Most of the early Romans were peasants. The farmer, clad simply in his tunic, a loose woolen garment which reached the knee, and resembled the chiton, followed his bronze-shod plow drawn by a yoke of cattle. His narrow mind held only sober, practical ideas; for he saw nothing of the world beyond the mountains bordering the plain of the Tiber mountains which inspired him with no love of the beautiful and the grand, but rather with a feeling of hatred for the enemies who were wont to sweep down from them upon his little field.
He cherished no dreams of military glory or world conquest; only when an enemy attacked did he seize his weapons and join his neighbors to defend his home and fields. Cincinnatus, called from the plow to the dictator-ship of the republic, is a typical Roman character. It was in the early days of hardy, rugged life that the ideals - social, economic, governmental - which dominated Rome through her long history, were formed. In her later centuries, every reform in morals or politics was a harking back to these ancient standards. As the great families became powerful and wealthy, they acquired vast estates, cultivated by armies of slaves; but the ancestral virtues of simplicity, industry, and homely integrity were studiously maintained.