PRE-HISTORY OF THE ROMAN FORUM
THE PROBLEM OF GIBBONS
Personal View: Sit at the Auguraculum where the Etruscan augur touched the shoulder of the
Sabme Numa Pompilius with the lituus to make him the second King of Rome (7 15-672 BC),
What could you both see? Numa legislated Roman religion, like the sacrifice of the “October
horse.” Its tail blood was mixed with ashes from the temple of Vesta for purification. Factions
fought over the head, which the winners hung in the Regia, with a unique north-south orientation.
Under the kings (recis), the first written law is published (at the Lapis Niger) in archaic Latin.
Tarquinius Priscus (616-578 BC) began the largest temple of the time, 120 by 180 feet with a 16
foot podium, to Jupiter Capitolinus in the Etruscan style. About 575 BC the first pebble
pavement appears, a change from village to city. Also from 575 BC are the foundation stones of
the Capitoline Arx with its Temple of Juno Moneta, which the Galls of Brennus stormed 390 BC.
Main Point of John Mulvihill: The formation of Rome is by cultural change with complex growth.
Adversary: Edward Gibbons (1739-1794) wrote Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776,
and blamed the political “decline” of Rome on Christianity (chapters 15 and 16). His was the time
of the Enlightenment. A problem was his lack of modern economic,
social, cultural, and
constitutional history. A second problem was his lack of coins, inscriptions, and archaeological
evidence. A third problem was the inability at the time to scientifically evaluate literary sources.
Opinions on the Causes of the Fall of Rome:
1 Death by accident says J. B. Bury, who rejects all general causes.
2. Natural causes of the death of Rome include Edward Gibbons’
prosperity, F. W.
Walbank’s low technical power as a consequence of slavery, A. E. R. Book’s manpower
shortage causing increasing impoverishment, and Petrarch’s “internal failures.”
3. Murder of Rome say Machiavelli
and André Piganiol by barbarian attacks, while N. H.
Baynes blames the cost of fighting barbarians, which led to poverty.
4. Suicide due to Roman policy leading to loss of economic freedom
says W. L.
Westerman, or no means of reform says W. E. Hetland, or the upper classes were
absorbed by the masses according to M. I. Rostovtzeff, or the builders of Rome were
replaced by a different race according to Tenney Frank.
5. No fall of Rome occurred since none of the above authors fully
agree as to the time of
the fall of Rome, nor do the inhabitants of Rome show awareness that “Rome fell.”
Donald Kagan believes that Rome never “fell” but was transformed to the Middle Ages.
Au Contraire to Gibbons: First, Roman civilization was one of the great unifying factors in
European and Mediterranean history. Second, the legacy of Roman law still underlies many
western-inspired legal systems. Third, the Romans left a linguistic legacy: French, Spanish,
Portugese, Italian, Romanian. Fourth, Roman cities lie beneath many of our modern cities. Fifth,
Rome was and is a great religious center.