Roman Conservative & Imperial Responses
The Roman authorities, whether republican or imperial, did not passively accept these developments. Engels observes that “[f]rom the second century B.C., a large number of conservative politicians opposed with a marked traditionalism the Hellenization of the Roman elite and the Orientalization of the population” (142). This was embodied above all by Cato the Elder, who argued that Greek culture, which had become so rational, skeptical, and cosmopolitan, would mean the end of Rome:
Concerning those Greeks, son Marcus, I will speak to you more at length on the befitting occasion. I will show you the results of my own experience at Athens, and that, while it is a good plan to dip into their literature, it is not worth while to make a thorough acquaintance with it. They are a most iniquitous and intractable race, and you may take my word as the word of a prophet, when I tell you, that whenever that nation shall bestow its literature upon Rome it will mar everything. (Pliny, Natural History, 29.7)
In terms of immigration, as previously mentioned, Gaius Papius had on behalf of the people apparently sought to expel non-Italic foreigners from the city altogether. Augustus later limited the emancipation of slaves, “lest they should fill the city with a promiscuous rabble; also that they should not enroll large numbers as citizens, in order that there should be a marked difference between themselves and the subject nations” (Cassius Dio, 56.33).
The Roman leadership also sought to counter native demographic decline. As early as 131 B.C., the censor Quintus Metellus Macedonicus urged making marriage mandatory. Later, “in order to ensure the biological survival of the Roman elite, Augustus . . . decreed very unpopular laws” (83), including making marriage mandatory for men between 25 and 60 and making divorce more difficult. The emperor is supposed to have justified the measures as follows:
For surely it is not your delight in a solitary existence that leads you to live without wives, nor is there one of you who either eats alone or sleeps alone; no, what you want is to have full liberty for wantonness and licentiousness. … For you see for yourselves how much more numerous you are than the married men, when you ought by this time to have provided us with as many children besides, or rather with several times your number. How otherwise can families continue? How can the State be preserved, if we neither marry nor have children? . . . And yet it is neither right nor creditable that our race should cease, and the name of Romans be blotted out with us, and the city be given over to foreigners — Greeks or even barbarians. Do we not free our slaves chiefly for the express purpose of making out of them as many citizens as possible? And do we not give our allies a share in the government in order that our numbers may increase? And do you, then, who are Romans from the beginning and claim as your ancestors the famous Marcii, the Fabii, the Quintii, the Valerii, and the Julii, do you desire that your families and names alike shall perish with you? (Cassius Dio, 56.7–8)