Classics 300-I: Pagan Culture
The Pillars of the Roman Empire’s Success:
A Two-Pronged Approach
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 learnẻd 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...
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