Classics 300-i: pagan culture

Classics 300-I: Pagan Culture The Pillars of the Roman Empire’s Success: A Two-Pronged Approach Michael Wharton SID: 008977239 J. Mark Sugars (F12) Throughout human history on Earth, both ancient and modern, empires have existed in a cyclical fashion in both the microscopic and macroscopic worlds. Far and wide, however, only one comes readily to mind when in need of a ruler by which to judge the efficacy and longevity of any of these. The Roman Empire has stood as a shining example of the perfect, imperfect society since it was founded in 753 B. C. due to its historic permanence and sheer size, qualities thought to speak to its validity as an empire. How could any culture or government or people last as long as the Romans did without some innovative design in structure, secret peace-keeping strategy, or a proverbial “ iron fist in a velvet glove? ” Rome’s historic status aside, questions akin to these have plagued the learnẻ d since its founding and even till today the questions remain largely subjective and unanswered. For my part I would have to say that the success of the Empire rests largely with its ability to rule the conquered peoples in an almost paternal way as well as integrate itself into the societies and cultures they conquered on their climb up the ladder of fame. When the first glimpse of the Roman Empire is exposed to a young mind the first impression is often the sheer magnitude and size of it. It is hard to comprehend something that existed so long ago yet stretched across huge amounts of land and within which, today, entire countries now fit side by side. The territories rebelled, fought civil wars, and attempted succession on many occasions but always Rome won and maintained control or at least the times they did not are far out-weighed. How this was managed is due to many variables but in my own opinion it was due largely to its style of government, by which I do not necessarily mean the senate that existed in the capitol, but the entire system right down the military presence established in every conquered city, town, and hamlet. Rome’s governing body was known as the Senate and consisted of the eldest mentally functioning member of the aristocratic families in Rome called the pater which literally Latin word for “ father. ” They existed with three basic responsibilities; to serve as the executive power, the council to the king, and the legislative body representing the will of the common people of Rome. It was founded in the first days of the Empire in 753 B. C. and survived the coup d’état of kings, fall of the Roman Republic, the split of the Roman Empire, and even the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 410 A. D. The system was not fool proof to say the least, and was abused on many occasions, but it was more than effective at retaining order and peace within the borders of the society for hundreds of years. This was due to the structure that existed within the Roman Senate starting with the fact that the patricians maintained power to make important decisions. Decreasing in power beneath them were equestrians, wealthy individual families making up the aristocracy, all the way down to the plebeians or common people. Now it goes without saying that it takes more than one governing body to hold sway over a captured people, someone has to remain after the battle is won to ensure the continued control of the conquerors. In Rome the military filled this role by establishing outposts and at least a small military presence in each of the territories they took over. It was this strategy which gave the Romans the ability to last for so long. At a moment’s notice they could conscript the natives to fight for them, they made them pay taxes to support the kingdom, and provided protection and support in return. The intricate network established by all these captured territories meant that a huge number of people were at the disposal of the government to tap for resources. With Rome being such an enormous metaphorical beast it took unending revenues and support to keep going. They gave the people advances in technology, medicine, and learning of all sorts as well as protection and sanitation. The peoples became begrudgingly dependent on the Empire and while they may have occasionally thrown tantrums and dragged their heels when performing the duties asked and required of them, much like children in their group think mentality, the Senate and ruling parties never gave in to them but put them in their place, punished them when needed, and in effect took a paternal role in their kingdom. The popular movie “ The Godfather Part II” feature a quote which I believe Rome took to heart thousands of years before it hit the big screen, “ Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. ” In effect what this would mean is that in order to keep the entire vast network of different peoples across the globe under the rule of the Roman Empire there had to be a system in place 24/7 which could monitor them and ensure no unrest. While the military provided this to a certain extent, their role fell more into the damage control category where they would react and control only after the event took place. The system that Rome put into place was genius in its simplicity and historic in its effectiveness. It is essentially a variant of the age old trick of identifying with your captive so they will trust you, forcing a Stockholm syndrome behavior that leads to a positive outcome without the captive feeling as though he or she compromised. When Rome took over a city, town, or territory citizens would migrate to live there bringing with them their culture and values. They would assimilate into the native population, learn the language, and even take on some of the natives cultural attributes. What this accomplished was two-fold; by integrating the two peoples they became not two but one and generations down the line the distinction became blurred or even inseparable which allowed for a single identity to form where they all fell under the rule of the Roman Empire, and since they were indeed Roman, they had no cause to rebel or tug against the bit of the Empire’s reins. In addition this melding provided the kingdom with such a diverse melting pot of traditions of culture, religion, learning, and societal rites that everyone would feel at least some connection to the Empire as a whole, and that sense of identification made the control over them that much more psychologically secure. No one fights against the people they feel connected to, so what is the best way to make a conquered people stop fighting and join you? Give them some awe inspiring advances and modern comforts which increase their standard of living and make them a part of you group. It is a simple idea in its roots but so effective that not only did it put one of the largest and longest lasting empires in the history books, it is still used today by groups large and small around the world with just as effective results. There are a multitude of reasons why the Roman Empire stretches as far as it does on the timeline pinned up around your middle school home room. It was a truly great era despite its short comings and pitfalls. The supporting factors that made it this way are in a list as long as a man’s arm, so the question we face today when studying this subject is not how it lasted, as these could be found on that list. The question is what factor or two had the largest contribution to it. To say it was simply their overwhelming military prowess is akin to an uneducated guess because history has shown time and time again that military superiority, while effective in the short term view, is only effective in the long term as a deterrent because as generations pass, citizens would not have the memories of war that kept their forefathers from fighting back. Indeed there are several examples before and since then where a smaller force has stood up to a larger one, not the least of which would be the founding war of the United States of America. To truly win over such a diverse congregation of peoples and cultures generation after generation you have to win over their hearts and minds and their bodies will follow. Show no weakness for any rebellion or outburst of violence, use that military superiority to solve those short term problems, but when all is said and done you have to have their heart and minds on your side to truly say they are part of the Empire. The Romans did this with their integration of cultures again and again with each new conquest till the entire empire was uniform yet incredibly diverse. It was these two facts alone that stand as the pillars of the Roman Empires success for almost a thousand years and a legacy that will live on in written history and word forever. Works Cited Dyson, Stephen L. The Creation of the Roman Frontier. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987. History Learning Site. 2000-2012. 24 September 2012. Shelton, Jo-Ann. As the Romans Did. 2nd. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 1998. Text. Whittaker, C. R. Frontiers of the Roman Empire: A Social and Economic Study. The John Hopkins University Press, 1997. Text. Williams, Derek. The Reach of Rome: A History of the Roman Imperial Frontier 1st-5th Centuries A. D. New York: St. Martins Press, 1997.