We know very little about this poorer population of Rome.
They must have lived from hand to mouth. Since their votes controlled
elections, they were courted by candidates for office and kept from
grumbling by being fed and amused. Such poor citizens, too lazy for steady
work, too intelligent to starve, formed, with the other riffraff of a great
city, the elements of a dangerous mob. And the mob, henceforth, plays an ever-
larger part in the history of the times.
HELLENIC INFLUENCE AT ROME
We must not imagine, however, that all the changes in
Roman life worked for evil. If the Romans were becoming more luxurious, they
were likewise gaining in culture. The conquests which brought Rome in touch,
first with Magna Graecia and Sicily, then with Greece itself and the Hellenic
East, prepared the way for the entrance of Hellenism. Roman soldiers and
traders carried back to Italy an acquaintance with Greek customs and ideas. Thousands
of cultivated Greeks, some as slaves, others as freemen, settled in the capital
as actors, physicians, artists, and writers. There they introduced the Greek
language, as well as the religion, literature, and art of their native land.
Roman nobles of the better type began to take an interest in other things than
simply farming, commerce, or war. They imitated Greek fashions in dress and
manners, collected Greek books, and filled their homes with the productions of
Greek artists. Henceforth every aspect of Roman society felt the quickening
influence of the older, richer culture of the Hellenic world. It was a Roman
poet who wrote, "Captive Greece captured her conqueror rude."