The Story of the Roman Empire: Or, The Kingdom of Iron - 5

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 16
WE have spoken of the four periods in the early history of Rome into which the story of its gradual development can be divided. If we obtain a general idea of these, we shall be able to understand better how eventually the people were able to wield such mighty power.
There is something wonderful in being able to trace the growth of a kingdom. Just like an acorn, at first it is buried and almost unnoticed, then it sends forth its tiny tendrils, and afterwards the deeply embedded roots, until at last it rises tall and strong as the noble oak, and is able to withstand the blasts of the terrible storm: or, as the little spring of water, gradually increasing as it flows onwards, until it becomes the broad, deep, magnificent river. So it was with Rome. Its beginnings enshrouded in mystery, gradually its power was felt, until, in the very crisis of the earth’s history, her people manifested their strength and power, and enforced, as their influence spread, almost universal submission.
We venture to repeat that this was intended to be and was permitted by an over-ruling Power. The world would not be what it is today had not Rome arisen to shape its destiny, and by its Imperialism to train men’s minds upon principles, which, however severe they might appear, were calculated to have the effect of producing self-control and proper obedience to a legitimately constituted authority.
We ought also to bear in mind that even during the days of pagan Rome, when the great men of the land looked to heathen gods and goddesses for help in the days of adversity and for guidance in almost all the affairs of daily life, yet that even then they should have formulated laws for the government of the people of a most beneficent character, or that the greatest possible good, so far as equity and justice and freedom were concerned, should be the prerogative and privilege of every member of the great Commonwealth.
During the first 250 years of the authenticated records of Rome, there were seven kings, namely, Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, Ancus Martins, L. Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius, and Tarquinius Superbus, who reigned from 534 to 510 B.C. The sincere desire of each of these appears to have been to rule righteously, and although often conflicts arose with neighboring tribes, yet the great idea was to consolidate and strengthen the kingdom, so that the people might live in peace and profitably cultivate the land.
And, surely, it seems strange to read that all those ages before the Christian era, in the time of Romulus, for example, there was a definite constitution and government very similar to that under which we live now. The small colony dwelling in the Palatine was, in every sense of the word, a limited monarchy. A senate, consisting of one hundred members, elected by the people, and presided over by the king, had laws for the welfare of the populace submitted to it, and the members had the power to pass or to reject, as they pleased, the proposals brought forward. A little later on, during the reign of the third king, this method of government was amplified. Several of the adjoining states had coalesced with the Palatinate colony, and were given at once a proper representation in the government, so much so that our own Houses of Lords and Commons are just copies of this ancient type. The patrician class formed the senate, and the general assembly was, as a rule, chosen from the plebeian class. There was also another element called clientes, consisting of emancipated slaves. Their designation is connected with the word cluere (“to hear”), hence our term clients, because these men were dependents, and were supposed to listen to their masters’ word.
The authority of the king was great, although he was regarded more as a chief magistrate, and one of the fundamental features of the Roman Commonwealth was, that the ruler should never go to war, or undertake any important work, or make any change in the government of the country, without first consulting his advisers. Surely in all these things we can see how similar principles in our land have tended for 1,000 years to ensure liberty to the subjects generally, so far as the constitution is concerned, peace and equity to law-abiding citizens.