Description: This pod introduces the features that most identify Ancient Rome, especially in her differences from Christian and Modern Rome. These include the extent of her empire, her long-lasting rule, her ability to turn human beings into citizens, her reception and imitation of Greek culture, and her pagan intermixing of politics and religion.
Show Notes: What makes Ancient Rome so distinguishable from Christian and Modern Rome? In this podcast I discuss ten characteristics that identify Ancient Rome in its uniqueness. Here are several of them:
1. Ancient Rome endured for a long time, 1,229 years by the official counting, from April 21, 753 BC, when tradition says Romulus founded the city, to 476 AD. If political stability is good, Rome was great.
2. It grew. It ruled a vast empire. If growth is a sign of political health—and this is a very real question—Rome was great. Her empire extended from Scotland to Baghdad, and from the Rhine to and across northern Africa. The EU might well envy this success.
Roman Empire at the time of Trajan and Hadrian: it was large and diverse!
3. Ancient Rome was pagan and polytheistic, with all sorts of gods and goddesses deeply involved in the political and military activities of the city. The priests of these busy gods were also active as political and military leaders, so there was a deep interpenetration of politics and religion. There was little transcendent or otherworldly about either the gods or their priests.
4. Ancient Rome was generally aristocratic, with strong class distinctions. The People or Plebs gained in power over time, but as Rome seemed to approach democracy, it was really moving toward the rule of a single powerful individual.
5. Ancient Rome was largely successful, at least during the period of the Roman Republic, in turning human beings into citizens, who put their city before themselves and sometimes even before their children.
This sarcophagus now in the Palazzo Altemps is but one reminder that war was always on the minds of the Ancient Romans (my photo)
6. Ancient Rome recognized and fell in love with the cultural achievements of the Ancient Greeks, so much so that the poet Horace could say that the Romans conquered Greece, but Greek culture conquered the Romans. Their admiration extended to imitation, and rustic and rude though it had been, Rome produced remarkably good poets, thinkers, historians, and artists.
Greek in inspiration if not in execution, the Laocoön exemplifies the Greek cultural conquest of Rome (Charlie Wheeler photo)
And then there was the violence employed by the Romans, which was evident in their wars, their gladiatorial games, their widespread use of slavery, and even in their victory parades, the so called, “Roman Triumphs.”