The Role of Government and the Relationship Between the Individual and the State

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Lara O’Gorman

The legacy of an empire is defined by its ability to conquer and make a mark on society. Many people throughout history sought to create empires as a way to establish their power. Often when one looks at the wide spectrum of history, some empires only last a few hundred of years and then dwindle out. After their fall, their legacy does not continue and their history is loss to the ages. Without a legacy, Rome would have ceased to exist, and would not have carried it’s ideals to post-classical civilizations. Rome had a successful and functioning government that help established its power, grandeur, and impressive knowledge of the arts. Within society it is vital to have a dependable and structured government as to prevent uproar and rebellion. The importance of a stable and powerful government is portrayed in the literary work Lord of the Flies and the idealization of political rulers and the subordination of subjects is conveyed through the art pieces the Bronze Statue of the Emperor Trebonianus Gallus and the Marble Portrait of Marcus Aurelius.

Rome is remembered as a vast empire that stood above all surrounding civilizations with pride and honor. Rome, at it’s highest point, was thought of as immortal and impenetrable. It was only until the gradual decay of the empire that people thought of it as mortal. Before the detrimental rippling stages of the fall of Rome, powerful rulers and structured government was instilled within the empire. Several of these powerful emperors kept Rome under their rule by subordinating their subjects and by enforcing political unity. Other rulers used tolerance and active roles in society to appeal to their subjects. One ruler, Marcus Aurelius ascended to the throne in 161 AD and was deemed a philosopher king that was different from his predecessors. His philosopher status is recorded through the common depiction of him in a toga and adorning a Greek-inspired beard. He was interested in rational thinking and tolerated all different sects of religion. Some say that his openness was his downfall and that his optimistic view of all things caused him to allow one of Rome’s worst emperors into his line of heir. Aurelius had an active role in government and did not discriminate against lower class people moving up in the world. He allowed people that were fit for government job, no matter what class, to have a say. This demonstrates his thought on his subordinates and how he not afraid to converse and involve himself with them. His openness is reflected in the calm and composed face of the portrait and how he is wise and is making a noble decision. Marcus was a fierce ruler and a good general, despite Rome’s loss against the Germanic tribes in war. The toga in which is realistically draped over his torso can be interpreted as a general’s attire. The militaristic style of his clothing suggest that he is the protector and is a strong ruler. Marcus lived a life of luxury and suffered little. His wealth enabled him to surround himself with items of luxury. The emperor of Rome usually had portrait busts of their ancestors within his palace, which communicates the important and high position Marcus Aurelius had within society. The portrait busts were usually idealized, which can be see in the flawless bust that communicates that Marcus Aurelius was a strong, intelligent, and wealthy ruler.

A second ruler, whom in contrast used his power and authority to rule his subordinates, ascended to power after the death of Decius in 251 AD at the battle of Abrittus. There, Trebonianus Gallus took on the position of ruling the vast and expansionist civilization of Rome. The troops that Decius led claimed Trebonianus Gallus a suitable ruler due to his familiarity with the government and his influence as a senate member. Gallus, to prevent the Goths from attacking again, signed a peace treaty that stated he would pay yearly tribute to them. To demonstrate Gallus’ power over his subjects and...
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