Condition of the Empire under Augustus

The Roman Empire under Augustus consisted of Italy and the following countries governed as provinces: - In Europe, Sicily, Sardinia, and the other islands in the west of the Mediterranean, Gaul as far as the Rhine, Spain, Illyricum, Dalmatia, Pannonia, Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, and the islands of the Aegean; in Asia, all the countries between the Caspian Sea, the Parthian Empire, the Persian and Arabian Gulfs, the Mediterranean, and the Caucasus; and in Africa, Mauritania, Numidia, the ancient territory of Carthage, Cyrene, and Egypt. Within these limits there may have been included, in all, about 100,000,000 of human beings, of different races, complexions, languages, and degrees of civilization. Not less than one-half of the whole number must have been in a condition of slavery, and of the rest, only that small proportion who, under the envied name of Roman citizens, inhabited Italy, or were distributed, in official or other capacities, through the cities of the Empire, enjoyed political independence. These citizens,' diffused through the conquered countries, constituted the ingredient by which the whole was kept in union. Working backwards and forwards in the midst of the various populations in which they were thus planted, the Romans assimilated them gradually to each other, till Celts, Spaniards, Asiatics, etc., became more or less Romanized. This process of assimilation was much facilitated by the circumstance that, with the exception of Judea and other portions of the East, all the nations of the Roman Empire were polytheistic in their beliefs, so that there was no fundamental repugnance in this respect between the modes of thought of one nation and those of another. In fact, the Roman Empire may be defined as a compulsory assemblage of polytheistic nations, in order that Christianity might operate over a large surface at once of that polytheism which it was to destroy and supersede. In the twenty fifth year of the reign of Augustus, and while that prince was ruling with undisturbed sway over 100,000,000 of fellow-polytheists, there took place in that small monotheistic corner of his dominions which lay on the southern border of the Levant, an event, the importance of which the wisest of the Romans could not have foreseen. This was the birth, in an obscure Jewish town, of Jesus Christ. From that town, and from that obscure corner of the vast Roman Empire, was to proceed an influence which was to overspread the polytheistic nations, eat out or dissolve into itself all existing creeds and philosophies, and renovate the thoughts, the habits, the whole constitution of mankind. Waiting for this influence, the various nations - Celts, Greeks, Spaniards, etc., were submitted to the preliminary pressure of Roman institutions, modifying, and in some cases changing, their native characters. The eastern half of the Empire, however, had been too thoroughly impregnated with the Greek element to yield easily to the new pressure; and accordingly while the Latin language spread among the barbarians of the west, Greek still continued to be the language of the East. This demarcation between the western or Latin-speaking and the eastern or Greek-speaking portions of the Empire became exceedingly important afterwards.