|The Discovery of New Worlds|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book II of the Story of the World series. Relates the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the middle ages in Europe, the rise of Islam and the Crusades, and finally the age of exploration, and the establishment of trade with the Far East. The book concludes with the discoveries of Columbus and the Spanish settlements in the New World. Ages 10-18 |
THE ROMAN WORLD
"Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change."
 IN this new century, the story of the world was the story of Rome herself, for she ruled over nearly all the world
that was known to the men of these olden times.
Let us remember that we are still talking of two thousand years ago, though we have almost unconsciously glided
from the era known as B.C.—that is, Before Christ—to that known as A.D., Anno Domini, the year of our Lord.
It is sometimes hard to realise all that had happened before this time in the far-off ages of long ago. And yet
it is all so interesting and so vastly important. It shows us how earnest work and toil raised each nation in
turn to a high position,
 and how the acquisition of wealth or the greed of conquest brought that nation low.
We must now see how Rome too,—"Golden Rome," as she was called by the poets of her day,—the Mistress of the
World, fell, owing to her desire for wealth and display, indolence and luxury, and how great and terrible was
While the child Christ
was growing up in his quiet home in the East, Cæsar Augustus was still ruling the great Roman world, of which
Rome itself was the centre. Augustus did what he could to make Rome, the capital of the whole world, worthy of
Like Pericles at Athens in the olden days, he built beautiful buildings and tried to make the city as famous as
possible. Many races met within her gates, many languages were spoken in her streets. Eastern princes and
wildly-clad Britons and Gauls, low-browed Egyptians and sunburnt Spaniards,—all might have been seen at this
time in the Forum at Rome, together with the Romans and Greeks.
Anxious to communicate with all parts of his mighty empire, Augustus started the imperial post. At certain
stations along the great military roads, which now stretched from Rome to Cadiz in Spain, as well as to the
coasts of France and Holland, he established settlements. Officers and messengers, with horses and mules, were
ready to ride
 off, at a moment's notice, with messages from the emperor, to those who were ruling provinces under him. Along
these great roads the legions of Rome were continually marching to and from the provinces, their tall helmets
flashing in the sunlight as they tramped along the paved roads to protect the interests of Rome in distant
The "Queen of Roman Roads," as it was called, was that known as the Appian Way, along which passed the traffic
between Rome and the South, extending to Brindisi. It was a splendid road, broad enough for two carriages to
pass one another, and built of hard stones hewn smooth.
Thus the countries dependent on Rome could pour their produce into the Golden City; while on the other hand the
famous Augustan roads, starting from the golden milestone in the Forum,—the very heart of the
Empire,—carried Roman civilisation and life to the western limits of Europe.
Then there were Roman possessions across the sea.
The whole northern coast of Africa was hers, from Carthage
Alexandria was at this time second only to Rome itself: as a centre for commerce she stood at the head of all
the cities in the world.
Egypt supplied Rome with grain, which was shipped from Alexandria; the traffic of the East
 and West met in her streets; she had the finest Greek library in the world, and she was famous for her scholars
But the reign of the emperor Augustus was drawing to its end. He was an old man now, and he had reigned over
the empire forty-five years.
There had been peace throughout the latter part of his reign, disturbed only by one battle. This was in
Germany, when the Germans won a victory over the consul Varus. It preyed on the mind of the old emperor, and he
would sit grieving over it, at times beating his head against the wall and crying "Varus, Varus, give me back
He was never the same again. He set his empire in order and prepared for death.
"Do you think I have played my part well on the stage of life?" he asked those who stood round him, as he
arranged his grey hair and beard before a mirror which he had called for.
Compared with those that came after, he had indeed played his part well. The Romans delighted to honour him.
They called the sixth month in the Roman year, August, after him, just as they had called the month before,
July, after Julius Cæsar, and these names have lasted to this very day.
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