M ANY years ago there was a terrible battle. In a marshy valley among some wooded hills, fierce men fought with one another, slaying without mercy. But there was no boom of cannon, no cloud of smoke, no roll of drum, no gleam of armour; for these warriors, clad only in the skins of animals, protected themselves behind rough shields, while they sought to kill with rude spears, and bows, and arrows. And yet the battle was long and deadly, and when the sinking sun told that the dreadful day was over, its last rays shone upon men in bitter strife. Then the chiefs of the armies caused the bloody work to cease, and met in council, that, if it were possible, a treaty might be made between them. As they passed along the battle-field, where lay dead so many of the strong men of their tribes, their hearts were heavy, and in silence they reached a quiet spot at the upper end of the valley, and there they paused.
This place was at the foot of one of the hills, and was fresh and green from the waters of a spring, and on one side was a cave overgrown with ivy. There, under the great trees, the chiefs held parley, and before long word was sent to their wearied armies that the warfare was ended and that peace was declared. This council, between Romulus of the Romans and Tatius of the Sabines, was the first held on the Comitium, where for centuries those that guided Rome's affairs met to plan and discuss the ways and means of government.
And when Romulus and Tatius ruled together over the new nation, they met in this peaceful spot, just beyond the busy market-place, to make the first laws for their people; and here they also sat in judgment. Perhaps, however, as the number of the people increased, the noise of fetching and carrying, of calling and bargaining from the market, became too loud, and disturbed the law-makers in their serious consultations, for it was not long before a hut of clay was built for the kings and their councils, on that part of the Comitium where the spring had been. Some years later, King Tullus Hostilius, thinking this hut unworthy of such conquerors as the Romans, built in its place a house of stone, which faced the centre of the Forum and was entered by a flight of steps; and this Curia, or Senate-house, was called the Curia Hostilia, after the king.
As the chief meeting-place of those in whose hands was the government, the Curia became the most important building of the Roman world; and, even as the early laws were direct and clear, so this house was plain and simple; without, its walls were neither carved nor ornamented; and within, some wooden benches, and a chair and desk for the Speaker, were the only furniture of its long assembly-room.
It was during the reign of this warlike Tullus that a strange battle was fought between the Romans and the Albans, a tribe living among some hills not far from Rome. Each of these nations sought to prove itself the stronger, each was ever ready to seize upon the slightest cause for war. Now among the Albans were three brothers, stalwart, brave, and of the same age. Among the Romans were also three brothers, strong, courageous, and equal in years. And therefore it was proposed that the three Albans, who were named the Curiatii, should fight the three Romans, who were called the Horatii. The result of this contest was to be taken as a proof that one nation was greater than the other, and the people of the conquered were to be ruled by the king of the victors.
So the Romans gathered vervain, the sacred herb from the Capitoline Hill, and carefully pulling it up by its roots, that none of its virtue be lost, they made of it sweet-smelling wreaths, which they gave to the heralds as a token of their grave office. Solemn rites were also held among the Albans; and between the two tribes passed heralds with royal orders and messages until terms had been arranged and accepted by both sides.
Then the Roman and the Alban army pitched their camps in a plain just beyond Rome, and the youths on whom so much depended met in the centre of the field. Each man was eager, each seemed to feel in himself alone the spirit of a whole army defending a country's honour. A breathless silence, then a clash of arms, a glitter of swords, and the deadly contest began. Hard and fast, blow followed blow, until two of the Horatii fell lifeless to the ground. Then the Romans were dismayed, for the honour of their nation lay in the strength of one of her sons alone, and before him, although sorely wounded, stood his three enemies, still fierce, still fighting, and cheered on by glad shouts from the Alban ranks. Horatius was as yet unhurt, but he could not hope to win in such an uneven fight; so to his strength he added cunning.
Feigning flight, he ran from his foes, judging that
their wounds would force them to follow at unequal
distances, and planning to attack them one by one. And
so it happened, for it was not long before one of the
Curiatii ran beyond his weaker brothers, and Horatius,
seeing this, turned suddenly upon him and felled him to
the ground. Then, grasping still more firmly his
victorious sword, he met the attacks of his second foe,
and killed him even as he had done the first. Loud
shouts of victory from the Roman army now filled the
air, for they saw that the end of the contest was near.
Weak from his wounds, worn out with running, and
heart-sick over his brothers' fate, the last of the
Curiatii made no struggle, but fell before the exulting
Horatius, who plunged his sword into his enemy's
"Two of you have died that my brothers might be avenged—the third shall lose his life that Rome may rule Alba!"
Then, led by Horatius, bearing the spoils of the
vanquished Curiatii, the Romans returned rejoicing to their
city. Near one of the gates, there stood among the
awaiting crowd the sister of the Horatii. She watched
the procession draw near, with anxious eye and beating
heart, dreading, yet longing to know who were the
victors, for although truly loving her brothers, she
was betrothed to one of the Curiatii. And when she saw
upon the victor's shoulder the military robe that with
her own hands she had made her lover, she rent her hair
and mourned aloud. Hearing her grievous cries, Horatius
stopped, and, full of rage at this sorrow over the foe
he had so hardly conquered, his anger blinded his
affection, and, drawing his sword, he killed his sister
where she stood, at the same time
"So shall perish every daughter of Rome that dares mourn an enemy!"
The Senate and the people were full of horror at this deed, and, in spite of the services just rendered his country, Horatius was brought to the Comitium for trial as a murderer. Justice was about to be dealt him, when his aged father came before the people to pray for his son's life. He pointed to the spoils of the Curiatii, and entreated that so brave a life as that of their conqueror might not be so early ended; and at length the youth was pardoned for the sake of his great courage. However, sacrifices were offered to the gods by his family, and he himself was made to pass under a yoke, or beam, placed across the street, as a sign that, although a victor, he was also vanquished. This beam was called the "Sister's beam," and was long kept in repair by the Horatii family.
And on the Comitium there was raised a column whereon for many years were hung the spoils of the Curiatii; and this column was called the Pila Horatia, in honour of the man who had won Alba for Rome.
From the beginning the Comitium was the place of government, and its story is one of Law and Justice. Here, the rights of both the nation and the people were protected; here, both public and private wrongs were brought for judgment. And here, once a year, a sacred rite was performed for the cleansing of the guilt of the whole city. This was called the Regifugium, or the Flight of the King, although to‑day no man knows why, for this ceremony first took place in ancient days when Legend led History through winding ways, now so overgrown that hardly a single path can be clearly seen. But true it is that here, on the Comitium, before the assembled people, the priest killed an animal—the symbol of all their sin—and then fled from it as from a thing of horror, lest some drop of unclean blood should fall upon him; and by this sacrifice it was believed that Rome was purified.
Now the priests were very mighty in those days, and often gave counsel in the affairs of government, as well as in those of religion, explaining the meaning of the signs and wonders by which the gods made known their will. So Numa had sought a sign from heaven before becoming king, and Jupiter, to show that Numa was acceptable to the gods as well as to men, had sent birds to fly by on the right hand of the augur, the wise priest that could read such divine tokens. But the greatest of Rome's kings, Tarquin the Elder, doubted in his heart the power of the augurs, and, being angry because forbidden by them to carry out his will in a certain matter of government, he determined to prove them false before all the people.
Therefore, King Tarquin went down to the Comitium, at a
time when many were in the market-place, and caused
Attus Navius, the most famous augur of that day, to be
called before him. Then, in courteous tones, which,
however, hardly concealed a great scorn, the king thus
"O diviner of the will of the gods, I have called thee to advise me in a grave matter. Canst thou, by thy vision of things unseen by ordinary men, tell me if the plan that is in my mind can be fulfilled?"
Bowing low before the king, Attus Navius went to a
quiet place apart to consult the heavenly signs, but
"What Tarquin wills can of a surety be done."
Then the king laughed aloud, and showing the augur a razor and a whetstone, he bade him cut the one in two with the other. Whereupon, Navius, with no sign of hesitation, took the razor in his hand and with one stroke laid the hard stone open. Then the king believed.
And from that day great respect was shown the augurs, no matter of either peace or war being undertaken by the Romans without consulting these wise men. A brazen statue of Attus Navius was placed upon the steps of the Curia, and the whetstone and razor were buried on that part of the Comitium where the miracle had been wrought. This spot was held sacred, and a sort of low stone fence was made around it, that no unholy foot should trespass upon it.
But this was not the end of the wonders done by Attus Navius; once more he proved his power to the king and to all the people. By the river Tiber there grew a fig tree, which, untouched by man, the augur caused to move to the centre of the Comitium, where it again took root. Beneath it was placed a group of a wolf and two baby boys; and the augur consecrated this spot also, for this tree had seen the very beginning of Rome's beginnings, and as it flourished, so, men believed, the nation itself prospered.
Long before the city of Rome itself was founded, there had been a flood, and down the swollen waters of the Tiber had floated a basket in which were two young children. These little twin brothers had been set adrift by the wicked King Amulius, who had thus sought to end their lives because he feared that they, being also of royal blood, might in time take his kingdom from him. But the gods had willed otherwise, and the frail basket had been caught in the low branches of a fig tree, and soon the falling waters had left the babies safe upon dry ground. Then a mother-wolf had come and cared for them, even as for her own wild little cubs, giving them her milk and licking them with her tongue. And so Faustulus, a kind shepherd, had found them; whereupon he had taken them from their strange nurse and had brought them home to his wife, who had given them a place among the sons and daughter of her simple household.
These boys were called Romulus and Remus, and, when they had become strong and valiant youths, they slew the wicked Amulius. Then they purposed making a city of their own, by the river that had dealt so gently with them; but when the limits of their town had been laid out, the brothers quarrelled, sad to say, and Romulus killed Remus. So Romulus alone founded Rome, the great city that still bears his name.
And this is why the Romans cherished the ancient fig tree on the Comitium, and why the bronze group of the wolf and the little children was placed beneath it. The kind shepherd, Faustulus, was buried on the Comitium, a stone lion marking his burial-place; and here, men say, Romulus himself was also laid. Some think that a flat black stone was over his grave, and others that two stone lions showed where he lay; but all that we surely know is that on the Comitium were placed several monuments, erected in memory of early Rome and of her founder.
Now Servius Tullius, who ruled after Tarquin the Elder, was a peaceful man that governed Rome well; and under his direction many wise laws were passed by the Senate in the Curia. And yet the end of this law-maker was lawless. But the story of the Comitium—always one of Justice as well as of Law—shows that the wrong was punished.
Although the son of a slave, Servius Tullius, because of the power of his mind and the gentleness of his ways, had found much favour with Tarquin the Elder, who, as his years increased, left the government in his hands. Hence, after the death of Tarquin, Servius was naturally chosen by the senators as the next ruler, for the Roman kings were elected by a vote of the people confirmed by the Senate; a son did not succeed his father to the throne, as is now the custom. On account then of Servius's greater worth, Tarquin's sons were passed by; but being young and free, they were glad to leave serious matters to other men. However, it happened that one of them, also named Tarquin, married an evil woman, and from that time a great discontent seized upon him. Tullia, for so his wife was called, was the daughter of Servius, but she was as wicked as he was good, and she so excited the ambitious desires of Tarquin that he plotted to take the throne from Servius, now grown old.
Accordingly one day, Tarquin, attired in royal robes, and escorted by armed men, rushed into the Forum, and entered the Curia, where he took the king's seat, and commanded that a herald summon the senators to attend him, Tarquin, their king. Full of fear and amazement, the senators obeyed, and Tarquin was in the midst of a long speech, when Servius came into the Senate-house.
"How now, Tarquin!" indignantly asked the king, "by what insolent daring dost thou assume my place?"
"By my right as my father's son, thou slave!" scornfully replied Tarquin. Then, as the people were crowding into the Curia, he felt that the moment had come in which to prove his might, and so, seizing the old king and carrying him to the porch, he threw him down the steps of the Senate-house.
Servius lay stunned for a moment, then, dazed and bruised, he staggered to his feet and looked appealingly about him, bewailing his misfortune. But from among the crowd no man came forward to help the fallen king, no glance of pity met his eye; all were on the side of the strong man who, casting aside the laws both of God and man, and standing commandingly before them, proclaimed himself master of Rome. Then the poor old monarch, hurt and bleeding, called his servants to him, and such as dared followed him as he started toward his home. This, however, he never reached, for assassins sent by Tarquin killed him in one of the streets.
And as Tarquin was still standing in the porch of the Curia, Tullia, his wife, drove into the Forum in her chariot, and drew up on the Comitium before him. "Hail, Tarquin, king of the Romans!" she cried in a loud, exultant voice, thus being the first to salute him as king.
In this manner Tarquin gained his kingdom, but he held it by force, for he had neither the consent of the Senate nor of the people. His rule was cruel, and, because of the haughtiness of his ways, he was called Tarquin the Proud. And once, at least, his pride cost the nation dear. For one day a wise woman, called a sibyl, came to the king and showed him nine sealed books, which she offered for sale at a very large sum. But the king haughtily turned away, although she assured him that the books held words of deepest wisdom concerning the destiny of Rome. Then the sibyl burned three of the books before his eyes, and offered him the other six at the first price. But Tarquin only smiled in scorn; whereupon she burned three more, and offered him the last three for the same sum as for the whole nine. Then, at last, the proud king listened, and paid the amount desired, although his obstinacy had lost Rome that which could never be replaced; for in these volumes, called the Sibylline Books, were found wonderful things concerning the will of the gods, and directions whereby their wrath might be turned from the Roman people. A statue of this sibyl was then placed on the Comitium, in honour of her visit, and in order that all should know that Rome was guided by the direct decrees of the gods.
As year by year Tarquin oppressed the people more and more, their dislike for him ripened into hate; and Justice, working slowly but surely, at last overcame him. For the day came when, in that same Curia on whose steps Tarquin the Proud had denied all Law and had made himself king, the Senate assembled and passed a decree enforcing the laws of Rome, declaring her people free and exiling the tyrant and all of his house forever. So Tarquin the Proud ended his days in misery, but the memory of Servius is honoured even to this generation.
Within the Curia, laws were now made for the people by the people; for instead of a king, magistrates elected from among the citizens ruled the nation, which became known as the Republic of Rome. Under this new order arose the Patrician and Plebeian classes, and in the Forum each of these parties had its special place of meeting. On the Comitium came together the Patricians, for their ancestors had always aided in the government; in the market-place and the middle of the Forum gathered the Plebeians, for they were ever the business men and the labourers. But at times the Plebeians would come in crowds to the Comitium to insist upon their rights, and on other occasions the Patricians would enter the market-place in large numbers to beseech the patience of the people. And so their struggle for power went on.
At the beginning of the Republic, the large open space of the Comitium was separated from the rest of the Forum by a fence; and within this enclosure stood the Pila Horatia; the ancient fig tree, beneath whose shade was the bronze group; the monuments marking the grave of Romulus, and that of Faustulus, the shepherd; and the new statue just put up in honour of the sibyl; while at the rear was the plain stone Curia Hostilia, upon whose steps stood the statue of the wonder-working Attus Navius. Here, also, must have been some kind of a tribunal, or judgment-seat; for in this place the offenders against the laws were tried and sentenced, and here, too, criminals were executed.
One of the first two consuls of the Republic was named Brutus, a stern and just man. Soon after he had entered upon his office, some of the young nobles of Rome were discovered in a plot to help the exiled Tarquin. Betrayed by a slave, these youths were brought to the Comitium for judgment before the tribunal of Brutus, and among the traitors the eyes of the unhappy father fell upon two of his own sons. Not for a moment did he waver, not for a single instant did he lose sight of his duty as a judge, nor of his honour as a Roman. With the other offenders, his sons were condemned to death, and, in spite of their entreaties, to which the assembled people added theirs, the young men were led away by the lictors. Now these lictors were the special servants of certain magistrates, and bore as their sign of office a bundle of rods bound around an axe. With the rods they scourged, and with the axe they beheaded, and upon this occasion they were not permitted to omit any part of their dread duty.
On the Comitium, before all the people, the sons of Brutus met their just punishment as traitors to their country, while their father watched their execution, not as a man whose heart was broken with grief and shame, but as a stern judge whose faithfulness to Rome was above all else. And the people marvelled, yet rejoiced that the young Republic had so true and strong a man to guide her in those first troublous days.
And, in truth, those were times when Rome never lacked a brave man in an hour of danger, for with each peril there came a hero also. One of the Romans, whose courage gained for him great fame and honour, was Horatius Cocles, or the One-eyed, a member of the family that had already given three champions to the nation. Now, while this Horatius was yet a young man, Rome was besieged by Porsenna, king of the Etruscans, a neighbouring people, whose army had gained possession of the fortress on the Janiculum Hill, opposite the city, and on the other side of the Tiber. Great alarm reigned among the Romans; the city's walls were strengthened in every part, and the gates were protected by many armed men. But there was one weak point in the defence, and there the enemy planned to make their attack. To connect the city with the fortress, a bridge had been built across the Tiber. It was called the Pons Sublicius, or the Bridge of Wooden Beams, for in its making no iron had been used; and by it Porsenna purposed to cross the river and to enter Rome. However, it happened that on the day of the taking of the Janiculum, Horatius Cocles was on guard at the bridge, and when he saw the enemy rapidly approaching, he called to his fellow-soldiers for assistance. But many of them were fleeing in terror within the walls, and only by brave words and still braver actions did Cocles prevail upon them to stand like Romans and to face the coming danger.
"Shall a foe enter Rome while a single man yet lives to defend her?" he nobly cried. "To the bridge! Cut down the bridge! The enemy must never cross!"
Then, choosing for himself the post of greatest peril, he waited at the farther entrance of the bridge for the arrival of Porsenna. With him went two other courageous men, and behind these the rest of the band laboured in all haste to tear the strong timbers apart.
Alone, those three brave Romans met the attack of the Etruscans; then, as the bridge was almost ready to fall, Cocles sent back the others, and, single-handed, faced the enemy. As the leaders hesitated to continue their attack on one man only, Cocles, with a free man's pride, called them, in scorn, "Naught but the slaves of kings!"
At this a storm of javelins fell upon him, but he caught them on his shield and remained unhurt. Just then a shout of joy from the Romans told him that their work had been successful and that the bridge was about to give way. For one instant only did brave Cocles pause.
"O Father Tiber!" he prayed to the god of Rome's great river, "take thy soldier into thy kind care!"
Whereupon he leaped, all armed as he was, into the stream, and, amidst another rain of javelins, swam safely to the shore.
Thus Rome was again saved from her enemies; and in gratitude the Senate erected a statue of Horatius Cocles on the Comitium, and granted him as much land as he could plough around in a single day.
And, strange to say, a few years later, a statue of Porsenna, the enemy so nobly withstood, was also placed on the Comitium. For, so some of the old writers tell us, the Romans made peace with the Etruscans, and in their ancient foe found a firm friend and faithful ally.
This statue of Porsenna was the first to be placed in the Forum of any but a Roman; some years later, however, another stranger, Hermodorus of Ephesus, a city of Greece, also received this honour. By his wise counsel he had aided the Romans in the making of their laws, and thereby so gained their respect and admiration that they added his statue to the Comitium's monuments.
A few years before these laws were made, three Roman nobles had been sent as ambassadors to Greece, and while there they studied the government of that country. So when the citizens of Rome, tired of the misrule of the consuls, elected in their places ten men known as decemvirs, they chose among them these ambassadors, and it was, perhaps, at their suggestion that the wise Hermodorus was invited to give them counsel concerning the arrangement of the laws. The decemvirs, after much consideration, presented to the people ten laws, to be obeyed by Patricians and Plebeians alike. And, that every one might judge of the fairness of these laws, they were written on tablets and hung in the Comitium for all to read. To these ten laws were soon added two others, and together they were called the Twelve Tables. These became the foundation of that marvellous system of Roman laws that to‑day is part of every civilized government of the world.
The rule of the decemvirs, however, lasted but a little while, for the consuls were elected to lead the government, and the Plebeians were given special magistrates of their own called tribunes.
So Rome progressed, conquering her enemies, enlarging her boundaries, bettering her government. And then came days of humiliation, for the terrible Gauls overcame the Romans, and as victors entered the city.
When the people heard that the army had been routed, and that the fierce Gauls were approaching Rome, their wonted bravery deserted them and they ran from before the enemy. They fled from the city, they, their wives, and their children, taking with them their household gods and whatever else could be carried in their haste.
But some of the ablest senators and a few of the strongest men went up into the citadel, which they stored with such arms and provisions as they could find; and here they determined to protect Roman honour to the last. So in all the city there remained only the aged men. For, too old to fight and too infirm to flee, what right had they to eat the bread needed by those whose arms were strong or to detain those whose feet were swift? But they could die nobly and without fear, like true Romans, and to this end each went into his own house, there to await the enemy and—death.
Then the venerable senators, arraying themselves in white robes, such as were worn by those that triumphed, and bearing all that marked their honourable office, proceeded to the Forum. They placed themselves on the Comitium, each in his ivory chair, each facing his doom with calm dignity, as if to show that no terror was great enough to shake the government of Rome.
And so Brennus, at the head of his fierce barbarians, found them; and at the sight the wild hearts of the Gauls were stilled with a great amazement that was almost fear. For bravery needs no interpreter, and before them the bold invaders beheld a courage so great that they were overcome with awe. Clothed in skins, their rude weapons forgotten, these rough, unkempt men stood immovable, gazing with wonder upon the white-bearded old senators as they sat in their spotless robes, their ivory sceptres in their hands. In absolute stillness the venerable nobles looked upon the despised barbarians with scornful eyes that seemingly saw them not. Then a Gaul, bolder than the rest, came slowly toward one of these calm figures, and, leaning forward, plucked his beard to see if he were really man or not. Instantly the barbarian's head was struck with the senator's sceptre, and the curious Gaul discovered that Roman pride, when touched, made itself felt. Thus the spell was broken, and a great slaughter followed, in which no man was spared; after this the Gauls encamped in the Forum and laid siege to the citadel above. This siege continued for many months, but at length the Romans were forced to make terms with their enemy. However, before the conclusion of the treaty Camillus and his troops came to the rescue of the citadel's little garrison, and the Gauls were forced to return without booty to their northern woods and fastnesses.
But Rome was left in ruins, and the people, coming back to find their homes destroyed or in ashes, determined to go to Veii, a conquered city not far distant, there to found a new capital for their nation. The wise Camillus did all he could to persuade them to be brave and not to desert the homes of their fathers; and so serious was the matter that the Senate met together in solemn consultation. While they were within the Curia, some soldiers, returning from relieving the guards, paused for rest on their way through the Comitium. The voice of their leader, as he bade his men halt, was clearly heard by the anxious magistrates in the Senate-house: "Standard-bearer, fix thy standard. It is best for us to stay here," were the words that reached them. With one accord the senators took this as a good omen, and appeared in a body before the people in the Forum to tell them what had occurred. So the Romans remained, recovered their lost courage, and rebuilt their city.
In the long list of the chief places and buildings of Rome injured by the Gauls the name of the Comitium is not found. Perhaps the remembrance of the noble old senators' wonderful bravery caused the bold destroyers to respect this place, for, so far as known, its monuments and the Curia remained unharmed.
Not many years after the departure of the Gauls a tall column was placed on that side of the Comitium nearest the Tullianum, and almost on the Sacra Via, so that it stood at the entrance of the upper end of the Forum. It was called the Columna Mænia, or the Column of Mænius, and was raised after a victory gained in a battle on the sea, in which the commander of the Roman forces was the consul Mænius, whose bravery and good fortune were thus rewarded with public honour. For the Romans had not ceased to war with the tribes round about them, and had now conquered the Latins at Antium, one of the cities on the coast.
In this battle six of the Latin ships had been driven ashore, where they had been burned by the Romans, who, however, had saved as trophies the brazen beaks, or the sharp ends of the vessels' prows, which were ornamented with strange figures of men or animals, even as we sometimes see them on our ships to‑day. These beaks of the vessels taken at Antium were brought back to Rome, where they were nailed to the front of a raised platform that stood on the Comitium, just before the Curia. This platform was used by the orators when making speeches to the people, and from the time that the trophies were added it was known as the Rostra, because "rostra" was the Latin name for "beaks."
The Rostra on the Comitium became the centre of those great struggles for liberty and for power that now stirred Rome for hundreds of years. At first the orators, when making their speeches, faced the Curia, for that was the stronghold of the Patricians; then, the Plebeians having become powerful, they turned to the middle of the Forum, the place of the people, as if addressing the ruling party.
Around the Rostra often stood excited crowds, listening to burning words from this haughty Patrician or from that defiant Plebeian, whose sentiments were often repeated in such hostile tones by their friends among the throng, that persons of opposite opinions were moved with anger and replied with furious cries and blows. So it happened that among the quick-tempered Romans not only riots, but scenes of bloodshed, took place here again and again.
It was also upon the Rostra that the white-robed senators appeared before the people to announce some decision of the Senate or to explain some new law. Their speeches and those of the orators were thought to be of such importance that there was reserved on the Comitium a special place where, while waiting to be received by the Senate, strangers and ambassadors from other countries might listen to Roman eloquence. This place was an enclosed terrace near the Rostra, and was called the Græcostasis.
A noble stranger standing there might have spent many an hour in watching the busy Forum crowds, and in learning much concerning Roman ways. All about him on the Comitium told of Law and Justice. Within the Curia, the senators were considering the affairs of government; on the Rostra, one of them was announcing a decree to the multitude; near the Columna Mænia, criminal cases, such as those of murderers or traitors, were being tried; and nearer the Græcostasis, less serious matters were being brought before another tribunal. He might also have noticed that the Romans paid due honour to those that faithfully served the State, for many statues and honorary columns were before him. Close to the Rostra were the statues of four men, and, in answer to his questions, he would have learned that they were those of ambassadors once sent to Fidenæ, a Roman colony then in revolt. He might also have been told that they had met their death by foul treachery, and that the sorrowing people, at their own expense, had placed these statues there. At each corner of the Comitium, facing the Forum's centre, this stranger might also have noticed a statue, and, had he happened to have journeyed from the land of Greece, he would have recognized the one as the figure of Pythagoras, a wise philosopher of his country, and the other as that of Alcibiades, a most brave Grecian soldier.
And had the stranger asked by what chance these statues of his countrymen had found a place in Rome's great Forum, he would have been told this story: While the Romans were at war with the Samnites, the Senate had sought and received directions concerning the welfare of the State from Apollo, the fair god who guides the chariot of the sun, and who is ever ready to aid all governments in time of trouble. By his command the statues of the wisest and of the bravest of the Greeks were to be erected on the Comitium, and this done, so the oracle foretold, Rome's standards would be raised in victory. And thus good fortune came to the Republic, and, moreover, a lesson was taught the Romans; for these silent figures of great men from another land seemed, not only to warn them against too much confidence in their own strength and wisdom, but also to teach them that they should profit by all that could be shown them by other nations. And, in truth, it so happened that Rome soon gained much knowledge from other peoples and that she tried her strength in many new ways.
For the Republic of Rome declared war against the Republic of Carthage, and the first battles were fought on the island of Sicily, where the Carthaginians held large possessions. So it was necessary for the Roman army to be sent to Sicily by sea, and for the first time the cavalry, or horsemen, as well as the foot-soldiers, were carried across the water in ships. They went to victory, for the consul Valerius Messala, who commanded them, defeated not only the Carthaginians, but also their ally, Hieron, king of Syracuse, an independent city of Sicily. Much praise was awarded Messala upon his return to Rome, and he was permitted to ornament the porch of the Curia with a large painting of the battle in which he had been conqueror. And this, so we are told, was the first painting publicly exhibited in Rome. Later, however, pictures were often shown the people, and many of them were hung over the shops of the Forum, as when Mancinus showed and explained his painting of another victory over these same Carthaginians.
Valerius Messala made also another gift to the city, for he brought back as part of his booty something new and strange—something that the Romans had never seen before. This was a sun-dial, which he placed on a low column near the Rostra, where it excited much interest and curiosity among the people. Until now the days of the Romans had been very simply divided as to time—the sun rose, and the sun set; it was day or it was night. At midday a crier, standing on the steps of the Curia, announced the hour of noon when he was able to see the sun between the Rostra and the Græcostasis; and he called out the evening hour when its last rays fell between the Columna Mænia and the Tullianum. But by the new sun-dial it was possible to tell one hour from another. To the busy people this made little difference—enough for them that the day passed away too soon—but to the many idlers of the Forum it gave never ending amusement. Through the long, sunny days these lazy ones used to linger about the Comitium, just to watch the shadow move across the dial, as Time, passing them by with empty hands, silently slipped away.
Thus from one of her enemies Rome gained the power of telling time; from another she now learned the art of building war-ships. For the Romans were not a seafaring people, and a few small vessels only had been needed for the defeat of the Latins at Antium; but in this war with Carthage they were facing a foe of a very different kind. Always great merchants and traders, the Carthaginians owned large vessels and many mighty ships of war, and so were much more powerful than the Romans. But it happened that in a storm one of these Carthaginian ships was cast ashore upon the coast of Italy, and that the Romans, perceiving an opportunity to attack the Carthaginians after their own manner, hastened to profit by this chance. Using this wreck as a model, they laboured with marvellous rapidity, and in six weeks had fashioned one hundred and thirty great ships like those of their enemy. And while all this building was going on, no time was lost in other ways, for, within a large field, a rough frame was made in hasty imitation of a ship, and in it strong men were trained as rowers, and were made ready for the severe toil of the battles that were to come.
The first attempt of the Roman navy was unfortunate, for seventeen of the new ships were surprised and seized by the enemy; but the second venture was so successful that the unlucky event was forgotten. Under the command of the consul Duilius, the rest of the war vessels met the Carthaginian fleet near Mylæ, a town on the coast of Sicily, and gained a great victory. Fourteen of the enemy's ships were destroyed, and thirty-one of them captured.
To the consul Duilius alone was due all the glory of this success, for it was by the use of a new implement of war, invented by him, that the famous day was won. When Duilius had received orders from the Senate to command the fleet, he pondered long as to the best means of conquering the enemy; for the Romans were ignorant of naval matters, and he knew that the Carthaginians were as great masters in the art of warfare upon the sea, as they themselves were in that upon the land. One thing, however, was clear to him—the nearer an encounter on the water could be made to resemble a fight on land, the more victorious would be his forces; and, at last, he conceived a way to accomplish even this. To the fore part of each of his ships he attached a boarding-bridge, a ladder-like affair that could be swung out from the vessel, and that had on its free end huge grappling-irons or spikes, which were let down or were pulled up by ropes. Thus, when one of the enemy's ships came near enough, a bridge was swung out, and allowed to fall upon the deck of the hostile vessel, where it became fastened by means of the iron spikes. This done, the Romans poured over the bridge, and a hand-to‑hand fight took place, even as it would have done upon land. So instead of battering into their foe, as was their custom, the ships of the Carthaginians were either broken in two, or were held fast by these new bridges, while hundreds of their sailors were slain by the veteran soldiers of Rome.
Thus Duilius won the day at Mylæ. And, in their gratitude, the Romans vied with one another to do him honour. He went in triumph through the city; and, as a continued honour, he was permitted the escort of a torch-bearer and of a flute-player whenever he returned at night from banquets or grand entertainments. And on the Comitium, near the Rostra, was erected a large column, ornamented with some of the beaks of the Carthaginian vessels. This was long pointed out as the Columna Duilia, or the Column of Duilius, the victorious commander of the Roman navy during its first battle.
The Romans warred with the Carthaginians for many long years, but in the end they were completely victorious; and, although the expenses during that time had been heavy, prosperous days now came to Rome, whose coffers were overflowing with Carthaginian gold. Wars with other nations, however, were still carried on; but an unusual disturbance within Rome itself suddenly turned the attention of the Senate and of all the magistrates from foreign to home affairs.
The matter was strange, unheard of. Nothing like it had ever happened in Rome before. The city was full of excitement; the affair was talked of everywhere. Rich and poor, high and low, discussed the subject with the greatest interest; sides were strongly taken, and, so intense was the feeling, that almost each household was divided against itself.
The centre of the excitement, however, was the Forum, and on and about the Comitium the crowds, for days together, were very great. The Senate sat in anxious consultation, wise magistrates advised this way or that, men of influence gave their opinion for or against the matter, and all Rome was in a ferment. And for what reason? For what grave cause did Rome forget that she was at war, and that the fate of nations hung in the balance? Because the matrons of Rome, wishing to wear ornaments of gold and garments of richness, were demanding the repeal of a law which, during the Carthaginian wars, had forbidden them such luxuries. This was called the Oppian Law, because it was brought before the Senate by the Tribune Caius Oppius, and these were the words thereof: "No woman shall possess more than half an ounce of gold, or wear a garment of various colours, or ride in a carriage drawn by horses, in a city, or in a town, or in any place nearer thereto than one mile; except on occasion of some public religious solemnity."
Now while the Republic had been at war, both public and private money had been needed for its expenses, and the Roman women had not complained, but rather had taken pride in giving their share toward the fund in the Treasury. But the long war was over, and Rome's coffers were full—was it then just, they asked, that they should continue to wear plain, dull-coloured robes, and be unadorned with their accustomed ornaments? Should the women of their vanquished enemies be more richly clothed than they, the wives and daughters of the conquerors? This was, indeed, a dishonour to the nation. And in their determination to have this matter righted, the matrons came into the Forum in immense numbers, beseeching the senators to repeal the odious law, and in every way endeavouring to obtain for their cause the votes of those that were to decide this important question. There were women everywhere; they filled the streets, they stopped the men on their way to business, they gave the magistrates no peace. Now this was contrary to all custom, for the Roman women never appeared in public affairs, and their present action was shocking to those that beheld it. The consul Cato denounced their behaviour in a speech in the Curia, and said that he was ashamed of the women of his city. But another magistrate, the tribune Valerius, took the matrons' part, and, also in a speech, recalled to the minds of the senators the many ways in which, in past years, the Roman women had nobly assisted the State, and had willingly given up their gold in the time of the nation's need. He insisted upon the rightness of their present demand, and said that the men of Rome should be proud to have the attire of their wives and daughters equal and even excel that of the women of other nations. At last, his words, and the incessant pleadings of the matrons, gained the day. The hated law was repealed, and thenceforth the noble ladies of Rome appeared in the garments and the ornaments that befitted their honourable station.
In truth, Rome, strong in conquest, rich in possessions, and famous through the deeds of great men, now took a place among the leading nations of the world. The Comitium, and, indeed, the entire Forum, became so crowded with the statues of her heroes that the Senate was forced from time to time to remove many of these images, in order to honour men of more recent fame. About this time, however, there was raised, near the ancient fig tree, a certain statue that remained on the Comitium for several hundred years. The figure was that of a man bearing on his shoulder a full wine-skin, and holding one of his hands uplifted, as if to bespeak the attention of the passer-by. This statue was that of Marsyas, an attendant of Bacchus, the ivy-crowned god of freedom and plenty. With its raised hand, the image of Marsyas seemed to bid men stop and ponder upon the freedom gained through the just dealings of the law, and upon the plenty of a land where the people were so wisely governed. Therefore this statue stood as a symbol of happy liberty, and as such was also placed in the forums of many towns under Roman rule. It became a custom for successful lawyers to crown Marsyas with a chaplet of flowers; for truly, were not the minds of their clients freed from anxiety, and had not they themselves gained full purses? And once when in sport a young man stole one of the garlands of Marsyas, he was made to suffer imprisonment, so highly was this statue honoured and cared for.
But, alas! the Romans were not long at peace either at home or abroad. Their riches and successes were already proving a curse. The people cared but for games and amusements; the government but for conquests and triumphs. The influence of the Senate lessened as that of the army increased, until Rome's real rulers were the most popular and powerful generals of her military forces. So the time came when her greatest foes were those within her own walls, and when she received blow after blow from those whose duty it was to uphold and to protect her.
Two of her consuls, great generals, but envious and ambitious men, used their honourable trusts as the means for their own success, and fought their way to fame and wealth over downtrodden law and murdered men. The names of Marius and Sulla are even now spoken with horror by all that know of the sufferings of the Romans under their lawless rule. For the city now saw days of strife that made the struggle of the Patricians and the Plebeians seem as nothing.
Wars with other nations were almost forgotten during the bitter contest of these two men, each of whom, striving to gain the highest authority and holding might as the only form of right, used all and any means to serve his ends. Rome was in the hands first of one party, then of the other; riots and murders followed in quick succession; the Senate bowed down to whosoever was master of the hour. An army, led by Sulla, came as an enemy against Rome herself, and within her very gates battled with the forces of Marius. Roman against Roman, and the government in the hands of the stronger! Was this the great nation whose men had been known as among the bravest and the most loyal of all the world? Were these the descendants of such staunch upholders of the Republic as Brutus, and Cincinnatus, and Camillus? No wonder that Scipio Æmilianus, another of Rome's great generals, changed the prayer by which the magistrates were wont to petition the gods! No wonder that, foreseeing the troubles of his country, he had not prayed, "May the State be increased!" but had uttered instead the sad entreaty, "May the State be preserved!"
Of these hard and bitter rivals, Caius Marius was the elder. He was made consul seven times, yet he died a miserable, disappointed man, because, although having all that wealth and position could give, he had not obtained the command of a certain coveted campaign, and had been forced to see Sulla triumph in his place. Nevertheless, in his day he gained great glory; but it was dearly bought with human life—not only with that of the soldiers, but with that of any person, high or low, who stood in his mad ambition's way. For at one time, by the order of Marius, the gates of Rome were closed, and for five days the merciless tyrant went about the city with a band of armed men that killed on the spot whomsoever he pointed out. And to serve him, or to be his friend, insured no measure of safety, for he aided none and used all.
During a certain turmoil in Rome, Saturninus, Glaucia, and Saufeius, base magistrates and associates of Marius, were obliged to escape from the attacks of the furious multitude by taking refuge in the Capitol. At last, however, the three desperate men gave themselves up to Marius, then consul for the sixth time, for they hoped that he would use his power in their defence. But they trusted him in vain, for, ordering them to be shut up in the Curia,—as if placing them under the protection of the law,—he abandoned them to the mob, which, pulling the tiles off the roof of the Senate-house, stoned them to death.
And it was in the time of Marius that the horrible custom began of hanging the heads of murdered men on the front of the Rostra. The first victim whose head was thus shown to the people, was the consul Octavius, basely killed because he refused to desert his office and leave Rome to Marius and his followers. This Octavius was the second of his name whose life was taken while in the service of his country. And near the Rostra, to which was attached his bleeding head, stood the statue of Cneius Octavius, his grandfather, treacherously murdered while on an embassy to the land of Syria.
It was also by the order of Marius that the orator, Marcus Antonius, was tracked to his place of hiding in a farm-house, and there killed; for he had used his eloquence in Sulla's favour, and was too dangerous an enemy to be allowed to live. But so great was his power that the very men who came to kill him were charmed by his words, and forgot their hideous errand as they listened to the speech he made them. And thus spellbound, a tribune found them when he came to make sure that the deed was done, and that this enemy of Marius was quieted forever. Amazed at the sight, and angered at the delay, the tribune with his own hands cut off the head of Antonius, even as the great orator was still addressing the men. Then, with a severe rebuke for their weakness, he bade the assassins take the head to Marius, who caused it to be hung among the other horrible trophies of the Rostra.
The end of Cornelius Sulla was very unlike that of his enemy, for he died satisfied with all that he had done, and believing himself to have been favoured by the gods above all other men. At the height of his success, some years after the death of Marius, Sulla became dictator for life, and in a speech to the people he spoke of his unvarying good fortune, and claimed for himself the title of "Felix," or the "happy one." Soon afterward the servile Senate placed near the Rostra a gilt statue of Sulla, mounted upon his charger, and on the base were inscribed these words, "Cornelius Sulla, a fortunate Commander."
Romans of all ranks now acknowledged this man as their master, but their homage was that compelled by terror, not that of respectful admiration. For when Sulla became the chief magistrate, he determined to destroy all persons belonging to the family of Marius, together with all the members of his party, and to this end he drew up a long list of such as were to be put to death. This list was attached to the Rostra in the sight of all the people, and was called a "Proscriptio," or a "writing up." Besides the names of those that were condemned by Sulla, because "enemies of the State," there were mentioned in the proscription various prizes to assassins and rewards to all informers. This proscription was the first in the history of the Romans, but even in the time of Sulla there were many others. To oblige his friends, he often added the names of their enemies to his awful lists, and no man was safe at any time. Spies were everywhere, and people, taken unawares, were killed in their homes, in the streets, and even in the temples. The old writers tell us that fifty senators and one thousand nobles died by the order of Marius, and that forty senators and one thousand and six hundred nobles were the victims of Sulla. Thus none were left to gainsay him, and this great and terrible man became absolute master of Rome.
And then, having reached the summit of his ambition, Cornelius Sulla summoned the people to the Forum, and from the Rostra made a speech that filled them with astonishment. He told them that it was his purpose to lay down the dictatorship, that he was about to retire to the enjoyment of private life, and that from that day he left them free to elect whom they would as their magistrates. And he followed this astounding speech with an act of still more surprising boldness. Discharging his armed attendants, and dismissing his lictors, he descended from the Rostra, and passed through the crowd like an ordinary citizen, a few friends only accompanying him to his home. The amazed people, who had every reason to hate him, and to wreak vengeance upon him, let him go unharmed, and even looked upon him with awe, for his courage was indeed magnificent.
Sulla gave the Romans a grand farewell feast, and then left Rome for his estate in the country. There he remained until his death, one year later, spending his days in revelry and pleasure, and yet finding time to finish the history of his life, wherein he describes himself as "fortunate and all-powerful to his last hour."
While he was dictator, Sulla not only changed the laws to suit his own purposes, but he also altered the house of the law-makers. He both improved and enlarged the Curia, and in so doing, the old statues of Alcibiades and Pythagoras were taken away to make room for the more spacious building. And about this time the Curia was adorned with another painting, one brought by the magistrates, Murena and Varro, from Lacedæmon, a city of Greece. Now this work of art was very curious, for the picture, having formed part of the decoration of a wall, the plaster on which it was painted had been carefully removed, and carried to Rome protected by wooden frames. The Romans looked upon the picture with great interest, admiring it as much for the skill by which it had been brought so far as for the beauty of the work itself.
Yet another work of art was added to the Comitium by Lucullus, who led the Romans against Mithridates, king of Pontus, a country of Asia Minor. As a part of his great spoils, he brought back to Rome a statue of Hercules, the mighty conqueror, before whom all triumphant warriors rendered their thank-offerings. And on the Comitium, near the Rostra, this statue was placed as a fit symbol of the strength and the success of Roman arms.
But although the Romans had formed a taste for art, and their houses were now made far less simply than before, the chief building of the government, the Curia, still remained severely plain. And the spirit of the senators was in accord with their building, for, in a letter to one of his friends, Cicero, the famous orator, tells of their great frugality. No matter how cold the weather, so he writes, the senators had no fire in the Curia, and once, upon a bitter winter's day, when they had met on a matter of special importance, the Speaker was forced to dismiss the members, the chill being so great that none could bear it. So the senators left the Curia, to the vast amusement of the people, among whom even the farmers had fires to heat their homes during the cold days of the winter.
Now this same Cicero, Rome's most able orator, was an honest man, a great patriot, but, withal, a determined enemy; and as he denounced his opponents without mercy, even so was he deeply hated in return. During his entire lifetime Rome was disturbed, divided between sets of men whose leaders schemed continually to overthrow the Senate, and to form a government of their own. Riots occurred day after day, and more than once the Forum was red with blood.
At one time Cicero was forced to leave Italy because of the evil designs of one of his adversaries, the tribune Clodius Pulcher, a bad, malicious man. And while the great statesman was in exile, Quintus, his brother, returned to Rome from the province of Asia, over which he had been governor for three years. He was met by many citizens belonging to Cicero's party, and, at their suggestion, promised to appear in the Forum to entreat the men of Rome to recall his brother. But when he arrived at the Rostra by dawn of the next day, Quintus found the Comitium and the Curia already in the possession of men sent by Clodius. Before he could utter a word, he was dragged down from the Rostra, and a violent fight took place between his followers and the armed men and slaves of Clodius. Many were slain, still more were wounded, and Quintus himself saved his life only by hiding beneath the corpses that were lying in heaps about the place. On that awful day the Tiber was filled with dead bodies, the great sewers were choked, and the blood was wiped up from the Forum with large sponges.
Yet so hardened were the hearts of the Romans, and so
used were they to the horrid sight of human blood, that
when two citizens arrived in the Forum after this
terrible slaughter, they looked unmoved upon the scene
and upon the
blood that ran freely in the gutters, and calmly said,
the one to the
"Surely, many gladiators have fought, and a show of great magnificence has been held! No Plebeian entertainment was this, but a celebration by a magistrate or a Patrician of high rank. Whose think you may it have been?"
Within a year, however, Cicero's fortune changed, and he was called back to Rome, where he was received with much rejoicing, and where he lived to see the downfall of his foe. For Clodius, although the favourite of the mob, had many enemies, chief among whom was a tribune named Milo, a man who, for his own advancement, had taken sides with Cicero. Both Clodius and Milo, as they went about the city, were constantly attended by bands of armed ruffians that attacked one another in the streets, in the Forum, or wherever they happened to meet. For the government was crushed, the Senate was helpless, and there were none to enforce the law. Rome was without a master, and Justice had fled before unchecked Crime. At last one day, as Clodius was returning to Rome, and Milo was leaving the city, they passed each other on the Appian Way, a road leading out into the country. A fray followed in which Clodius was killed; and his body, left in contempt on the spot where it had fallen, was found by a senator, who caused it to be carried to Rome and placed on the Rostra. Indignant at the death of their favourite, the people gathered about in wildly excited throngs, while those magistrates that were on the side of Clodius made fiery speeches to the already maddened multitude. Then the people rose in a fury, and bore the corpse into the Curia, that it might lie in state in the very highest place of the government, and thus the Senate be insulted and defied.
And then, their rage waxing even greater, the most reckless of the mob gathered together the benches and the desks of the Curia, and made of them a funeral pyre. Upon this they placed the body of Clodius, and, amidst frantic cries, set the pyre in flames; whereupon the crowds rushed forth into the Forum with the wildest shouts of exultation.
With the burning of this wretched man's body, the old Curia Hostilia was destroyed, as were several other buildings. Thus, in the fire of lawless tumult, fell the ancient government of Rome; and thus, in the ashes of disgrace, ended the Republic. The State gave way to the statesman; the rights of the people became second to the glory of the ruler; for when the Senate-house was rebuilt, it bore the name of Julius Cæsar, Rome's greatest master, and within the new Curia Julia, the senators met but as the servants of the emperor.
To mark the difference between the order of the government that had been and that which was to come, Julius Cæsar planned many changes in the Forum. One of the chief of these was the removal of the Rostra from the Comitium to the middle of the Forum at its upper end. There it was still the platform of the orators and the magistrates, but before long it became the throne on which the emperors appeared before the people.
The old statues that had stood near the Rostra on the Comitium were now placed beside it in its new position. To these were added others, among which were two statues of Cæsar himself, and one of the young Octavius, who became Rome's first emperor and received the name of Augustus, the Exalted.
The treacherous murder of the great dictator left his affairs in the hands of his adopted son, and thus it was Augustus that carried out Julius Cæsar's plans, and that finished the new Curia. To this was now added a chalcidium, or sort of portico, and the building was made larger and more beautiful than ever before. Within, Augustus ornamented the walls with two paintings by famous Greek artists; and in the centre of the Curia he placed a bronze statue of Victory, the goddess of Success, whose shining wings bear her above all difficulties, whose uplifted head is crowned with the wreath of triumph, and whose hands hold, not only the palm branch of the conqueror, but also the magic wand of Mercury. For Mercury, the messenger of the gods, had received this wand from Apollo, the protector of nations, and by its virtues all disputes were settled and the bitterest of enemies reconciled. And thus, as a herald of good news, Victory announces peace as well as triumph. At the base of this beautiful figure, erected in memory of his great victory at Actium, the emperor placed some of the spoils brought from Egypt, and in this manner constantly reminded the Senate that he had conquered, not only her enemies, but Rome herself.
Before this statue an altar was made in the Curia, where for centuries this goddess was worshipped by the Roman people. The fire in the time of the Emperor Nero greatly injured the Senate-house, but the Victory was saved from the flames, and was replaced in this building when restored by the Emperor Domitian. Many years later, the Curia again suffered from a fire that occurred during the reign of the Emperor Carinus. But it was rebuilt by the Emperor Diocletian, and within this last Senate-house the ancient statue still guarded the weal of Rome.
Now when the emperors became Christians, some of the nobles adopted the new religion, although many remained steadfast in the worship of the ancient gods of Rome. But little by little the Christian party grew to be the stronger, and slowly the gods began to be forgotten. During the reign of Emperor Valentian, however, there arose a strong champion of the old faith, for the offices of pontiff and augur were held by Symmachus, a noble senator. He came before Valentian to ask for the restoration of the altar of Victory in the Curia; for Gratian, the last emperor, had forbidden the rites, and had had the statue removed. Symmachus, a man of rare eloquence, pleaded for freedom to worship the goddess of Rome's government, and he would have persuaded Valentian to grant his request had it not been for Ambrose, the archbishop of Milan, one of Italy's most important cities. This Ambrose was not only a Christian, but a great scholar, and so firm a defender of his religion that he became known as one of the "Fathers of the Church." And now, with words of deep wisdom, he showed Valentian that Symmachus was eloquent but unwise, and that old things must pass away and new ones take their places. So he convinced the emperor, and from that time the statue of Victory was no longer worshipped. A few years later, the doors of all the temples were shut by the Emperor Theodosius, who drove through the city in triumph, while at his chariot-wheels the gods of ancient Rome were dragged through the dust.
So the Christian religion won the victory, and in after years the Curia itself was changed into a church. And to‑day in S. Adriano in Rome may be seen some parts of the old Senate-house of Diocletian—a fragment of the glories of the Empire, and a faint reminder of the strength of the Republic.
The importance of the Comitium became less from the time that the Rostra was moved away; trials were carried on elsewhere, famous men were honoured in the new forums, the Senate met in other places, and its renown was gone forever. And even from the days of the Emperor Severus, men spoke of the ancient centre of the government as of something belonging only to the past. For Rome's law, given to her conquered lands, left its birthplace to go out into all the civilized world, and although called Roman law, it was no longer known as the law of Rome.