A CHANCE THE EMPIRE-BUILDERS MISSED

IN the struggle with Carthage, Rome, however unintentionally, had been the champion of civilisation. A Carthaginian victory would have choked the channels by which the achievements of Greece were being conveyed to the West. But the Roman Senate did not fully grasp its opportunity, and never conceived the possibility of incorporating the provinces in the Roman state. Each province as it was conquered received a Roman governor with unlimited civil and military power. The governor was not trained for his position and his brief period of service gave him no chance of acquiring experience. There was no body of civil servants to establish any continuity of practice, but each governor took out with him his own staff which was as inexperienced as himself. The provincials were permitted to retain local self-government but were disarmed and not allowed to make war independently. Taxes were imposed, but the collection of them was farmed out to private capitalists, with the result that the helpless provincials were fleeced by tax-gatherers as well as by governors. Their only hope of redress lay in a direct appeal to Rome. In 149 B.C. a court was established to hear charges of extortion against governors, but Rome was far away, and the Senate, which should have been the agent of justice, was composed of friends and relations of the accused, and lavish bribery nearly always secured an acquittal.