The researches of Niebuhr and several other distinguished German scholars have thrown a new light on Roman History, and enabled us to discover the true constitution of that republic which once ruled the destinies of the known world, and the influence of whose literature and laws is still powerful in every civilized state, and will probably continue to be felt to the remotest posterity. These discoveries have, however, been hitherto useless to junior students in this country; the works of the German critics being unsuited to the purposes of schools, not only from their price, but also from the extensive learning requisite to follow them through their laborious disquisitions. The editor has, therefore, thought that it would be no unacceptable service, to prefix a few Introductory Chapters, detailing such results from their inquiries as best elucidate the character and condition of the Roman people, and explain the most important portion of the history. The struggles between the patricians and plebeians, respecting the agrarian laws have been so strangely misrepresented, even by some of the best historians, that the nature of the contest may, with truth, be said to have been wholly misunderstood before the publication of Niebuhr's work: a perfect explanation of these important matters cannot be expected in a work of this kind; the Editors trust that the brief account given here of the Roman tenure of land, and the nature of the agrarian laws, will be found sufficient for all practical purposes. After all the researches that have been made, the true origin of the Latin people, and even of the Roman city, is involved in impenetrable obscurity; the legendary traditions collected by the historians are, however, the best guides that we can now follow; but it would be absurd to bestow implicit credit on all the accounts they have given, and the editor has, therefore, pointed out the uncertain nature of the early history, not to encourage scepticism, but to accustom students to consider the nature of historical evidence, and thus early form the useful habit of criticising and weighing testimony.
The authorities followed in the geographical chapters, are principally Heeren and Cramer; the treatise of the latter on ancient Italy is one of the most valuable aids acquired by historical students within the present century. Much important information respecting the peculiar character of the Roman religion has been derived from Mr. Keightley's excellent Treatise on Mythology; the only writer who has, in our language, hitherto, explained the difference between the religious systems of Greece and Rome. The account of the barbarians in the conclusion of the volume, is, for the most part, extracted from "Koch's Revolutions of Europe;" the sources of the notes, scattered through the volume, are too varied for a distinct acknowledgment of each.
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