Wednesday, July 06, 2016


The Romans of the Empire

J.B. Bury (1861-1927), "The British and the Roman Empire," Saturday Review, No. 2122, Vol. 81 (27 June, 1896) 645:
The Romans of the Empire had not a trace of that highest order of mental faculty which creates and originates. Their intelligence was solid and commonplace, moving rigidly on old lines; they were incapable of striking a new vein or of conceiving a new idea. From the days of Augustus to the triumph of Christianity they invented absolutely nothing in political science or in finance, in warfare or in mechanics, in religion or in literature or art. Their greatest achievement was the brilliant development of law in the second and third centuries, but that was merely the able elaboration of ideas which had been formulated in the days of Roman vigour. In literature they merely imitated either the Greeks or their own ancestors; their merits are purely merits of form. We must not let their notable instinct for administrative details, or their equally notable instinct for literary style, blind us to their poverty in ideas. Problems of many kinds in the practical world invited solution; they were all dealt with by traditional means and antiquated machinery. In fact, under the early Roman Empire the human mind sluggishly vegetated on its own past.

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