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[119] "The conquering Roman now held the whole world, sea and land and the course of sun and moon. But he was not satisfied. Now the waters were stirred and troubled by his loaded ships; if there were any hidden bay beyond, or any land that promised a yield of yellow gold, that place was Rome's enemy, fate stood ready for the sorrows of war, and the quest for wealth went on. There was no happiness in familiar joys, or in pleasures dulled by the common man's use. The soldier out at sea would praise the bronze of Corinth; bright colours dug from earth rivalled the purple; here the African curses Rome, here the Chinaman plunders his marvellous silks, and the Arabian hordes have stripped their own fields bare.

"Yet again more destruction, and peace hurt and bleeding. The wild beast is searched out in the woods at a great price, and men trouble Hammon deep in Africa to supply the beast whose teeth make him precious for slaying men; strange ravening creatures freight the fleets, and the padding tiger is wheeled in a gilded palace to drink the blood of men while the crowd applauds.

I shrink from speaking plain and betraying our destiny of ruin; boys whose childhood is hardly begun[p. 255] are kidnapped in the Persian way, and the powers the knife has shorn are forced to the service of lust, and in order that the passing of man's finest age may be hedged round with delay and hold back the hurrying years, Nature seeks for herself, and finds herself not. So all take their pleasure in harlotry, and the halting steps of a feeble body, and in flowing hair and numberless clothes of new names, everything that ensnares mankind.

"Tables of citron-wood are dug out of the soil of Africa and set up, the spots on them resembling gold which is cheaper than they, their polish reflecting hordes of slaves and purple clothes, to lure the senses. Round this barren and low-born wood there gathers a crowd drowned in drink, and the soldier of fortune gorges the whole spoils of the world while his weapons rust.

"Gluttony is a fine art. The wrasse is brought alive to table in sea-water from Sicily, and the oysters torn from the banks of the Lucrine lake make a dinner famous, in order to renew men's hunger by their extravagance. All the birds are now gone from the waters of Phasis; the shore is quiet; only the empty air breathes on the lonely boughs.

"The same madness is in public life, the true-born Roman is bought, and changes his vote for plunder and the cry of gain. The people are corrupt, the house of senators is corrupt, their support hangs on a price. The freedom and virtue of the old men had decayed, their power was swayed by largesse, even their dignity was stained by money and trodden in the dust.

"Cato is beaten and driven out by the mob; his conqueror is more unhappy than he, and is ashamed to have torn the rods of office from Cato. For the[p. 257] shame of the nation and the fall of their character lay in this, that here was not only one man's defeat. In his person the power and glory of Rome was humbled. So Rome in her deep disgrace was herself both price and prize, and despoiled herself without an avenger. Moreover filthy usury and the handling of money had caught the common people in a double whirlpool, and destroyed them. Not a house is safe, not a man but is mortgaged; the madness spreads through their limbs, and trouble bays and hounds them down like some disease sown in the dumb flesh. In despair they turn to violence, and bloodshed restores the good things lost by luxury. A beggar can risk everything in safety. Could the spell of healthful reason stir Rome from the filth where she rolled in heavy sleep, or only madness and war and the lust wakened by the sword?

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