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«Numa Denis Fustel De Coulanges Kitchener Batoche Books 52 Eby Street South Kitchener, Ontario N2G 3L1 Canada email: batoche Table of ...»

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The Ancient City

A Study on the Religion, Laws,

and Institutions of Greece and Rome

Numa Denis Fustel De Coulanges

Kitchener

Batoche Books

52 Eby Street South

Kitchener, Ontario

N2G 3L1

Canada

email: batoche@gto.net

Table of Contents.

Introduction....................................................... 5

Book First: Ancient Beliefs........................................... 9

Chapter I: Notions about the Soul and Death............................ 9 Chapter II: The Worship of the Dead.................................. 14 Chapter III: The Sacred Fire......................................... 17 Book Second: The Family........................................... 30 Chapter I: Religion was the Constituent Principle of the Ancient Family...... 30 Chapter II: Marriage............................................... 32 Chapter III: Continuity of the Family. Celibacy Forbidden. Divorce in Case of Sterility. Inequality Between the Son and Daughter................. 37 Chapter IV: Adoption and Emancipation............................... 41 Chapter V: Kinship. What the Romans Called Agnation................... 43 Chapter VI: The Right of Property.................................... 47 Chapter VII: The Right of Succession................................. 57 Chapter VIII: Authority in the Family.................................. 68 Chapter IX: Morals of the Ancient Family.............................. 76 Chapter X: The Gens at Rome and in Greece............................ 81 Book Third: The City.............................................. 96 Chapter I: The Phratry and The Cury. The Tribe......................... 96 Chapter II: New Religious Beliefs.................................... 98 Chapter III: The City Formed....................................... 104 Chapter IV: The City.............................................. 110 Chapter V: Worship of the Founder. The Legend of Aeneas............... 117 Chapter VI: The Gods of the City.................................... 121 Chapter VII: The Religion of the City................................ 12

–  –  –

Book Fifth: The Municipal Regime Disappears......................... 302 Chapter I: New Beliefs. Philosophy Changes the Principles and The Rules of Politics.................................................. 302 Chapter II: The Roman Conquest.................................... 310 Chapter III: Christianity Changes the Conditions of Government........... 335 Notes......................................................... 343 Introduction.

The Necessity of Studying the Earliest Beliefs of the Ancients in Order to Understand Their Institutions It is proposed here to show upon what principles and by what rules Greek and Roman society was governed. We unite in the same study both the Greeks and the Romans, because these two peoples, who were two branches of a single race, and who spoke two idioms of a single language, also had the same institutions and the same principles of government, and passed through a series of similar revolutions.

We shall attempt to set in a clear light the radical and essential differences which at all times distinguished these ancient peoples from modern societies. In our system of education, we live from infancy in the midst of the Greeks and Romans, and become accustomed continually to compare them with ourselves, to judge of their history by our own, and to explain our revolutions by theirs. What we have received from them leads us to believe that we resemble them. We have some difficulty in considering them as foreign nations; it is almost always ourselves that we see in them. Hence spring many errors. We rarely fail to deceive ourselves regarding these ancient nations when we see them through the opinions and facts of our own time.

Now, errors of this kind are not without danger. The ideas which the moderns have had of Greece and Rome have often been in their way. Having imperfectly observed the institutions of the ancient city, men have dreamed of reviving them among us.

They have deceived themselves about the liberty of the ancients, and on this very account liberty among the moderns has been put in peril. The last eighty years have clearly shown that one of the great difficulties which impede the march of modern society is the habit which it has of always keeping Greek and Roman antiquity before its eyes.

Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 6 To understand the truth about the Greeks and Romans, it is wise to study them without thinking of ourselves, as if they were entirely foreign to us; with the same disinterestedness, and with the mind as free, as if we were studying ancient India or Arabia.





Thus observed, Greece and Rome appear to us in a character absolutely inimitable;

nothing in modern times resembles them; nothing in the future can resemble them.

We shall attempt to show by what rules these societies were regulated, and it will be freely admitted that the same rules can never govern humanity again.

Whence comes this? Why are the conditions of human government no longer the same as in earlier times? The great changes which appear from time to time in the constitution of society can be the effect neither of chance nor of force alone.

The cause which produces them must be powerful, and must be found in man himself. If the laws of human association are no longer the same as in antiquity, it is because there has been a change in man. There is, in fact, a part of our being which is modified from age to age; this is our intelligence. It is always in movement; almost always progressing; and on this account, our institutions and our laws are subject to change. Man has not, in our day, the way of thinking that he had twenty-five centuries ago; and this is why he is no longer governed as he was governed then.

The history of Greece and Rome is a witness and an example of the intimate relation which always exists between men's ideas and their social state. Examine the institutions of the ancients without thinking of their religious notions, and you find them obscure, whimsical, and inexplicable. Why were there patricians and plebeians, patrons and clients, eupatrids and theses; and whence came the native and ineffaceable differences which we find between these classes? What was the meaning of those Lacedaemonian institutions which appear to us so contrary to nature? How are we to explain those unjust caprices of ancient private law; at Corinth and at Thebes, the sale of land prohibited; at Athens and at Rome, an inequality in the succession between brother and sister? What did the jurists understand by agitation, and by gens? Why those revolutions in the laws, those political revolutions? What was that singular patriotism which sometimes effaced every natural sentiment? What did they understand by that liberty of which they were always talking? How did it Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 7 happen that institutions so very different from anything of which we have an idea to-day, could become established and reign for so long a time? What is the superior principle which gave them authority over the minds of men?

But by the side of these institutions and laws place the religious ideas of those times, and the facts at once become clear, and their explanation is no longer doubtful.

If, on going back to the first ages of this race — that is to say, to the time when its institutions were founded — we observe the idea which it had of human existence, of life, of death, of a second life, of the divine principle, we perceive a close relation between these opinions and the ancient rules of private law; between the rites which spring from these opinions and their political institutions.

A comparison of beliefs and laws shows that a primitive religion constituted the Greek and Roman family, established marriage and paternal authority, fixed the order of relationship, and consecrated the right of property, and the right of inheritance.

This same religion, after having enlarged and extended the family, formed a still larger association, the city, and reigned in that as it had reigned in the family. From it came all the institutions, as well as all the private law, of the ancients. It was from this that the city received all its principles, its rules, its usages, and its magistracies.

But, in the course of time, this ancient religion became modified or effaced, and private law and political institutions were modified with it. Then came a series of revolutions, and social changes regularly followed the development of knowledge.

It is of the first importance, therefore, to study the religious ideas of these peoples, and the oldest are the most important for us to know. For the institutions and beliefs which we find at the flourishing periods of Greece and Rome are only the development of those of an earlier age; we must seek the roots of them in the very distant past. The Greek and Italian populations are many centuries older than Romulus and Homer. It was at an epoch more ancient, in an antiquity without date, that their beliefs were formed, and that their institutions were either established or prepared.

But what hope is there of arriving at a knowledge of this distant past? Who can tell us what men thought ten or fifteen centuries before our era? Can we recover what is so intangible and fugitive — beliefs and opinions? We know what the Aryas of the Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 8 East thought thirty-five centuries ago: we learn this from the hymns of the Vedas, which are certainly very ancient, and from the laws of Manu, in which we can distinguish passages that are of an extremely early date. But where are the hymns of the ancient Hellenes? They, as well as the Italians, had ancient hymns, and old sacred books; but nothing of these has come down to us. What tradition can remain to us of those generations that have not left us a single written line?

Fortunately, the past never completely dies for man. Man may forget it, but he always preserves it within him. For, take him at any epoch, and he is the product, the epitome, of all the earlier epochs. Let him look into his own soul, and he can find and distinguish these different epochs by what each of them has left within him.

Let us observe the Greeks of the age of Pericles, and the Romans of Cicero's time;

they carry within them the authentic marks and the unmistakable vestiges of the most remote ages. The contemporary of Cicero (I speak especially of the man of the people) has an imagination full of legends; these legends come to him from a very early time, and they bear witness to the manner of thinking of that time. The contemporary of Cicero speaks a language whose roots are very ancient; this language, in expressing the thoughts of ancient ages, has been modelled upon them, and it has kept the impression, and transmits it from century to century. The primary sense of a root will sometimes reveal an ancient opinion or an ancient usage; ideas have been transformed, and the recollections of them have vanished; but the words have remained, immutable witnesses of beliefs that have disappeared.

The contemporary of Cicero practiced rites in the sacrifices, at funerals, and in the ceremony of marriage; these rites were older than his time, and what proves it is that they did not correspond to his religious belief. But if we examine the rites which he observed, or the formulas which he recited, we find the marks of what men believed fifteen or twenty centuries earlier.

Book First: Ancient Beliefs.

Chapter I: Notions about the Soul and Death

Down to the latest times in the history of Greece and Rome we find the common people clinging to thoughts and usages which certainly dated from a very distant past, and which enable us to discover what notions man entertained at first regarding his own nature, his soul, and the mystery of death.

Go back far as we may in the history of the Indo-European race, of which the Greeks and Italians are branches, and we do not find that this race has ever thought that after this short life all was finished for man. The most ancient generations, long before there were philosophers, believed in a second existence after the present. They looked upon death not as a dissolution of our being, but simply as a change of life.

But in what place, and in what manner, was this second existence passed? Did they believe that the immortal spirit, once escaped from a body, went to animate another?

No; the doctrine of metempsychosis was never able to take root in the minds of the Greco-Italians; nor was it the most ancient belief of the Aryas of the East; since the hymns of the Vedas teach another doctrine. Did they believe that the spirit ascended towards the sky, towards the region of lights Not at all; the thought that departed souls entered a celestial home is relatively recent in the West; we find it expressed for the first time by the poet Phocylides. The celestial abode was never regarded as anything more than the recompense of a few great men, and of the benefactors of mankind. According to the oldest belief of the Italians and Greeks, the soul did not go into a foreign world to pass its second existence; it remained near men, and continued to live under ground.1 Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 10 They even believed for a very long time that, in this second existence, the soul remained associated with the body; born together, they were not separated by death, and were buried together in the grave.



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