Roman Roman architecture and law began to spread

Roman
Empire

            When
one examines the rapid expansion, and decline of the Roman Empire, they must
realize that the motivations behind the acquisition of new territories were
fueled not just by a desire to increase its land mass and control, but to
support its ever-growing population. 
Sustaining such a large population was the catalyst that spurred the
trade relationships, which would begin across newly acquired areas of Europe.
These relationships led to some provinces becoming areas where production was
centralized and exported. Thus, connecting a very large and diverse empire.
During this time period, Roman architecture and law began to spread throughout
Europe. Architecture changed the landscape and laws were enacted that were more
consistent and easier to enforce. When the empire became too vast and diverse
to sustain, which began its decline, Europe was faced with both political and
financial strain.

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            The
empire had its center located in Rome, which was where it conducted most of its
administrative business. It is from there that the court system and central
government were managed.  Rome was a
nonproductive city, which required it resources to be supplied by other
provinces. As Rome grew in population to an estimated one million citizens in
the first century it became essential that stable trade routes and tax payments
flowed into the city. Rome itself became almost parasitic in nature requiring
large agricultural estates to sustain its food needs.  Some farms were privately owned, others in
possession of the empire were under continuous pressure to produce. This
created over exploitation of the land and the tenant farmers, creating a system
that could not be sustained.

Prior to the Roman
occupation the farms were owned by resident families, these families employed
local people and spent their profits in their communities. In this new system
outside elites owned the properties and took the profits back home to continue
their lavish lifestyles. The tenants and slaves working the farms had little
incentive to produce. Mason Hammond author of Economic Stagnation in the Early Roman Empire states, “In regard to agriculture, therefore, symptoms of
economic stagnation are to be sought in any failure of productivity, or in the
growth of large estates per se, or in the substitution of slave for peasant or
tenant for slave, but in the over-all political and economic conditions, which
meant that the profits of agriculture on the estates were drawn off beyond measure
and that the needs of the government led to oppression” (69).  These may have been the first cracks in the
beginning of the decline of the empire.

In other areas occupied
by the Romans, accumulation and production of raw materials became common. By the
second century, production was attracting skilled workers from other areas to
these towns, creating a shortage of workers in other industries, such as
agriculture, increasing stagnation and causing less opportunity in rural areas.
These new settlements could best be described as small towns, which became
major trade hubs.  Barry Cunliffe author
of Europe Between the Oceans,
describes these industrial centers, “Most of them commanded significant route
nodes and many were sited near to sources of raw material” (374). He believes
that either Roman demand or a change in local economics facilitated the growth
in this new production based economy, which seemed to favor the elites. This is
a vast change from the days of the early empire when both the elite and peasants
were profiting from these new economic opportunities. The need of outside
resources and the establishment of trade routes are the mechanism that
initially connected Rome to the rest of the world.

The Roman Empire not only
unified much of Europe through trade routes, but also improved the
infrastructure of most of the lands it conquered. Roman architecture and
innovation was introduced to many territories, which allowed for an improvement
in the quality of life for the inhabitants as well as the Romans that occupied
them. One of their major architectural feats was the aqueduct, which was
necessary to supply water to Rome, who’s population was approximately one
million by the first century. Aqueducts not only supplied the much-needed water
but also removed sewage.  This technology
was used in many cities across Europe as the empire expanded.

The unique construction
of the aqueducts was specific to the geography of the location it was being
built. Although, when one thinks of aqueducts, they are usually picturing the
soaring arches, which can be multiple stories and artistically decorated in
elaborate brick designs this is not the full picture.  What can see above ground is only part of
this intricate system, located below ground is a complicated system of pipes
and drains. The aqueduct is built to follow the natural slant of the ground
because gravity is what keeps the water flowing to the cities. Hubert Chanson
Professor of Engineering at the University of Queensland, and author of The Hydraulics of Roman Aqueducts stated, “The construction of an aqueduct
involved hundreds of workers and it took several years: e.g., 3 years for the
Anio Vetus in Rome, 14 years for the Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus in Rome about
300 years later, 15 years for the Nîmes aqueduct. The costs were enormous.” The
costs were shared by the city, wealthy land owners, and the Roman Empire.

Another contribution of
the empire to Europe was Roman Law. As the Roman Empire continued to grow and
the population became more diverse it grew more difficult to govern. In any society,
there will be many disputes which may be related to families, business, or
land. A body of law was developed that relied on a more common-sense
perspective, that focused on how people lived together. In the article Roman Legal Tradition and the Compilation of
Justinian it states, “This led to the development of the ius
gentium (“law of nations”) and ius naturale (“natural
law”). The ius gentium, or law of nations/peoples, was the
body of laws that applied to all people, foreigners and non-citizens as well as
citizens, and was based upon the common principles and reasoning that civilized
societies and humankind were understood to live by and share.”  The
laws focused on family law pertaining to marriage and divorce, or when one
could defend themselves against violence. These laws grew in complexity as did
the Roman Empire and to this day some forms of Roman law are still discussed in
legal systems in Europe and around the world.

As the Roman Empire
declined, the effects were felt most profoundly in Western Europe. The cities
were all connected by trade routes, which flowed all around Europe and when the
empire slowly fell apart so did the trading. When Europe was being invaded,
many of the production towns were destroyed and roads were blocked, essentially
stopping the flow of goods. This financially devastated towns and returned
citizens to a more separated and rural existence. There was a lack of
leadership to enforce the laws and no upkeep on infrastructure, which caused
roads to breakdown and left the citizens to fend for themselves. A feudal
system developed and out of necessity the citizens endured this for protection
and governance.

The Roman Empire at it’s
height managed to unite a very large and diverse population but through ever
changing leadership and an eventual stagnation it was not able to sustain
itself and slowly declined. The empire contributed amazing architecture and
innovations throughout Europe some of which are still standing today. They also
introduced laws which allowed a more organized governance and in a sense, gave
the citizens uniform rules to live by. The empires eventual collapse left
Europe in a very unstable situation, which took a very long time to completely
rebound from.

Literacy
and Information

In examining modern
trends on the dissemination of information, one only need to possess a low
degree of literacy to remain informed of current events. This is stated with a
degree of sarcasm due to the quality of the information being provided via a
twenty-four hour news cycle and social media. In Ancient Greece, not all the
population was literate and the distribution of information came mostly from
public speaking. One gifted in public speaking could sway the publics
perception in the direction of their choosing.  We are currently seeing a resurgence of these
performance based speeches in the United States. A politician who is tuned in
to public sentiment, good or bad, can speak to what people want to hear,
regardless of the validity of the statements, has a good chance of getting
elected, as was proven by our last election.

Currently in the United
States we are bombarded with information, easily attained by turning on any
television but it is getting harder to discern whether the information being provided
is truthful, biased, or missing vital information. After the 9/11 terrorist
attacks and the economic downturn in the mid two-thousands our citizens became
angry and wanted someone or something to blame. Some felt angry that they were
lied to about invading Iraq, others were angry at the government for allowing
an economic collapse due to greedy and self-serving banking regulations. Our
populous became very divided, seemingly along conservative or liberal ideals,
or the elites against the working man, each thinking the other was to blame. The
citizens began to view people with an opposing perspective as the enemy and began
searching for change. The question they were left contemplating was who’s
change?  

In
both ancient Greece and modern America, the citizens had both been subjected to
long wars, financial difficulties, and a lot of political rhetoric. This left
people politically exhausted and searching for a way to fix the problems. In
ancient Greece, due to it’s mostly oral based method of disseminating
information, a skilled but not necessarily truthful speaker could emerge and
sway the public. This method of public speaking and philosophy was referred to
as Sophism. This is the art of arguing, not for truth but for persuasion. Kurlander
and Reiter authors of the West in question: continuity and Change state,
“. . . .in politics truth was more in
how well an idea was argued than in actual “trueness”. In other words, it was
not so much what was said as how one said it!” (23) One
prescribing to Sophistry would not care about virtue or morals, only about
winning. Sophistry is the art of winning, the art of the deal, regardless of
the truth.

            When
one examines what took place in both ancient and modern times it is easy to
draw parallels between the ancient politician Alcibiades and modern politician
Donald Trump. Both men seem to place their desires for power, wealth and status
above what both cultures deemed moral or right. Modern historians have recently
come up with a diagnosis called “Alcibiades Complex”, which has many of the
characteristics of our current president. Dr. Norman Sandridge Associate Professor of Classics at
Howard University discusses in his study, Alcibiades as a “Hub” for Exploring Psychopathic Leadership across
Academic Disciplines  that this complex has certain traits such as, “Salient
features of such a complex are a low emotional affect, aspirations to
dominance/autocracy, a willingness to cross boundaries and break laws, clever
impression management, and a grandiosity that promises a new stage of human
civilization and also takes credit for the contributions of others” (17).

            When
exploring both ancient and modern literacy as well as information, one must
define what they consider literacy and information. Literacy in the ancient
world may have been considered the ability to both read and write, but
consideration must be given to critically thinking about the information one is
receiving. Unlike ancient times, we have at our disposal the means to verify
most information provided by politicians and news organizations, yet in our fast-paced
world we seem unwilling or unable to take the time to research what is
presented to us. Modern politicians are using ancient methods of Sophistry to
manipulate the public, win elections and change public policy through
self-serving, morally ambiguous methods. In ancient Greece and today citizens
must share some responsibility in this failure to make an effort to not be
swayed by pretty words, but to look for the facts and to seek out the truth.

Religion
and State

            When
looking at the United States presidential election of 2016, one must look at
the themes that were taking place in American society. The citizens were angry
at recent terrorist attacks, which they perceived as being religiously motivated.
They developed a fear of outsiders immigrating into their country, some of
which brought with them religious beliefs that were perceived as threatening to
Christians ideologies. In the days of the Roman Empire there was a similar
situation that happened a s a result of the Roman expansion to many different
lands. These lands were very diverse and the people inhabiting them practiced
many different religions, most of which were incompatible with each other.
Although separated by time and place these comparable situations motivated both
societies to make to state decisions, motivated by religion.

            In
the United States, we were founded on the principal of religious freedom, which
again is being debated by some who feel we are a Christian nation and their values
are under attack. There is sentiment that allowing non-Christian based
religions to practice, somehow takes away their rights. Recently there have
been many states trying to pass legislation that clearly discriminates against
people who don’t subscribe to the Christian faith. Some of the bills involve
issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples, others had to do with choices
of which bathroom to use. If this is really a country that accepts religious
freedom than why should one particular religion dictate the rights of all
others. Politicians seeking reelection have channeled the Christian right fears
of persecution and a loss of rights into a rallying call to get them to vote.

            Before
the Roman Empire, Rome was filled many different beliefs, much of which were
polytheistic. The Romans worshipped many gods and goddesses who they believed
oversaw their lives and controlled all things that happened. They also believed
that when bad things happened they were being punished. The were continually
attending festivals honoring the gods and made sacrifices to them. The
beginning of Christianity was seen around 20 AD, in what was thought of as a
cult following of a man named Jesus. This movement was originally referred to
as The Way. The Romans thought the Jesus was a criminal and charged him with
sedition. He was crucified in 30 AD. His followers continued to spread his
teachings.

 Over the next 250 years Christianity grew and
was formally recognized. Feeling threatened by the growth of Christianity Diocletian
issued an order to persecute Christians, in 303 AD. Dr. John Kipfing author of Religious Tolerance during the Early Part of
the Reign of Constantine the Great (306-313) states, “It was in the time of
the persecution of the Christians by Diocletian’s co-adjutors, Galerius and
Maximinus Daja: the most intensive, extensive, enduring and inexorable campaign
of religious intolerance ever conducted by the Roman state” (484).  This was true persecution where Christians
were tortured, burned, and slaughtered for simply practicing their religion. This
continued until approximately 313 AD when Constantine issued the Edict of
Milan.  Christianity continued to spread
and was being practiced in many areas of the empire.

In a later period after
the decline of the Roman Empire, in 771 AD King Charlemagne who was a strong
Roman Catholic, received word from Pope Leo that he had been badly tortured and
ousted from Rome, and needed his help to be restored to power. Charlemagne
complied and remained in Rome to help supervise reorganizing the church. While
he was in Rome he attended mass on Christmas day 800 AD, and Pope Leo crowned
him the Holy Roman Emperor. Henry Mayr-Harting author of Charlemagne,
the Saxons, and the imperial coronation of 800 states the purpose of this appointment, “This was
two-pronged. First, to clear up Pope Leo Ill’s problems in Rome and to exercise
judgement between the pope and his enemies, it was not sufficient for
Charlemagne to be Patricius Romanorum, a title already long since bestowed upon
him by Pope Hadrian I; he needed to be emperor” (1123) This aligned the church
and the state.

Charlemagne had acquired
many territories and decided that he was going to Christianize all of them. He
began holding mandatory mass baptisms. If the citizens refused to comply he had
no problem resorting to violence. Kurlander and Reiter authors of, West in
question: continuity and change volume 2, state, “When persuasion failed,
force prevailed, as when he ordered the decapitation of 4500 Saxon rebels in a
single day” (23).  When a ruler oversees
the state and the church, he has full authority to commit these kinds of
atrocities.

The founding fathers of
our nation would have had knowledge of this often-studied history, as well as
the religious persecutions that took place in England when drafting our
constitution. The first amendment to the constitution discusses that congress
cannot establish a religion or prohibit practicing a religion. In studying how
Rome handled emerging and different religions, one can see the importance of
the separation of church and state. Although we have Christians in this Country
who feel “persecuted” there is hope that rational thinking and a thorough study
of history will calm their fears.

 

 

           

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works
Cited

Chanson,
Hubert. “The Hydraulics of Roman Aqueducts: What Do We Know? Why Should Learn?
World Environmental and Water Resources Congress2008, 2008, ascelibrary.org/doi/pdf/10.1061/40976(316)145.

Hammond, Mason. “Economic Stagnation in the
Early Roman Empire.” The Journal of Economic History, vol. 6, 1946,
pp. 63–90. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2113075.

Knipfing, John R.
“Religious Tolerance during the Early Part of the Reign of Constantine the
Great (306-313).” The Catholic Historical Review, vol. 10, no. 4,
1925, pp. 483–503. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25012119.

Kurlander, Eric, and Kimberly Reiter. “Chapter
Four:  The Greeks 750-404.” West in question: continuity and
change volume 2, Pearson, 2012, pp. 1–31

Kurlander, Eric, and Kimberly Reiter. “Chapter
Nine: New Identities in a New Europe, 600-1000.” West in question: continuity
and change volume 2, Pearson, 2012, pp. 1-35

Mayr-Harting, Henry. “Charlemagne, The Saxons,
and The Imperial Coronation of 800” English
historical Review, vol 111, no. 444, Nov. 1996, p. 1113. Ebscohost.proxy.stetson.edu

“Roman Legal Tradition and the Compilation of Justinian.”
Law.Berkely.edu, School of Law, University
of California at Berkely, www.law.berkely.edu/;ibrary/robbins/RomanLegalTradition.htlm

Sandridge,
Norman B. “Alcibiades’s a “hub” for Exploring Psychopathic Leadership Across Academic
Disciplines.” (2016)

 

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