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gree of baron, which the grand duke of Weimar wrought out, as the biographer expresses it, auswirkte, for Schiller, of his own mere motion, was not an extravagant reward, though intended doubtless as a high distinction.
ART. XXVI.-Römische Geschichte, von B. G. Niebuhr.Roman History, by B. G. Niebuhr. 2 vols. 8vo, with two maps. Berlin, 1811 and 1812.
We have several times, in the course of the last two or three years, made a passing allusion to this work; and propose at present to lay a short account of it before our readers. No full notice of it, that we know of, has been as yet submitted to the English or American public; and few publications afford more cause for reflection on the serious obstacles presented to the progress of knowledge, by the multiplicity of languages. The existence of four or five cultivated tongues, some of them radically different from each other, seems really, at times, to counterbalance all the facilities for communication, which the art of printing affords; and amidst all the improvements and triumphs of learning in modern days, it is humiliating to see so little concert subsisting between the minds of different nations, that the most important discoveries in literature may be made and acknowledged in one country, and remain unknown in another, separated perhaps only by a chain of mountains, a river, or a channel.
That this remark applies with great justice to the Roman history of Mr von Niebuhr, is true by general confession. Though it may sound like pedantry to talk of discoveries at this time of day, in such a department of study as Roman history; yet it is notwithstanding extremely analogous to the progress of the human mind in all other branches of investigation, that certain gross popular views, without probability and without foundation, should nevertheless from various causes acquire a general reception, and that their detection when made be entitled to the name of a discovery. This is the case of Mr Niebuhr's work on Roman history. Though not certainly the first author to call in question some of the popular errors in respect to this subject, he is the first who has pushed the test of a philosophical examination to its full extent; and the first also, whose learning and talents have given authority to specu
lations, which before his time were apt to be rejected as the vagaries of literary scepticism. For what had been done before Mr von Niebuhr in this way, and for a general hint at the value of what he has himself accomplished, we may quote a few sentences from the article on the early history of Rome, in the fifty-fourth number of the Quarterly Review :
6 All, however, have not evinced the same degree of historic faith; some have openly revolted against these absurdities of tradition, and have expressed their scepticism in bold and decisive language. The question was discussed with vigor and even with acrimony, in the French Academy, about a century ago, and the chief combatants of the opposite parties, M. de Pouilly and the Abbé Sallier, in that arena, attacked and defended the authority of Dionysius, of Livy, and their followers. Amongst the late sceptics, M. Beaufort is perhaps the most able. In his dissertation on the uncertainty of the early Roman history, he skilfully combats the accounts, which have been transmitted to us, and arrives at a conclusion, which may perhaps startle our prejudices not a little, that nothing is more uncertain, than what we have received as the history of the first ages of Rome. M. Levesque, in his Histoire critique de la République Romaine, has also evinced a very reasonable degree of scepticism on this point.'—
The subject has, however, been examined with the greatest accuracy by the literati of Germany. In that country several works have been published upon the historic period under our immediate consideration, which have attracted great and deserved attention. The most remarkable of these writers, for extent of learning and depth of reflection, is M. de Niebuhr, whose Roman history, though written in a style somewhat obscure, is likely, when generally known, to produce a great effect upon the reading and thinking part of the European community. His example has been, in part, followed, and his ideas developed by M. Wachsmuth, a professor at Halle, whose work displays much research and ingenuity.'
'We have thought it necessary to make these preliminary remarks, because we are persuaded, that the subject has not yet received that attention from the English reader, to which it is entitled. The works of de Niebuhr and Wachsmuth have hardly been mentioned in this country; and we can venture to affirm, that not half a dozen persons have read them; and almost as few entertain any scepticism on those points, the credibility of which is called in question. The tales instilled into us at school are retained and believed in manhood; and the rape of the Sabines, the combat of the Horatii, and the self-devotion of Curtius are as
little doubted as the landing of William the Conqueror, or the signing of the Great Charter.'
We have been led to make this extract, as a preparation for our own remarks on Mr von Niebuhr's work. Though it is 'on the reading and thinking part of the European community' only, that our brethren of the Quarterly anticipate a powerful effect from the perusal of his history, we hope it will not seem intrusive in an American journalist to review it; the rather, since-if this writer be correct in stating, that not half a dozen persons have read it in Great Britain-we feel pretty confident, that it has been as extensively read in this country as in England. We mention not this to the comparative credit of our own country, but as the misfortune, not to say disgrace, of both, that a work of such transcendent merit should have been for ten years published in a kindred tongue, and be yet so little known.
Mr von Niebuhr, who has received the title of Baron from the king of Prussia, is the nephew of the celebrated traveller in the east, of the same name. We have been informed, that the baron in early life was a clerk in the bank of Copenhagen, in which capacity he gave a proof of the almost miraculous power of his memory, by restoring, from recollection alone, the whole contents of a leaf in the bank ledger, which by accident or fraud had been lost. He was afterwards made a professor in the university at Berlin, and the work before us had its origin in the lectures, which he there delivered. Four years after the publication of these two volumes, which are all that has yet appeared, he was appointed by the king of Prussia resident minister at Rome, for the purpose of enabling him to pursue his studies in Roman history, to greater advantage, among the ruins of the ancient Roman capital. It was among these ruins, that Gibbon informs us he was himself inspired with the idea of writing the history of the decline and fall of the Roman empire. The mission of Mr von Niebuhr for an object like this, is one of the many judicious acts of literary patronage, which do honor to the present king of Prussia, and will entitle him to the charity of after ages, when the royal congresses and holy alliances, of which he is a member, will be forgotten, or remembered with disgust. On his way to Italy, in a visit of only two days at Verona, Mr von Niebuhr made the brilliant discovery of the rewritten manuscript of the institutions
of Gaius, of which we gave a particular account in our number for April 1821; and which, on the shelves of the Cathedral library, had escaped the well trained eye of Maffei, during the long life, which he passed in the neighborhood of that library. Nor have our author's researches been without success among the manuscripts of the Vatican. Several fragments of orations of Cicero have been discovered by him, since his residence at Rome; where he occupies as a dwelling what remains of the theatre of Marcellus and forms the wall of the palace Orsini. Few situations can be imagined more enviable than that of a scholar, thus placed by the deserved liberality of his sovereign, in a situation for prosecuting his inquiries into the history of ancient nations, among the spots where still exist the best preserved ancient monuments and the richest modern collections. One cannot but look forward, with a keen interest to the remaining volumes of the history of Rome, written by Mr von Niebuhr, with the treasures of the Vatican within his reach, from the theatre of Marcellus, and within sight of the forum.
It was originally our author's intention, as he informs us in his preface, to publish his lectures as he delivered them, comprising the Roman history from the earliest periods to the downfall of the empire. On preparing them for the press, however, he was led to give them a more systematic form, and to remould them as a history of Rome, which he proposes only to bring down to the period where Gibbon begins, whose work he justly regards as filling up the department of Roman history from that point. With regard to the works of Beaufort and Levesque, mentioned in the extract we have given above from the Quarterly Review, as anticipating some of our author's speculations, we deem it just to quote his own words, as they appear in the preface :
'Of modern treatises on Roman history I have made no use, neither in my previous studies, nor in the preparation of my lectures. In this way, I have been spared the necessity of engaging in controversy, which the nature of my work rejected, and which in itself is of little advantage to learning, and well compensated by exact and faithful investigation. If the opinion advanced is shown to be true or most probable, there needs no particular refutation of the opposite doctrine. Where, however, as in the case of Beaufort's critical dissertation, similar investigations of others have lead to like results, it has been partly impossible, partly superfluous, to make a distinct appeal to their writings. I read
the work of Beaufort for the first time, when the first volume of mine was advanced in the printing. And both in the remainder of the first and the whole of the second volume, whatever resemblance exists, is entirely matter of coincidence; so that he is to be regarded rather as my voucher, than predecessor. Nor was I earlier acquainted with the history of Levesque. Beaufort's investigations and doubts are there assumed. With the exception of them and the conjecture of the Etruscan origin of Rome, few points of resemblance will be found between our works.'
'Micale's history of ancient Italy has as little fulfilled my wishes, as it does justice to the advantages, which every Italian historian must possess over a transalpine, in this competition. His atlas, however, is highly valuable.'
We cannot but think, that our author has here expressed himself with too great severity of Micale's Italia avanti il dominio dei Romani, a work originally written at the instance of Napoleon, and handsomely rewarded by him. Though certainly inferior, in all points, to Mr von Niebuhr's work, it is still a learned and useful treatise. A slight notice of it, apparently from a French pen, in the January number of the New Monthly Magazine, has condemned it, on the score of want of authorities; a judgment, which sufficiently shews, that the critic, who pronounced it, had not read the book. scholar like Niebuhr may really find it and have a right to pronounce it unsatisfactory. But a man must be well read in the Italian antiquities-and that too avanti i Romani-not to be instructed by Micale.
Though our author's object is the history of Rome, he prepares himself and his reader for this leading theme, by the inquiry into the tribes, who preceded the Romans in Italy. Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona-Romulus and Remus are but new comers on the Italian soil. To penetrate the darkness and fable, which obscure the origin of Rome, nothing, of course, can be more advantageous, than to collect, arrange, and estimate the traditions relative to earlier Italian tribes ; so that at all events we may be saved from believing any thing relative to the Roman state, inconsistent with what we know of earlier communities in the same region. Our author thus expresses himself on this point, in the first chapter of his history:
Rome, in the beginning of its history, is a very small district of Italy. The peculiarities, which distinguish the Roman people, New Series, No. 14.