THE MINDS AND HOMES OF ROME ENRICHED

ROME was filled with the wealth of the world, and the old spirit of frugality gave way to extravagant luxury. Refinement in housing and manners led to attempted refinement in culture. Greece took her savage capturer captive. Even Cato, who had inveighed against the new-fangled learning, himself learnt Greek in . his old age. Roman education had demanded little more from a boy than an elementary knowledge of the three R's. This was now supplemented by training in Greek literature; Greek tragedies and comedies were translated into Latin, and teachers of rhetoric found ready pupils. Two writers of comedy, Plautus and Terence, who nourished after the second Punic War, wrote fairly original plays based on Greek models. The Roman mob, however, preferred to watch the organised brutality of gladiators fighting to the death, and the breath-taking struggles of the chariot races. Rome was crowded with an unemployed population, eking out a living on free corn distributed by the State, and bribes dispensed liberally by rival seekers for office. The second Punic War had laid waste large districts of Italy, and many soldiers who had found country life dull after the excitement of war sold their ancestral farms and drifted to Rome. Rich men bought up the small estates, and formed large sheep farms worked by gangs of slaves. Even if a man wanted to keep his farm, he could not compete with the cheap grain which poured in from Sicily, Africa, and Egypt. Large areas of the country went out of cultivation altogether. The slaves, made savage by their treatment, broke out in ferocious revolt, which was as ferociously repressed. In 73 B.C. a gladiator, Spartacus by name, rallied discontented gladiators and slaves and terrorised Southern Italy for two years. The roads of Italy were infested by bands of robbers. In the provinces things were even worse. It seemed as though revolution was imminent.