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LETTERS 100.00%
Letters were written on tablets (see DIPTYCHON) Or small rolls of papyrus, the address being put on the outside. They were tied up with a thread, and the knot was sealed with wax. In wealthy Roman families special slaves or freedmen (ab epistulis) were kept for writing the correspondence, and carrying the letters: the latter were called tabellarii.
A Roman historian who took part in the expedition of Julian against the Parthians in 363 A.D. In 378, under Valentinian, he wrote and dedicated to this emperor a sketch of Roman history (Breviarium ab Urbe Condita) in ten books, from the earliest times to the death of Jovian in 364. The language is simple, and the narrative intelligent and impartial. The work was useful and concise, and became very popular. Succeeding writers down to the Middle Ages, and especially Hieronymus and Orosius, used it a great deal. It was several times turned into Greek, indeed as early as 380 by Paeanios, whose translation has been preserved almost entire. The work of Eutropius was enlarged and continued by Paulus Diaconus, who, in the last part of the 8th century A.D., added six books to it. It was also used in the Historia Miscella, or Collective History, and has continued to be a favourite school book down to our own day.
An ancient criminal court at Athens, so named because it sat on Ares' Hill beside the Acropolis, where the god of war was said to have been tried for the murder of Halirrothius the son of Poseidon. (See ABES.) Solon's legislation raised the Areopagus into one of the most powerful bodies by transferring to it the greater part of the jurisdiction of the Ephetae (q.v.), as well as the supervision of the entire public administration, the conduct of magistrates, the transactions of the popular assembly, religion, laws, morals and discipline, and giving it power to call even private people to account for offensive behaviour. The "Court of Areopagus," as its full name ran, consisted of life-members (Areopagites), who supplemented their number by the addition of such archons as had discharged their duties without reproach. Not only their age, but their sacred character tended to increase the influence of the Areopagites. They were regarded as in a measure ministers of the Erinyes or Eumenides (Furies), who under the name of Semnae (venerable) had their cave immediately beneath the Areopagus, and whose worship came under their care. The Areopagus proving too conservative for the headlong pace of the Athenian democracy, its general right of supervising the administration was taken from it by the law of Ephialtes, in 462 B.C., and transferred to a new authority, the Nomophylakes (guardians of the laws); but it recovered this right on the fall of the Thirty. Its political powers seem never to have been clearly defined; it often acted in the name of, and with full powers from, the people, which also accepted its decisions on all possible subjects. Under the Roman rule it was still regarded as the supreme authority. Then, as formerly, it exercised a most minute vigilance over foreigners.
ACTA 34.13%
The Latin term for official records of transactions, including Acta senatus and Acta populi Romani, both established by Caesar in his first consulship, B.C. 59. (1) Acta senatus. Caesar's law decreed that all transactions of the senate should be regularly written down and published, which had only been done hitherto in exceptional cases. The written reports were continued under the Empire, but Augustus put a stop to their publication. These documents were preserved among the state archives and in the public libraries, where they could only be inspected by permission of the city prefect. At first a temporary duty imposed oil individual senators, the business of reporting grew into a separate office held in rotation, with the title of Ab actis senatus, and the officer holding it had a considerable staff of writers under him, called Actuarii. (2) The Acta (diurna) populi (Romani), or Acta publica, urbana, urbis, diurna populi, or simply Acta or Diurna, were an official daily chronicle, which, in addition to official reports of events in the imperial family, and state and city affairs, contained regulations by the magistrates, transactions and decrees of the senate, accidents, and family news communicated to the editors. They were publicly exhibited on a whitened board (album), which any one might read and copy; and there were men who made a business of multiplying and transmitting such news to the provinces. After a time the originals were placed among the state-archives for the benefit of those who wished to consult them.
LIVIUS 31.77%
Titus Livius, the celebrated Roman historian, was born at Patavium, (59 B.C.), apparently of good family. He was carefully educated, and betook himself early (certainly before 31 B.C.) to Rome, where he soon became acquainted with the most distinguished men of the time. Even Augustus entertained friendly relations towards him in spite of his openly expressed republican convictions, for which he called him a partisan of Pompey. He does not seem to have taken public office, but to have lived exclusively for literature. Esteemed by his contemporaries, he died in his native town in 17 A.D. He must have begun his great historical work between 27 and 25 B.C.; it can only have been completed shortly before his death, as he did not publish the first twenty-one books until after the death of Augustus (14 A.D.). He recounts the history of Rome in 142 books, extending from the foundation of the city (whence the title Ab Urbe Condita libri) to the death of Drusus (9 A.D.). His own death must have prevented its continuation to the death of Augustus, as he doubtless proposed. He published his work from time to time, in separate parts. He arranged his material--at least for the first ninety books--as far as possible in decads (portions consisting of ten books), and half-decads; the division into decade was however first carried through in the 5th century, probably for convenience of handling so vast a series of books. There still remain only the first decad (to 293 B.C.), the third, fourth, and half of the fifth decad (218-167); of the remainder, with the exception of a fairly large portion of book 91, only inconsiderable fragments. We also possess from an unknown pen, summaries (periochoe) of all the books except 136 and 137, and a scanty extract from the account of the portents (prodigia), which appeared in 249 B.C. and following year; this is by a certain Iulius Obsequens, and perhaps dates from the 4th century. Livy's importance rests more on the magnitude of his patriotic undertaking and the style of his narrative than upon his thoroughness as a historic inquirer. His preliminary studies were inadequate, and his knowledge of Roman law, and still more of the military system of Rome, was insufficient. He was content to select what seemed to him the most probable and reasonable statement from the authorities which happened to be familiar and accessible to him, without regard to completeness, and without severely scrutinising their value,--a method which necessarily led to numerous inaccuracies and serious errors. Primarily, his great aim was not critical research into the history of his country. He desired rather by a lively and brilliant narrative, which should satisfy the more exacting taste of the time, to rekindle the flagging patriotism of his countrymen, and to raise his politically and socially degraded contemporaries to the level of their ancestors' exploits. And his narrative in fact deserves the fullest admiration, especially for its descriptions of events and the actors in them, and for the speeches which are inserted in the work. The latter show his rhetorical training in all its brilliance. His language is choice and tasteful, although in details it marks a decline from the strictly classical standard. Asinius Pollio, in allusion to the author's birthplace, charged it with a certain patavinitas. This can only mean a provincial departure from the peculiar language of the metropolis, which is to us no longer perceptible. Livy's work enjoyed the greatest renown down to the latest days of Roman literature, and has been the great mine of information for knowledge of the past to all succeeding generations.
TACITUS 23.50%
The celebrated Roman historian, born about the year 54 A.D., apparently of an equestrian family. Nothing is known of his birthplace, and it is only a conjecture that he was born at Interamna (Terni). In his rhetorical education he came under the immediate influence of the most distinguished orators of the time, Marcus Aper and Julius Secundus, and he made his first appearance as an advocate at an early age. In 77 he married the daughter of the consul of that year, Julius Agricola, shortly before the latter's departure for Britain [Tac., Agr. 9]. In 78-79 he held the quaestorship under Vespasian,; in 80-81 he was aedile or tribune under Titus, and in 88 under Domitian. In 90 he left Rome with his wife on some official commission, and had not returned in 93, when his father-in- law died [ib. at end]. In 97, under Nerva, he was consul suffectus. He appears for the last time in active public life in 100, when, with his friend the younger Pliny, be appeared on the side of the prosecution in an important law-suit [Pliny, Ep. ii 12 Section 2]. The date of his death is unknown, but be probably survived the accession of Hadrian in 117. His writings are: (1) A dialogue on the decline of eloquence (Dialogus de Oratoribus), one of his earliest works, written apparently [under the influence of Quintilian] in the early part of the reign of Domitian, and originating in a close study of Cicero's rhetorical writings. It is one of the ablest works of the imperial age, and in language and style is so different from his later works that its genuineness has frequently been disputed. (2) The life of his father-in-law Agricola (De Vita et Moribus Iulii Agricoloe), published at the beginning of Trajan's reign, and written in dutiful commemoration of the deceased; it is in the manner of Sallust, from whom Tacitus to a large extent borrowed his style. (3) The "Germania" (De Sita, Moribus, ac Populis Germanioe), written soon after his Agricola; a description of the Germany of that time, which is founded on careful research, and is especially important as the source of all ours knowledge of the ancient history of Germany. (4) A history of his own times, from Galba to the death of Domitian (69-96), under the title Historioe, in fourteen books, of which books i-iv and the first half of v, covering not quite two years (69-70), have alone been preserved. (5) The history of the Julian house, in sixteen books, published between 115 and 117, beginning with the death of Augustus. (Hence the original title Ab Excessu divi Augusti; the usual title, Annales, rests on no authority.) Books i-iv are still complete; the latter part of the fifth and the beginning of the sixth is missing (the reign of Tiberius A.D. 14-37); while the second half of the eleventh, the whole of books xii-xiv and the first half of xv (the reign of Claudius from the year 47 and the history of Nero as far as 68) are still extant. The two principal works of Tacitus thus give us a complete history of the emperors from Tiberius to Domitian. He was probably prevented by his death from completing is design by writing an account of the reign of Augustus, from the battle of Actium, and also including the reigns of Nerva and Trajan. In both works the chronological arrangement of the materials is predominant; they are founded on the most searching and comprehensive study of the historical authorities, and are marked by a thoroughly critical spirit. Tacitus is always extremely careful to ascertain and to record the truth; he is never satisfied with a mere narrative of events, but seeks to elicit their causes from the facts themselves. He is an adept in fathoming the hidden thoughts and motives of human agents. His method of treatment is, in external appearance, entirely objective; but an undercurrent of sympathy, now sad, now cheerful, with the events related, is everwhere betraying itself. He is avowedly and resolutely impartial, and his judgment is eminently fair. It is only severe when he is dealing with wrongs done to the State, and to the moral laws of the universe. Thoroughly convinced of the value of virtue, he hates vice, which he seeks to terrify by exposing it to the ignominy of after ages. With all his admiration for the greatness of republican Rome, he is a stanch imperialist, being convinced of the necessity of the Empire for the stability of the State. In contrast with the bright elegance and richness of expression characteristic of his earliest work, as he advances in his literary activity his style becomes more sombre and pathetic, in accordance with the gloomy and tragic events which he has to describe. He becomes increasingly fond of rhetorical colouring, and avoids the ordinary diction of prose, while seeking to attain sublimity and novelty of style, less by archaisms than by an approximation to poetical expression. His grave and serious purpose finds its counterpart in his efforts to express himself with a terseness and precision which is often peculiarly pointed and epigrammatic. It is in the Annals that this last trait displays itself in its most characteristic form, and on the most extensive scale.
ORACLES 16.14%
The seats of the worship of some special divinity, where prophecies were imparted with the sanction of the divinity, either by the priests themselves or with their co-operation. There were a great many such places in all Greek countries, and these may be divided, according to the method in which the prophecy was made known, into four main divisions: (1) oral oracles, (2) oracles by signs, (3) oracles by dreams, and (4) oracles of the dead. The most revered oracles were those of the first class, where the divinity, almost invariably the seer-god Apollo, orally revealed his will through the lips of inspired prophets or prophetesses. The condition of frenzy was produced for the most part by physical influence: the breathing of earthly vapours or drinking of the water of oracular fountains. The words spoken whilst in this state were generally fashioned by the priests into a reply to the questions proposed to them. The most famous oracle of this kind was that of Delphi (see DELPHIC ORACLE). Beside this there existed in Greece Proper a large number of oracles of Apollo, as at Ab' in Phocis, in different places of Boeotia, in Euboea, and at Argos, where the priestess derived her inspiration from drinking the blood of a lamb, one being killed every month. Not less numerous were the oracles of Apollo in Asia Minor. Among these that of the Didym'an Apollo at Miletus traced its origin to the old family of the Branchid', the descendants of Apollo's son Branchus. Before its destruction by Xerxes, it came nearest to the reputation of the Delphian. Here it was a priestess who prophesied, seated on a wheel-shaped disc, after she had bathed the hem of her robe and her feet in a spring, and had breathed the steam arising from it. The oracle at Clarus near Colophon (see MANTO) was also very ancient. Here a priest, after simply hearing the names and the number of those consulting the oracle, drank of the water of a spring, and then gave answer in verse. The most respected among the oracles where prophecy was given by signs was that of Zeus of Dodona (q.v.), mentioned as early as Homer [Od. xiv 327=xix 296], where predictions were made from the rustling of the sacred oak, and at a later time from the sound of a brazen cymbal. Another mode of interpreting by signs, as practised especially at the temple of Zeus at Olympia by the Iamid', or descendants of Iamus, a son of Apollo, was that derived from the entrails of victims and the burning of the sacrifices on the altar. There were also oracles connected with the lot or dice, one especially at the temple of Heracles at Bura in Ach'a; and prophecies were also delivered at Delphi by means of lots, probably only at times when the Pythia was not giving responses. The temple of the Egyptian Ammon, who was identified with Zeus, also gave oracles by means of signs. Oracles given in dreams were generally connected with the temples of Asclepius. After certain preliminary rites, sick persons had to sleep in these temples; the priests interpreted their dreams, and dictated accordingly the means to be taken to insure recovery. The most famous of these oracular shrines of the healing god was the temple at Epidaurus, and next to this the temple founded thence at Pergamum in Asia Minor. Equally famous were the similar oracles of the seer Amphilochus at Oropus, of Trophonius at Lebadea in Boeotia, and of the seers Mopsus and Amphilochus at Mallus in Cilicia (q.v.). In later times such oracles were connected with all sanctuaries of Isis and Serapis. At oracles of the dead (psychomanteia) the souls of deceased persons were evoked in order to give the information desired. Thus in Homer [Od. xi] Odysseus betakes himself to the entrance of the lower world to question the spirit of the seer Tiresias. Oracles of this kind were especially common in places where it was supposed there was an entrance to the lower world; as at the city of Cichyrus in Epirus (where there was an Acherusian lake as well as the rivers of Acheron and Cocytus, bearing the same, names as those of the world below), at the promontory of T'narum in Laconia, at Heraclea in Pontus, and at Lake Avernus near Cum' in Italy. At most of them oracles were also given in dreams; but there were some in which the inquirer was in a waking condition when he conjured up the spirits whom he wished to question. While oracles derived either from dreams or from the dead were chosen in preference by superstitious people, the most important among oral oracles and those given by means of signs had a political significance. On all serious occasions they were questioned on behalf of the State in order to ascertain the divine will: this was especially the case with the oracle of Delphi (see DELPHIC ORACLE). In consequence of the avarice and partisanship of the priests, as well as the increasing decline of belief in the gods, the oracles gradually fell into abeyance, to revive again everywhere under the Roman emperors, though they never regained the political importance they had once had in ancient Greece. Such investigation of the divine will was originally quite foreign to the ROMANS. Even the mode of prophecying by means of lots (see SORTES), practised in isolated egions of Italy, and even in the immediate neighbourhood of Rome, as at C're, and especially at Pr'neste, did not come into use, at all events for State purposes, and was generally regarded with contempt. The Romans did not consult even the Sibylline verses in order to forecast the future. On the other hand, the growth of superstition in the imperial period not only brought the native oracles into repute, but caused a general resort to foreign oracles besides. The inclination to this kind of prophecy seems never to have been more generally spread among the masses of the people than at this time. Apart from the Greek oracular deities, there were the oriental deities whose worship was nearly everywhere combined with predictions. In most of the famous sanctuaries the most various forms of prophecy were represented, and the stranger they were, the better they were liked. In the case of the oral oracles the responses in earlier times were for the most part composed in verse: on the decay of poetic productiveness, they began to take the form of prose, or of passages from the poets, the Greeks generally adopting lines of Homer or Euripides, the Italians, lines of Vergil. The public declaration of oracles ended with the official extermination of paganism under Theodosius at the end of the 4th century.
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