Roman Empire To Today The Term Paper

Length: 40 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Drama - World Type: Term Paper Paper: #40660052 Related Topics: Persian Empire, Ottoman Empire, British Empire, Roman Architecture
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e. The voices who argue that America should and could be an imperial superpower, but lacks sound practical judgment.

The thesis of this paper is that the history of the Roman Empire can be matched to that of the United States in terms of economy, political power, as well as aspirations. In this sense, present day America is very similar to fourth of even fifth century Rome; this poses one stringent yet logical question: Will America follow in the footsteps of ancient Rome and meet its demise in a similar fashion? Although this paper cannot possibly answer this question, it will examine the current political, economic, social and cultural situation in America and compare it to the circumstances leading to the fall of the Roman Empire. This paper will also include a brief history of the Roman Empire, followed by an analysis of the factors which have brought its decline, and ultimately its fall in the fifth century a.D. The fourth section of the paper will consist of a parallel between Rome and America which strives to illustrate the similarities between the two superpowers. The fifth and final section will provide the conclusions of the paper.

II. The Roman Empire: A Short Overview

Instead of presenting a chronological history of Rome, this section will provide a brief analysis of the Roman contribution to posterity particularly in terms of political, legal and economic culture. Similarly to other ancient nations, the origins of Rome are clouded by legend. Legend has it the first inhabitants of Rome were the refugees from defeated Troy, led by the hero Aeneas. This claim is shared by Roman historians - such as Appian and Livy - and Roman poets alike, such as Rome's greatest poet, Virgil who wrote his epic the Aeneid as an ode to the founding father of his city. The Roman Empire succeeded the Roman Republic whose lifespan covered 500 years, from 510 BC to the first century BC. The Republic had been considerably weakened by the conflicts between Gaius Marius and Sulla, and Caesar and Pompey. The transition from Republic to Empire was marked by several events such as Caesar's appointment as dictator, the victory of his heir at the Battle of Actium, and the Senate granting Octavian the honorific title of Augustus. It was during the time of Augustus that the Roman Empire covered the most extensive territories encompassing England, Wales, most of Europe including the Balkans and the Black Sea, coastal Northern Africa, Egypt, and Asia Minor, i.e. Southwest Asia, and Levant i.e. The area of the Middle East bounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, northern Arabian Desert and Upper Mesopotamia to the east i.e. modern day Iraq and western Iran. The inhabitants of the Empire were called Romans and obeyed Roman law.

The Empire was born into the ashes of the old Roman Republic which came to an end in 21 B.C. after a hundred years of civil war and social turmoil which had the Roman armies wage war against each other. Julius Caesar's nephew, Octavian who claimed to save the republic, when in fact he was inaugurating a new form of government, i.e. The principate, and with it, the first totalitarian rule. The forms of republican government were maintained, some even until the end of the Empire in the fifth century a.D. By the second century a.D., the Roman emperor had control over immense territories, stretching from Scotland to the Sahara, from the Atlantic to the Euphrates. Roads were built to link major and minor cities, some of which are still usable today. Naval traffic expanded. In fact, a survey regarding the shipwrecks during the Roman era showed that there were three times more shipwrecks during the first two centuries a.D. than during the period 400-200 B.C (Murphy: 42). Ancient Rome, the capital of the Empire had a population of over a million people, an impressive number which was not matched until London during the time of Shakespeare. Roman culture was largely a reinterpretation of classical Greece culture and civilization (Fears: 2005) in the sense that Rome became "the bearer of Greek culture" (Ibid.). Examples of the influence of Greek culture are the writings of Thucydides that served as model for Tacitus, and Herodotus for the historian Livy. As far as sculpture and architecture, classical Greece was also the model for Roman creations such as the Pantheon which was the embodiment of new Roman spiritual values but also of the great Greek legacy in the area of architecture. The peak of the empire in terms of territorial expansion was reached under Trajan who conquered Dacia i.e. modern Roman and Moldova, as well as parts of neighboring Bulgaria, Hungary and Ukraine, and Mesopotamia encompassing a staggering total of around 2.3 million sq miles of land, and also the Mediterranean Sea which the Romans referred to as "mare nostrum," Latin for "out sea." Although vast and thus heterogeneous, one of the most striking...


The core of the Roman family was the paterfamilias, Latin for "father of the family." It was an absolute patriarchal society in which the paterfamilias possesses "the power of a father," i.e. complete authority over his children regardless how old they were, and over his wife. This means he could kill or sell them into slavery. He could also murder his wife if she was discovered as adulterous. The era of the Roman Empire was an age of spirituality which focused on the concept of 'soul'. Monotheism began to grow and develop as this was the age which would generate both Christianity and Islam. The Romans believed there was an imperial divinity which had decided the Roman people was to be given an empire. The temple of this divinity they referred to as Jupiter Optimus Maximus was located in the Roman forum of every city in the empire. The notion of citizenship was also highly spiritual in the sense that people became citizens in order to honor the divinity, and their divine empire. The Roman legal tradition is also a very interesting matter. It was during the Roman republic that Roman law established the foundation for the system of jurisprudence that is still active today in half of the world. Of course, during the age of empire Roman law was refined and modified. Roman jurists such as Ulpian set up the legal system of the empire on the ideals of natural law which was interpreted as the law of God, i.e. The dichotomy between right and wrong. The duty of jurists was to translate that dichotomy into the law of mankind - jus gentium - or the law of the individual - jus civile. Both laws sprung from the concept that all men are created equal and have certain unalienable rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Power in the Roman Empire resides in the hands of one man, more precisely the emperor. The emperor is supported by the military and the senate; he is in charge of the economy of the empire. Moreover, both "good and bad emperors controlled the expression of political opinion" (Starr: 8). This severe control of thought originated in the Hellenistic monarchies but also derived from the senatorial distinction between liberty and license which had censored the plebeians for much of the era of the Roman Republic. The Roman army was one of the greatest and most cost-efficient examples of military forces in history with over 350,000 soldiers guarding the frontier of the Empire. As far as infrastructure, the network of Roman roads and bridges was very much ahead of its time. As a matter of fact, one can see a bridge built in the first century B.C. even today. The economic unity of the Mediterranean world during the era of the Roman Empire was not reiterated until contemporary times. It is important to mention a few flourishing centers of commerce and trade throughout the empire: Cologne in Germany, London in Britannia, and Alexandria in Egypt. Wealth was the criterion for advancement in Roman government. Wealth was measured in land and represented a true source of power. Nonetheless, the land created a strong bond between the Senator and the geographical area where the land i.e. The wealth was located. In fact, "Roman Senators were required to own land and maintain residence in Italy, as well as in their native territories" (Miles: 655.). However it becomes quite clear that high officials and Senators used their influence to protect certain areas and thus their own interests. Although this does not mean they were exclusively self-seeking, it was very important that they avoided the involvement of the central Roman government in the…

Sources Used in Documents:

cited in Faulkner: Barbarians). The leadership cult played an important part in propaganda. The ruler was depicted everywhere so that Roman citizens would constantly be aware of this presence. In fact, the cult, whose embodiment was the emperor, centered on the idea that the ruler was to be worshipped alongside Jupiter. In provincial towns, the emperor was worshipped in sanctuaries just like Roman gods. Money was a tool of propaganda but in a different manner than it is today. The image of the emperor had to reach all of the corners of the vast empire, so his face was stamped on every coin. The combination of politics and religion has always been the strongest. Even during the era of the Roman Empire, a bond was forged between the emperor and the church. Roman emperors were presented "as agents of God on Earth" (Faulkner: The Crusades). Their power was divine, and so was their determination to crush paganism and heresy, and to remain the number one defender of Christianity. This relationship between God and the emperor is obvious if one looks at the coins, frescos, mosaics and even the jewelry of the time on which the face of the emperor is depicted alongside symbols of the Church, most commonly the cross. In exchange for imperial benevolence, the bishops preached loyalty to the emperor (Ibid). Constantine seized control of the Church through the Council of Nicaea whose purpose was to regularize Christianity so that it would be compatible with imperial government. Indeed, the emperor ceased to be considered a god and became godsend, a human form representation of the divinity. The diversity of American society - from the cultural point-of-view - ensures that everyone can live comfortably irrespective of their religious choice. Indeed, religion is a private matter. Nonetheless, in politics things change because the old concept of the American political system is based upon the ideals of unity; thus, religion is not an acceptable principle for political division. In the United States government and religion do not share an official bond. Aside from the connection with religion, American politics also relies on emotional appeal. In fact, there is a strong connection between religion and the use of the emotional appeal in political rhetoric, but also an underlying moral evaluation of events which in the end, is also religious since it utilizes religious criteria. The emotional appeal technique is the most effective as far persuading the audience as it determines the audience to relate emotionally and not logically or ethically to the message in question. In the case of the war in Iraq, it is simply easier to generate an emotional response than one based on critical and rational thinking which in turn, requires strong arguments from the person or people making the claim, in this case, the Administration. The audience generates a quicker and much stronger reaction to the emotional appeal since the basis of this approach is to instill a sense of fear, which in turn generates a strong emotional response. The emotional appeal can also be based upon presenting a unilateral and rather simplistic version of an event or tragedy, such as 9/11. In this case for instance, by invoking the loss of human life, feelings of rage are generated which replace the soundness of solid argumentation. America's imperialism must be discussed from the perspective of its foreign policy. This analysis can provide answers as to the United States' interest in ensuring global domination by establishing areas of influence from Colombia to Iraq. The attacks on September 11 launched the "war on terror" which was followed by the war in Afghanistan and the American invasion of Iraq. This allowed the United States to establish temporary basis in Central Asian countries formerly part of the Soviet Union, and to have military bases in Romania and Bulgaria - countries that are part of the East European Bloc. The U.S. also sent forces to suppress insurrections in Yemen, Georgia and the Philippines which has generated numerous allegations that the U.S. was not interested in helping local governments deal with insurgencies, but to gain strategic influence in the area (Eland: 13). In a similar manner, the United States Department of Defense funded the training of Azeri military forces and the acquisition of U.S. arms which later turned into an acknowledgment that the help provided to Azerbaijan was in fact an attempt to secure access to Caspian Sea Oil (Ibid.). America's active participation in the war against Serbia in 1999, as well as the two wars waged against Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan have largely contributed to the enlargement of United States' sphere of influence. Moreover, the U.S., hidden under the social plague of "narcoterrorism" (Ibid.) has sent anti-drug funds to Colombia. The war in Iraq was launched as a response to alleged accusation that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction. No weapons were ever located. The Iraqi war is relevant to this paper from two points-of-view: first of all, it is an example of American ignorance as to the political culture of other nations. The democratization of Iraq is both costly and inefficient because America cannot force democracy upon a nation and a people who do not desire it. From this point-of-view, the mission that G.W. Bush has taken on is highly unrealistic. Secondly, it illustrates the imperialistic endeavor America has engaged in which has only worsened international relations from the point-of-view of the United States that no longer benefits from international support. Furthermore, the Iraqi intervention has only increased the level of hatred for Americans with populations of the Middle East being without a doubt, the center of this hatred. One of the major claims that supporters of the occupation have formulated is that the U.S. troops are contributing to the creation of a stable and democratic Iraq (Preble: 45). Moreover, they have argued that governments in neighboring countries could follow in the path of Iraq and adopt peaceful democratic regimes. This is however easily contradicted by a few historical and social considerations. Ethnic and religious cleavages prevent such a scenario from ever becoming reality. Since its creation, Iraq has been a nation torn between immense social inequalities and religious differences. Iraq has no experience in liberal and pluralistic government hence America's attempt to create and impose such a regime is likely to fail. It is extremely difficult to craft a regime that will also function when put into practice especially when it is imposed through military intervention. The process of democratization largely depends on historical developments and cannot be reduced to a matter of imposing the right institutions in Iraq. Democracy is based upon political freedom which can only be acquired by a state when the latter benefits from economic growth, a solid level of education and a coherent national identity (Preble: 49). Given the ethnic turmoil, low rate of education and the high percentage of Iraqi people living below the poverty line, it is obvious that the United States cannot simply change the political life of the country. The presence of American troops has not considerably changed the situation in Iraq where democracy has still not penetrated the collective conscience or the political system. In fact, American involvement in Iraq might actually suppress such political and social development. The violence has spread from Sunni to Shiite communities (Preble: 54) and from central Iraq to regions in the south and west (Ibid.). A study conducted in 2003 has shown that only 4 of the 16 military operations through which the United States aimed at changing a government resulted in the establishment of democracy (Pei, Minxin; Kasper, Sara in Preble: 46).

V. Conclusions

Military spending largely contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. Army funding was extremely demanding from the financial point-of-view, and in time, this manifested itself as a drain on the government budget. Soon, there was no money for other vital needs such as providing public housing or the maintenance of infrastructure. In turn, this determined social and moral decay as Romans did not want to defend the Empire's borders any longer. The government was forced to turn to foreign soldiers and even to the mob in order to ensure the safety of its boundary lines. Not only was the new army unreliable, but it was also extremely costly. The high cost of the military determined tax raises which in turn, raised the inflation rate. To conclude, the fall of Rome was inevitable as a vicious circle had been created. One of the conclusions regarding the fall of the Roman Empire is that although they possessed impressive skills as far as warfare, architecture and engineering, they lacked a science of economics. The principles of the market are universal and apply to all complex economies that rely on trade and manufacturing. It is now possible to say that any society fostering the same conditions and restrictions as the Roman one would fall into economic stagnation and decadence, and would probably have the same fate. Ancient Rome was destroyed under the gigantic weight of statism which grew and reached enormous proportions because Roman society lacked the principles of individualism. In this sense, one prediction is allowed as far as modern civilization. It will not find its demise as in the case of Rome because modern societies are based upon the principles of commercial vitality and individual freedom.

Some harsh critics of the current's Administration foreign policy argue that the American foreign policy of the 21st century still reflects the same very American desire to dominate the world which is so often referred to as "American imperialism." These voices are somewhat more radical, and argue that for the past two centuries, America has built its imperialistic foreign policy upon the basis of "racism, aggression, genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, war crimes and slavery" (Boyle: 11). This view provides the conclusion that the United States has succeeded in building a sign of authority comparable with that of Rome or Alexander in the sense that it has turned into "the Emperor of the world" mainly through claiming that those who resist its authority are "terrorists and criminals" (Ibid.). Some historians, political scientists and international lawyers have argued that the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that America was the "only superpower" or "hyper power" of the world (Boyle: 173); this status implies that America is capable of launching an offensive attack upon any adversary. Their main argument is that the "national missile defense" program is in fact, a critical objective of the current administration.

Terrorist attacks against the United States have re-shaped American foreign policy. September 11, the anthrax attacks, bombings of Oklahoma City, World Trade Center in 1993, and of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 have determined a different list of priorities as far as American foreign policy. Nonetheless, there have been countless debates on whether or not the issue of terrorism should indeed be at the forefront of American public interest. The U.S. counterterrorism policy and organizational mechanism were built to counteract both state-sponsored and independent terrorist groups, and its main tool has been military intervention. I believe that the much talked about military interventions in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan were the product of American exceptionalism. In fact, I tend to think that American foreign policy in its entirety was built upon this very concept which holds that America has the duty to wage preemptive war and to promote democratization. Nonetheless, American exceptionalism should not be regarded as a negative feature of the American political thought. However one needs to go back to the definition that Alexis de Tocqueville provided in the nineteenth century i.e. The values that were crucial to America's success as a democratic republic: liberty, individualism, laissez-faire, egalitarianism and populism, otherwise knows as "the American creed."
Bellamy Foster, John and McChesney, Robert W. "The American Empire: Pax Americana or Pox Americana?" Monthly Review September 2004.
Faulkner, Neill. "The Official Truth: Propaganda in the Roman Empire." BBC Ancient History.
Fears, Rufus J. "The lessons of the Roman Empire for America today." 2005. Heritage Organization.
Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Available online at:
Reed, Lawrence W. "The United States and the Roman Empire." 1990. The Future of Freedom.

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