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Thread: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

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    Ghost in the Shell Member Connacht's Avatar
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    Default The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    I wanted to start with this interesting quote (from the Italian journalist Indro Montanelli) about the role of Rome as a synthesis of civilizations:

    If we see things from above and give them a reason, we could say that Rome was born with a mission, that she accomplished it and with it ended.
    That mission was to recollect the civilizations that came before her, the Greek one, the Eastern one, the Egyptian, Carthaginian, Celtic ones, to merge them and spread them in Europe and in the Mediterranean Basin.
    Rome didn't invent so much in philosophy, art or science, but gave them roads for their circulation, armies for defending them, a formidable and complex system of law to guarantee their developement in order, and a language for making them universal.
    Rome didn't invent even political forms: monarchy and republic, aristocracy and democracy, liberalism and dispotism, were already tested before. But she made them models, and in every one of them was brilliant for practical and organizative genius.

    Abdicating with Constantine, Rome left her administrative structure to Constantinople, who survived for other 1000 years. And even the Christianity, in order to triumph in the world, had to became Roman. Saint Peter well understood that only by travelling in the Via Appia, Cassia, Aurelia and all the other highways built by Roman engineers, not the labile paths travelling the desert, the disciples of Jesus would have spred in the Earth.
    His successors would have been called Pontefices Maximi just like those who managed religious questions in the pagan Urbs. And against the austerity of the Jewish rule, they introduced in the new liturgy many elements of the pagan one: the pomp and spectacularity of some ceremonies, Latin language, even a little vein of polytheism in the veneration of saints.
    So, no more as the political centre of an empire, but as the mastermind of Christianity, Rome became again Caput Mundi, and remained so until the Protestant reformation.
    And thus start a discussion about what was the practical legacy of Rome in her recollecting and mixing various different cultures and civilizations, before forging a new collective ideal which then became the basis for the modern European nations.
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    Athena's favorite Member Vlixes's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    According to Theodor Mommsen one of the strengts and particular being of the Romans was the sub-ordination of the individual to the family, community and the state, in as much these meant a superior ideal. On the other side, the Greeks felt too much their individuality and accordingly the state, the community or even the family was sub-ordinate to the individual. Mommsen gives a nice example: the insignificance for the Romans of the individual names and the significance of individual names for the Greeks.
    So, is perhaps that sense of supraindividuality the one who allowed the Romans to adapt all good things about other cultures, and thus became the most powerful in the ancient world.
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Have to say, I disagree; with the basic premise that Rome's legacy was a good thing. Patrician Rome won, that's the bottom line. Mommsen said many things about the Romans (from the perspective of a German Imperialist) which don't really match up with reality. Are there really any examples of Roman leaders who willingly put aside their own dignity, authority, power or wealth for the betterment of the state? Don't be daft. the whole political structure was based upon competition and exceeding their ancestor's glory.

    Whatever the origins of the Christian church its value to Europe (to Europe's burgeoning post-Roman elite) was as the enabler of inherited royal authority.

    I think George Bernard Shaw put it best in his prologue to Caesar and Cleopatra

    " Then the old Rome, like the beggar on horseback, presumed on the favor of the gods, and said, "Lo! there is neither riches nor greatness in our littleness: the road to riches and greatness is through robbery of the poor and slaughter of the weak." So they robbed their own poor until they became great masters of that art, and knew by what laws it could be made to appear seemly and honest. And when they had squeezed their own poor dry, they robbed the poor of other lands, and added those lands to Rome until there came a new Rome, rich and huge. And I, Ra, laughed; for the minds of the Romans remained the same size whilst their dominion spread over the earth."

    The banking system, swollen bureaucracies, inheritable privilege, military adventurism and Imperial apologists, slavery. None of them invented by, but all of them perfected by Rome.
    Last edited by Gaius Sempronius Gracchus; 07-08-2013 at 20:51.

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    Now sporting a classic avatar! Member fallen851's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    That is a very interesting perspective Gracchus. While I am inclined to agree with you, I wonder if those things you refer to in your last line are flaws not just of Rome, but of mankind itself.

    If so, then it is a lot easier to overlook them and focus on the things Rome did that other civilizations weren't doing. As you said, the Romans didn't invent those things, and they were certainly happening in other places. But the Romans did a great many things to advance mankind that other civilizations did not do. Perhaps that is reason alone to celebrate the Romans.
    Last edited by fallen851; 07-09-2013 at 11:12.
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Those are the legacies that Rome left to Europe, imo, either through the remnants of Roman administration or through the auspices of the Roman church. If there are other, better things then I'm interested to know what they were.

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    Member Member Picenian's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    well first of all thanks to Connacht for quoting one of my favorite books ever, read it like 6 times between childhood and nowadays!

    Then, I personally agree with Montanelli's analysis, but only on an ideal point of view. And I think that is also what he had in mind. I think one can agree with those words only if he can think about the ideal Rome that was much different from the actual Rome (exactly like ideal democracy and actual democracy of our times). Montanelli is talkin about the system of values and ideals that forged the Empire, and was most represented by Rome's efforts during the first two Punic Wars and, in general, before Romans became too rich to care about the mos maiorum ;)

    But honestly I don't think that Christianity was the prosecution of the Empire. Christianity USED the structure created by the Empire to propagate its morals and ideals that were quite opposite to those on which Rome was founded ("all men are created equal" versus "some men are better by birth"). Personally I think this apparently benign vision led to the mass slavery known as "feudalism". The average Roman citizen may not have been richer than the feudal farmer, but surely he was more free and probably more cultured. Plus, let's remember that Christians in their early days operated a HUGE "selection" of pagan culture (ie, the burning of Alexandria's library...) so I don't think the Church continued what Rome had begun, I just think they exploited it and had to come at some kind of deal with pagan culture (The cult of the saints is the most brilliant example). What I mean is: if Christianity was taught to illiterate savages in a remote corner of the world, it would have been much more brutal and oppressive but also less succesfull. But to me, at least on a cultural and social basis, it was just a massive pejoration of the previous state of things.
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    I think you can neither free (european)Christianity or the Romans of the blame for the bad things the other did. In the same way Rome changed christianity Christianity changed rome. But I don't think we should discuss the quality of Christianity here, we can judge the romans, there all dead, we can't do the same with the Christians of which there are quite a lot, without provoking a flamewar.

    Short of the time to write something comprehensive, I'll just toss in the Reichsidee in here. Or rather the necessity of Empires. Is it really neccessary that "we" subdue, massacrate, assimilate, defeat... other peoples and rule them from one central point? The (classical)Greeks and the Swiss lived/live pretty well without an empire.
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Quote Originally Posted by Ca Putt View Post
    I think you can neither free (european)Christianity or the Romans of the blame for the bad things the other did. In the same way Rome changed christianity Christianity changed rome. But I don't think we should discuss the quality of Christianity here, we can judge the romans, there all dead, we can't do the same with the Christians of which there are quite a lot, without provoking a flamewar.

    Short of the time to write something comprehensive, I'll just toss in the Reichsidee in here. Or rather the necessity of Empires. Is it really neccessary that "we" subdue, massacrate, assimilate, defeat... other peoples and rule them from one central point? The (classical)Greeks and the Swiss lived/live pretty well without an empire.
    A very good question, and one of the legacies of Rome (the Imperial ideal - 'civilising' the savages in spite of themselves - Imperial apologia). I read a book, a while ago - and the name of it escapes me, sorry - which examined the effect of increasing power by Athens on local (Attica) rural and craft communities. It showed quite convincingly that these communities were progressively impoverished through expansion. We see the same thing happened with Rome, with the development of Latifundia and the decline of small-hold farmers. Empires drive massive wealth for an elite, always at the cost of many, many other human beings.

    As for the Church. I'm not attacking Christianity or Christians but the political institution of the Roman church(the Roman church as a political power). The views held by that church were, I would argue, at great variance with the views of Christians today - in the same way that most Christians would be appalled by the likes of the Borgias et al - they were products of the church machinery, and a clue that all was not as Christian as it could have been.

    I'm not sure how feudalism can be constructed on the basis of all men being equal; and that was certainly not a concept held dear by the early, expansionist machinery of the church. their job was to bolster kingly power (through the provision of 'genealogies' and spreading the idea of 'rightful' rule) - that institution had a very cosy relationship with the early royalty and nobility - in fact it was generally an extension of them. That institution used the church to proclaim hell and damnation on those not aligned with the 'natural order'. As I said, whatever the beginnings of Christianity (and I should add, whatever Christianity might be now) the early church was not reflective of that, but was an extension of Patrician Rome.
    Last edited by Gaius Sempronius Gracchus; 07-09-2013 at 18:36.

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    Now sporting a classic avatar! Member fallen851's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Quote Originally Posted by Ca Putt View Post
    I think you can neither free (european)Christianity or the Romans of the blame for the bad things the other did. In the same way Rome changed christianity Christianity changed rome. But I don't think we should discuss the quality of Christianity here, we can judge the romans, there all dead, we can't do the same with the Christians of which there are quite a lot, without provoking a flamewar.

    Short of the time to write something comprehensive, I'll just toss in the Reichsidee in here. Or rather the necessity of Empires. Is it really neccessary that "we" subdue, massacrate, assimilate, defeat... other peoples and rule them from one central point? The (classical)Greeks and the Swiss lived/live pretty well without an empire.
    The classical Greeks were at times one battle away from being assimilated into an empire. And when Rome came along, they were assimilated. In this sense, Empires are necessary. Independence and safety are only guaranteed in force supported by numbers.

    Today, some small nations don't have a standing army. They know that any power that has the force and resources to mount an offensive and cross over their borders would defeat their army even if they had one. Their independence and safety are simply not guaranteed.
    Last edited by fallen851; 07-09-2013 at 21:53.
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  10. #10

    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    As for the Church.
    excuse my poor wording I meant offcource the roman catholic chruch as an institution.

    The classical Greeks were at times one battle away from being assimilated into an empire. And when Rome came along, they were assimilated. In this sense, Empires are necessary. Independence and safety are only guaranteed in force supported by numbers.
    That's not my point. It is clear that Militaristic Empires tend to conquer autonomous communities with loose ties, due to superior military and cohesion. But that does not make Empires Structurally necessary for humanity itself. There is no inherent Imperative that forces us to form empires. With the existance of empires however the Autonomy of those without the urge to conquer, enslave.... other people is severely endagered.
    Also classical Greece was Conquered by the Macedonians(so an empire), who then, in turn were conquered by the romans.

    This is not about safety this is about the possibility of living without an empire.

    While European Feudalism was supported by Christianity and indeed had been "invented"(lots of salt here) as synthesis of Christianity and Germanic tradition. Many aspects are similar to Social orders in other parts of the world, which are thus often discribed as "Feudalism", While this is offcource incorrect, there are significant similarities that show that it's not all that bound to the Roman empire, or the Roman catholic church. A warrior elite(thus nobles) opressing a vast amount of Peasants is neither a very creative concept nor does it require a specific religion. The ancient world had this aswell, however in many instances the Geography and technology favored Spearmen over Riders which offcource leads to a larger part of the population being "eligable" warriors - aka able to opress the rest of the population. Thus many Greek cities were ruled semi-democratic. It seems tho I'm rambling off.

    Praising rome has a very long history but I don't think we can continue it given our current morality. Medieval people worshipped rome as it had given them part of their justification, the Renaissance worshipped rome as all culture that had survived the middleages(and the church), was more or less roman, Imperialism(all sorts of) worshipped rome because ... well that's easy. Past Historians and the like admired Rome for it's power and virgilence in crushing people that don't even have the decency to write down their history, the shier Force of the state and boldness of Individual(depending on what they find admirable).
    But today we always ask ourselves "was it good?", "Was it right?", "Was it just?", "Is that Genocide?", now to some these categories are petty and closeminded, but that IS the way we judge things today. And lets take a look at those motives:
    Justification for a system we today consider bad, I'd call that a bad thing.
    If you don't have anything else offcource that's what you like but today we a) have some other things, and b) know that the romans acitively disposed of these other cultures, or did you ever read a source from the libary of Carthage? Or look at those valiant men and women reconstructing the people of the La Tene culture*. That's(the motive) not all that swell aswell.
    I don't know about you but I'm not an Imperialist. So -> bad
    While crushing and enslaving ethnic groups of "lesser civilisatory standard" was still sort of a thing in the early modern, it has somewhat lost it's shine today and is rather frownd upon, again a rather bad thing.
    What kind of state is that that always has to conquer others? Seriously, you don't see people praising the Assyrians at every occasion. And they are even said to have "made"** Abrahamaic Monotheism and brought lots of other ambiguous innovation. And as many people today consider Assyrians "evil" It's only fair to call the Romans "mean" or "bad".
    Individualism is great(at least in my opinion) but a constant stream of Generals and Tribunes plotting, scheming and revolting in order to gain more power etc. Not what I would call a virtous*** society.

    In short: our current mindset is incompatible with the admiration and love of the Roman Empire.
    You may still appreciate the military prowess of ancient rome the same way you'd respect a spartan warrior but few people praise Sparta as a state that advanced Humanity iself or they would gladly live in.

    *Keep up the good work! :)
    **As in they beat up the Israelits until they only had one god left(A particulary enjoyable theory I once heard), It's a bit like calling the Dacians the inventors of sholder protection but compares nicely to roman influence on early christianity.
    ***Ironically a word of Latin orgin^^

    PS: The "You"s in the most part of this post do not reffer to a specific person.
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Quote Originally Posted by fallen851 View Post
    The classical Greeks were at times one battle away from being assimilated into an empire. And when Rome came along, they were assimilated. In this sense, Empires are necessary. Independence and safety are only guaranteed in force supported by numbers.

    Today, some small nations don't have a standing army. They know that any power that has the force and resources to mount an offensive and cross over their borders would defeat their army even if they had one. Their independence and safety are simply not guaranteed.

    This is the Imperial apologia I was referring to. In what way were the Greeks better off having been 'assimilated' by Rome? Their battle against assimilation into the Persian Empire is seen as a victory over Imperial oppression; they retained their freedom. So, what - in terms of retaining freedom - was that freedom from? From taxation, from exploitation. Your argument seems a little self-contradictory; they were a battle away from assimilation by the Persians, but were 'saved' from having to face those battles again by the security of assimilation into Rome's Empire?

    Were Rome, then, doing this as a favour to the Greeks? Of course not - they were exploited and taxed by the Romans, as they would have been under any other hegemony. The Romans - wily politicians that they were - worked on internal divisions between the various Greek 'states'; forming alliances. Once you have alliances then - whether your own borders are at risk or not; whether your own security is in danger or not, you can always justify your involvement as being for those allies.

    Empires exist because there is an elite who benefit from that exploitation. They require a strictly hierarchical society, which requires people to accept a 'rightness' to that hierarchy. The 'rightness' of rule is bolstered by myth, and usually at the base of those myths one will find gods. Our own modern histories (those taught in our schools, those histories as understood by the great majority of people) are simply mythical creations ascribing some great pre-now period where truly kingly kings and lords were of great beneficence to their people; and where current regimes align themselves with that 'great history'. That, to me, is the value of true historical research; to get under the mythical 'truths' and understand the real patterns of human behaviour. How else can we learn from history if we don't truly understand it?

    It seems an odd argument, in short, that says Empires must exist because otherwise you will be absorbed by an Empire.

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    Member Member Picenian's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    I think the Imperial phase is simply the natural prosecution of a "winning" culture. An Empire forged by sheer military power will collapse instantly, but a lasting Empire must have some culture behind. For example, the Islamic Empire spread from Morocco to India and had a lasting legacy cause it had a well-formed culture behind it. The same can be said about Alexander's empire. Rome was different (and in my opinion better) cause its culture grew and grew with every conquest. Romans were intelligent conquerors, they knew how to exploit both the riches and the knowledge of the people they vanquished.

    And, well, one can be anti-imperialistic as much as he wants, but (and I'm only giving what I consider the finest example) if it wasn't for Romans who conquered Greece we would probably not have heard of ancient Greek culture at all :) Sadly, the lasting of a culture requires military power and political stability, that's almost a universal fact in history
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  13. #13

    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Quote Originally Posted by Picenian View Post
    I think the Imperial phase is simply the natural prosecution of a "winning" culture. An Empire forged by sheer military power will collapse instantly, but a lasting Empire must have some culture behind. For example, the Islamic Empire spread from Morocco to India and had a lasting legacy cause it had a well-formed culture behind it. The same can be said about Alexander's empire. Rome was different (and in my opinion better) cause its culture grew and grew with every conquest. Romans were intelligent conquerors, they knew how to exploit both the riches and the knowledge of the people they vanquished.

    And, well, one can be anti-imperialistic as much as he wants, but (and I'm only giving what I consider the finest example) if it wasn't for Romans who conquered Greece we would probably not have heard of ancient Greek culture at all :) Sadly, the lasting of a culture requires military power and political stability, that's almost a universal fact in history
    Why is it 'natural'? That's the question that Ca Putt asked, and the idea of it being 'natural' appears to be seen as an axiomatic truth. If you look at the history of Empires , much as we're given to believe that they sustained themselves they are actually more nuanced than that. They are plagued by social upheavels and in-fighting. Was there really a Muslim Empire that lasted? Was there a Macedonian Empire that lasted?

    In Rome there was the on-going conflict of the orders, civil wars, political violence, rebellions. The Principate is very different in original form from the Dominate, which were themselves different from the Republic (which went through many substantial alterations through its existence). In both Rome and Athens we see the subversion and then destruction of democratic institutions - accompanied by violence against their own people. Empires require a great deal of military expenditure - that makes certain people wealthy (by means - in both the Roman and modern Western models - of money leant to the state at interest). All Empires require forms of slavery; that slavery is based upon the notion that such is 'natural', is the way things 'are meant to be', which is where religious institutions come into play as a part of the machinery of state.

    Did the Carthaginians, then, not have 'culture'? Did the Aedui not have 'culture'? Did the Samnites not have 'culture'? I don't know what you mean by saying that Empires succeed because they have 'culture'? Did pre-Islamic Arabia, or Egypt, or India etc. not have 'cultures'?

    As for the Romans being responsible for us knowing anything about Ancient Greek culture??! The early church destroyed (at worst) and discarded (at best) 'heathen' material. It is throughthe various Islamic Empires that most of the Greek writings survived. We are told the Gauls (a very vague and wide ranging concept) were illiterate, yet we have Gaulsih inscriptions dating from the 4th Century BC; we know that the Aedui had a complex Senatorial system and elections, magistrates; they auctioned the rights to taxation. How do you implement such administration without writing? We know from Caesar that the Helvetti kept written records of everyone on their migration. Everything was destroyed. Every sign and symbol of their culture has been buried by the Romans, just as they did with Carthage.

    Empires (and the Imperialists behind them) do not care for history as truth, they care for a history that defines their power as reasonable, rightful - here and now.

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    Now sporting a classic avatar! Member fallen851's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Quote Originally Posted by Gaius Sempronius Gracchus View Post
    This is the Imperial apologia I was referring to. In what way were the Greeks better off having been 'assimilated' by Rome? Their battle against assimilation into the Persian Empire is seen as a victory over Imperial oppression; they retained their freedom. So, what - in terms of retaining freedom - was that freedom from? From taxation, from exploitation. Your argument seems a little self-contradictory; they were a battle away from assimilation by the Persians, but were 'saved' from having to face those battles again by the security of assimilation into Rome's Empire?
    You're adding a lot of presumptions in here and twisting what I said. I was not arguing that the Greeks were "saved" by the Romans at all. Nor were they necessarily better off being assimilated into the Roman Empire than if they were assimilated into the Persian Empire. I was not arguing that.

    What is remarkable is that the Greeks were not conquered earlier by the Persians and assimilated into their Empire. It is exceptional that small states like that were able to exist for longer periods of time in that area. And Greeks were the exception! At least until the Romans came along...

    So my point is that if a nation in the region doesn't tend toward being an Empire, then it is likely you're going to be swallowed up by another Empire. Being swallowed up by an Empire is a certainly a bad thing, and Empires in general as your rightly pointed out impoverish many. However, if your cultural seeks some permanence and control of its own destiny, it is wise to conquer other cultures and create an Empire in order to ensure survival. Otherwise, you risk being sucked in someone else's Empire, and then your people are exploited. In other words, it is better to do the exploiting, then be exploited. Obviously, we'd all prefer a world where people didn't exploit one another, but that isn't feasible given human nature.

    That is the defense of Empires.
    Last edited by fallen851; 07-12-2013 at 07:34.
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  15. #15

    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Quote Originally Posted by fallen851 View Post
    You're adding a lot of presumptions in here and twisting what I said. I was not arguing that the Greeks were "saved" by the Romans at all. Nor were they necessarily better off being assimilated into the Roman Empire than if they were assimilated into the Persian Empire. I was not arguing that.
    You are right, my apologies. I read back over what you had written and I had misunderstood, initially, what you were saying.

    Quote Originally Posted by fallen851 View Post
    What is remarkable is that the Greeks were not conquered earlier by the Persians and assimilated into their Empire. It is exceptional that small states like that were able to exist for longer periods of time in that area. And Greeks were the exception! At least until the Romans came along...
    Were the Greeks the exception? What about the Illyrian tribes, for example? The Persians took on the Greeks without addressing the idea that separate, independent polities might unite under an ideal of 'sameness' (Hellenism) - even then it took remarkable fortitude, and not a little cost, to retain their independence.

    You are right in one way, though. Imperial ideas are the response to Imperialism. Athens became, essentially, a Greek Empire, and others came to despise them for it. Now the Persians were ready to interfere again - this time they operated from within the Hellenic world (variously backing pro-Athenian, then pro-Spartan entities) and looked to pick up the pieces. The independent Greeks were weakened by infighting, cajoled into that by outside (Persian) influence. The Makedonians were able to pick off these polities relatively easily, weakened as they were by their internal wars.

    We use terms like 'Greeks' etc. too readily, I think, and don't appreciate the distinctions in their political structures. The Aitoliean League, for example, is markedly different from the contemporary Achaean League. For the latter we have recorded many names, for the former...not so many. Personalities were more important in the Acheaen League because it was an Imperial conception. Empires require Imperialists. This is important.

    Quote Originally Posted by fallen851 View Post
    So my point is that if a nation in the region doesn't tend toward being an Empire, then it is likely you're going to be swallowed up by another Empire. Being swallowed up by an Empire is a certainly a bad thing, and Empires in general as your rightly pointed out impoverish many. However, if your cultural seeks some permanence and control of its own destiny, it is wise to conquer other cultures and create an Empire in order to ensure survival. Otherwise, you risk being sucked in someone else's Empire, and then your people are exploited. In other words, it is better to do the exploiting, then be exploited. Obviously, we'd all prefer a world where people didn't exploit one another, but that isn't feasible given human nature.

    That is the defense of Empires.
    In order to defend Empires you have to conjugate the idea of 'culture/state/polity' with the leaders of that polity (so that the two become seen as one); it requires that the leaders of those polities (the personalities we have derived to us from history) are those entities. Their own Empire will impoverish their own people; it is nothing to do with protecting their own 'peoples', it is to do with personal power and glory - and gets tied up with the inherit-ability of such.

    The question really is, do the majority of people desire power over others? Do the majority of people covet what others have? Empires couldn't work if they did - in fact, the defence you offer for Empires can also be used to defend organised crime, mafias; they are responses to power by the desire for power.

    So, the question Ca Putt asked has the answer, as far as I can see; no. We don't need to subjugate, massacre, control, defeat other peoples. What we need is for a balance between individual and state/polity where neither becomes comprehensively subject to the other. A difficult balancing act, but not beyond contemplation.

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    COYATOYPIKC Senior Member Flatout Minigame Champion Arjos's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    One could also look at all the civil wars/usurpations/break-ups/etc... when Roma acquired the territory of an "empire" from 133 BCE (more or less) to its fall...
    If anything it turned out to be quite an unstable polity for its population. The drive to enrich themselves through conquest was the ruin for both the Roman and the Parthian states for example...

    Also about the greek vs roman "individuality", that's all nonsense: just look at the Athenian Ephebic oath, or the Spartan poetry, hell even the various leagues and foundations like Megalopolis; all about devotion to one's state. The SPQR simply made (or had to give in) enfranchising easier...
    But it was still one state "leading" over the others...

    And also the names in roman culture meant everything and alone told almost anything needed to know one's social standing...
    Octavianvs was adamant about being called Caesar; Cicero's whole life was about being "better" than his name, so much for insignificance lol

    Montanelli was an excellent writer and man, same can be said for many other authors, but in their case it had little to do with "historicity" and more with "cultural relevance". Especially to their contemporary society...
    Last edited by Arjos; 07-16-2013 at 05:23.

  17. #17
    Now sporting a classic avatar! Member fallen851's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Quote Originally Posted by Gaius Sempronius Gracchus View Post

    The question really is, do the majority of people desire power over others? Do the majority of people covet what others have? Empires couldn't work if they did - in fact, the defence you offer for Empires can also be used to defend organised crime, mafias; they are responses to power by the desire for power.
    You're right, this argument can be used to defend organized crime, regardless if a majority of people desire power over others. There only need to be a small number of people who are unchecked in their desire for power over others, and who will stop at nothing to get it. There are some important differences. Organized crime either ends up ruling the state literally, or is kept in check by a police force. There is no police force on the world scale (especially at that time), and thus vast Empires are totally unchecked. Regardless, I think we return to human nature. You're probably familiar with this quote: "Stop quoting law, we carry swords."

    Furthermore, even if an Empire does impoverish it's own people, they are likely better off than if another Empire was subjugating them. That is an important point.

    So the logic is this: Aggressive states that conquer others and form an empire are often more powerful than independent states, and thus assimilate or conquer independent states. The people of conquered states are generally treated worse than the people of victorious states. Thus it is best to the conqueror.
    Last edited by fallen851; 07-16-2013 at 19:07.
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  18. #18
    master of the wierd people Member Ibrahim's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    So, the question Ca Putt asked has the answer, as far as I can see; no. We don't need to subjugate, massacre, control, defeat other peoples. What we need is for a balance between individual and state/polity where neither becomes comprehensively subject to the other. A difficult balancing act, but not beyond contemplation.
    not beyond contemplation, but I cannot help but wonder if it is beyond physical possibility.
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Quote Originally Posted by Ibrahim View Post
    not beyond contemplation, but I cannot help but wonder if it is beyond physical possibility.
    So, if I lived as a neighbour to you, should I watch my possessions, be wary of my personal safety? A rhetorical question, doubtless you would regard 'others' as being the suspect perpetrators. That's the real secret of statehood...to ensure that the populous believes that there is no other way it could be, that the 'other' is a danger to your freedom - no matter how limited you might think that is.

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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    The Greeks, and Iberians, and Gauls, and Britons, and probably many others, all enjoyed the primary benefit of being conquered by Rome - being forcibly prevented from constantly fighting their immediate neighbours in endless territorial squabbles, which is how they passed their time until Rome conquered them.

    As a modern-day Briton myself, I think I'd rather live as a subservient vassal of Rome, than 'enjoy' the 'freedom' and 'honour' of having my head hacked off by a big brute from the neighbouring tribe, which would have been my likely fate absent Roman law.

    With that in mind, I don't subscribe to the revisionist theory that Roman rule was bad for the inhabitants of the Empire. It was better than the alternative.

  21. #21
    COYATOYPIKC Senior Member Flatout Minigame Champion Arjos's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Quote Originally Posted by Titus Marcellus Scato View Post
    The Greeks, and Iberians, and Gauls, and Britons, and probably many others, all enjoyed the primary benefit of being conquered by Rome - being forcibly prevented from constantly fighting their immediate neighbours in endless territorial squabbles, which is how they passed their time until Rome conquered them.
    Yeah, garrison duty at the limes, being levied to fight for somebody's right to call himself emperor or for the sake of the 'republic', or being sent to Persia to die is much better XD

    Much of what you are referring to, applies only to the higher class of those communities. Overall hardly anything changed, except for the "colour" of the banner...
    Actually after Roma, most people would be pressed much harder fiscally...
    Last edited by Arjos; 07-24-2013 at 17:04.

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  22. #22

    Default Re: The Roman Empire as a synthesis

    Quote Originally Posted by Titus Marcellus Scato View Post
    The Greeks, and Iberians, and Gauls, and Britons, and probably many others, all enjoyed the primary benefit of being conquered by Rome - being forcibly prevented from constantly fighting their immediate neighbours in endless territorial squabbles, which is how they passed their time until Rome conquered them.

    As a modern-day Briton myself, I think I'd rather live as a subservient vassal of Rome, than 'enjoy' the 'freedom' and 'honour' of having my head hacked off by a big brute from the neighbouring tribe, which would have been my likely fate absent Roman law.

    With that in mind, I don't subscribe to the revisionist theory that Roman rule was bad for the inhabitants of the Empire. It was better than the alternative.

    This reminds me of David Dimbleby starting his 'Seven Ages of Britain' BBC series off with the line "What the Romans ddi was, they brought order where there was chaos". Absolute twaddle, but a sign of how good a PR job the classical writers and their followers have done.

    What Arjos said, but I'll add just a little. This is exactly the 'history' of the pre-Roman barbarian world that the Roman historians would have us believe. When one looks at the archaeological evidence warfare does not seem to have been as endemic in these areas as we are lead to believe. We hear from Caesar, as he marched across North-West Europe with a large military force, of certain tribal groups being 'particularly war-like'. See anything ironic in that? Is there, perhaps, a chance that the war footing that these tribes were on might have been a reaction to his large military force? When we do see shifts in behaviour, in particular the notion of 'kingdoms' it is almost always as a reaction to contact with a neighbouring empire. It is the result of a limited number of individuals being brought into that relationship and becoming wealthy, and seemingly aspiring to the kind of life they have witnessed; such dislocations in societies can be seen in the archaeological record.

    Slavery almost certainly wasn't an aspect of life in Northern Europe (to the point that I've seen an argument that claims we should stop looking for evidence for it and just 'accept' that it was likely endemic!?) - look at Caesar's description of the Aedui; there he says there are two classes of people, the nobility (including the druidic class) and the rest who - he says - are almost like slaves.... but no slaves; even in one of the most 'Romanised' of barbarian groups.

    So, what did the warfare of the pre-Roman world look like? There is a warrior class, tied to a chieftan. There are client relations between chieftans, chiefs and rural farmsteads whereby cattle are deposited with those people. Most raiding revolved around the capture of cattle, and the wars were between those who went raiding. We know that one on one combat was generally preferred, and the warrior class was boastful about their prowess.

    For the majority of the rural population warfare only becomes their problem when they end up under some ruler (or state) who decree that their land is under their jurisdiction and that they, while 'free', must also offer up their services if required in order to 'defend' that freedom.

    Even historians I admire tend to use rather...odd language when they wrote of the Romans. In Cunliffe's brief summary of the changes that took place in rural land use between the fourth and late second centuries BC Italy he describes the Roman rural population as having a 'suficer mentality', as an almost abject and pejorative term, and explains how "the peasantry" were in danger of "having too much free time on their hands"?!! How did the Roman state cope with these 'problems'. They sent the men of on longer and longer campaigns, thereby indebting and ruining their holdings and bring in slave labour. What is really being said here? The Roman rural populace had a pretty good life and had a little leisure time on their hands. We can't be having that now. Certainly there is no profit to be had in that.

    I'm going to cut myself short because I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that in terms of such as land use, use of resources (including labour), economic structures...and more , because of our historical 'love affair' with Rome and the apologia it's institutions are offered (I've even heard the institution of slavery referred to as a great opportunity..... I kid you not, within a BBC or Channel 4 TV documentary) we are blind to how those institutions still pervade our modern world and how deep rooted their problems are. So entrenched are these ideas that we see the world as only being able to operate in those ways, as if they are 'natural' and 'progressive'.

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