At our schools and universities we read the great writers of the last age of the Republic, and learn something of its political and constitutional history; but there is no book in our language which supplies a picture of life and manners, of education, morals, and religion in that intensely interesting period. In the Ciceronian correspondence, of more than nine hundred contemporary letters, we have the richest treasure-house of social life that has survived from any period of classical antiquity.
t was also, as it turned out, an admirable base of operations for carrying on war in the long and narrow peninsula, so awkward, as Hannibal found to his cost, for working out a definite plan of conquest. From Rome, astride of the Tiber, armies could operate on "interior lines" against any combination--could strike north, east, and south at the same moment. With Latium faithful behind her she could not be taken in the rear; the unconquerable Hannibal did indeed approach her once on that side, but fell away again like a wave on a rocky shore. From the sea no enemy ever attempted to reach her till Genseric landed at Ostia in A.D. 455.
Thus it is not difficult to understand how Rome came to be the leading city of Latium; how she came to work her conquering way into Etruria to the north, the land of a strange people who at one time threatened to dominate the whole of Italy; how she advanced up the Tiber valley and its affluents into the heart of the Apennines, and southward into the Oscan country of Samnium