Religion, Philosophy, and Morality, treated, as far as possible, in their social aspects, occupy the first place. Then follows a short chapter on the social influence of Imperialism in the first century. The Literature and Art of the the period are next considered, after which we have endeavoured to analyse Roman society into its component parts, discussing briefly the various grades into which the community was divided. Then descending more into detail, we have described the life of the individual, first tracing, in outline, the ordinary course of a Roman's career from the cradle to the grave, and then giving some account of the daily habits of the best-known sections of society. Public amusements form the subject of the next chapter, and the last contains a consideration of the luxury of the wealthy classes.
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