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Scipio.

As Goes the Republic, So Goes Rome

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That's inexact; those people considered themselves ROMANS, just as the western Europeans did at least up to 800, and absolutely all other countries did up to Constantinople's last day. And for a good reason; there's no discontinuity in the Imperial succession line, at least up to Alexios V.

 

You're quite right, of course. The inhabitants of the later Eastern Empire never stopped considering themselves Romans. I seem to recall that about the time of Charlemagne, they either revived or introduced the inscription of "Emperor of the Romans" on their coinage, in order to emphasise their legitimacy as Romans over Charlemagne, who was anointed as "Emperor governing the Roman Empire" by Pope Leo III. This would have been very useful to Charlemagne, for the title would have given him a certain amount of more...i don't know if credibility is the right word, but maybe weight (for want of a better term) in his diplomatic efforts. And of course, there were still people in the southern Balkans and on the coasts of Anatolia, who still called themselves Romans (Rhomaioi) in the 20th century.

 

However, I would be wary...

 

That was sort of my point - i didn't word it very well i find :)

Edited by Tobias

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Rome was a society that grew on the back of military conquest.

 

Caldrail has hit the nail right on the head here. It's a point that has been well attested to throughout history; a civilisation that has no competition will atrophy. It's sort of like the saying "It's not the destination, but the journey that matters". Once Rome had no real rivals, the civilisation became blas

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I don't buy this argument. Peace is so much cheaper and productive than war, and safer too. Roman culture became refined under the Augustan peace, not the Punic Wars.

 

I think the opposite is true; a culture constantly at war will soon exhaust itself. I think that is precisely what happened to later Rome with German tribes, Persia and constant civil wars.

Yes, because Rome had little to gain from those conflicts, and the booty that was obtained was dispersed by the soldiers in a very rapid time frame. However, the earlier expansive conquests were more focused, they annexed territory that was more developed with available infrastructure, so the romans were simply adding another organised province to their list. Trajan expanded hugely during his reign but was unable to maintain any grip, especially in the east. Mesopotamia rebelled immediately after conquest, Dacia was not exactly co-operative. Although Hadrian is given the creit for the withdrawal this was actually begun under Trajans rule, and one reason for Hadrians 'non-interference' policies is that he'd already seen the great cost of war. Things were of course a little different in the empire. Troops were no longer citizen militia raised every year, they were permanent troops trained and equipped by the state (Yes, I know the troops paid for gear by stoppages in pay, but the intial cost was borne by the state) with increasing pay scales as time went by, not to mention some generous donatives to keep their loyalty. The whole military sphere from Marius onward had become so much more expensive.

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But according to the line of reasoning expressed above - having an adversary keeps one on ones toes and reinvigorates one's cultures - then constant wars with the implacable Sassanids and endless waves of Germanic war bands should have prevented Rome from degenerating, at least in a moral and cultural light, which it didn't. The culture of the Late Empire was anything but inspiring.

 

But now it seems we are amending the above proposition to: having an adversary is good, but only if the adversary if easily beatable and has a lot of money. But if an adversary's purpose is to be beaten quickly and simply fleeced, this seems to nullify the original logic that competition with a rival is good on its merits as it builds a sense of martial and moral arete.

 

I realize Rome's early empire was forged on its ability to absorb its neighbors before its neighbors absorbed it. Within an anarchic international system this is even necessary. But I still think the height of Roman civilization came with the Roman Peace, with Hellenistic style monarchs relatively free to fund culture and infrastructure, rather than locked in a death struggle with their neighbors.

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But according to the line of reasoning expressed above - having an adversary keeps one on ones toes and reinvigorates one's cultures - then constant wars with the implacable Sassanids and endless waves of Germanic war bands should have prevented Rome from degenerating, at least in a moral and cultural light, which it didn't. The culture of the Late Empire was anything but inspiring.

Thats because you're looking at the late empire as a whole. Unlike the early republic which was a latin city state, the late empire consisted of a variety of rural 'ghettoes' that may have called themselves roman, but who were insular and sought their own identity. The ability of Rome to maintain control over its provinces had withered. Also, the tax burden of the late empire was far worse than that of the early republic so the 'regenerative' factor was stifled before it began. Also, the level of warfare was different. The earlier 'raiding' warfare, as I mentioned, was sustainable as it was always going to be at a relatively low level. The legionary warfare that followed was a finite size - a certain number of troops was to be raised every year (I know Rome could raise more, but that was an emergency measure) and the troops provided their own kit - a citizen militia. The army of the late empire was paid and supplied by the state on a permanent basis with as many men as they could squeeze out of the local economies (by some duboius recruitment methods too), and supplemented by foreign mercenaries many of whom were hired directly by communities looking toward their own security for survival. This higher level of conflict, the tax burden, the fragmented state of the western empire - all of this prevented the positive features of competition from strengthening the roman state. Thats only the factors I'm aware of. I might also suggest weaker leadership as a factor but I don't know enough about the leading men of the time.

 

But now it seems we are amending the above proposition to: having an adversary is good, but only if the adversary if easily beatable and has a lot of money. But if an adversary's purpose is to be beaten quickly and simply fleeced, this seems to nullify the original logic that competition with a rival is good on its merits as it builds a sense of martial and moral arete.

Conquest states can grow rapidly but inevitably fall back at some point, or seperate into self governing regions by way of rebellion and such. Rome was not immune from those forces. I might also argue that the somewhat dubious loyalty of the legions was not helping. In describing the situation where a society develops due to competition you need to be aware of the balancing factor of the cost of that conflict. Ok, you might want to jump on me over that point, but the early republic had the advantage that it never had to spend as much on defence or security as the late empire. In the early republic we see a society that was very focused indeed. By tradition they threw out the kings because Tarquin the Proud had gone too far by raping Lucretia. A rape in the late empire would hardly raise any eyebrows would it? The early republic was a society ready for expansion. The late empire was already fragmented and a candidate for collapse, yet it survived for some time despite the migration of wealth to the eastern empire. Is that not some evidence of a latent military and moral arete? Or, given the changes I mentioned above, evidence of local military and moral arete? The late empire was after all home to tribal populations settling under the roman umbrella attracted by tax breaks designed to entice these people to the roman side.

 

I realize Rome's early empire was forged on its ability to absorb its neighbors before its neighbors absorbed it. Within an anarchic international system this is even necessary. But I still think the height of Roman civilization came with the Roman Peace, with Hellenistic style monarchs relatively free to fund culture and infrastructure, rather than locked in a death struggle with their neighbors.

Many people would. The policies of Hadrian may have failed to generate the 'roman state' that Hadrian would have preferred and strove toward, but his successors lived within its wake. Antoninus Pius had nothing like the oversight of his provinces that Hadrian did, preferring to return to infeudated control rather than the direct inspection that saw Hadrian travel around his empire for half his reign. Marcus Aurelius would have done the same had not the dam burst, but then, without the inspections were the legions as battle-ready after prolongued peace? I think not. Armies are never as sharp in peace as in war, which is why modern states see foreign brush wars as so useful for experience and training of the forces sent to keep the peace, the only proviso there being that the war doesn't escalate to the level it becomes too costly or embarrasing.

 

From a cultural point of view then perhaps the Pax Imperium was an apogee of hellenistic civilisation. Thats an acceptable standpoint, but it doesn't take into account peripheral factors. The failure of the roman world to spread its ideals and culture within its own empire was illustrated by Hadrians war with the Jews, a conflict that caused heavy casualties and caused Hadrian to omit the usual 'The legions are in good order' quote in his report to the senate. From a centralised view then the Pax Imperium was succesful - but it was living on borrowed time. Hadrian had placated his enemies and attempted to secure the boders with those he had no leverage over. Those external were nonetheless still there and hadn't been eliminated as security problems in the long term. Those external threats were gathering strength, becoming organised, leaving Marcus Aurelius to face a 'barbarian conspiracy' that saw deep incursions and wars lasting almost twenty years. In what way was that a success of the Pax Imperium?

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Salve, U.

But according to the line of reasoning expressed above - having an adversary keeps one on ones toes and reinvigorates one's cultures - then constant wars with the implacable Sassanids and endless waves of Germanic war bands should have prevented Rome from degenerating, at least in a moral and cultural light, which it didn't. The culture of the Late Empire was anything but inspiring.

 

But now it seems we are amending the above proposition to: having an adversary is good, but only if the adversary if easily beatable and has a lot of money. But if an adversary's purpose is to be beaten quickly and simply fleeced, this seems to nullify the original logic that competition with a rival is good on its merits as it builds a sense of martial and moral arete.

 

I realize Rome's early empire was forged on its ability to absorb its neighbors before its neighbors absorbed it. Within an anarchic international system this is even necessary. But I still think the height of Roman civilization came with the Roman Peace, with Hellenistic style monarchs relatively free to fund culture and infrastructure, rather than locked in a death struggle with their neighbors.

We entirely agree.

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Possibly you do, I'm not concerned in the slightest. The 'height' of roman civilisation as the Pax Imperium is described was nothing more than an artisitic phase sponsored by emperors amenable to it, emperors who more or less shunned the outside world, and emperors who relied on a frontier system that was increasingly left to run itself to keep foreign aggression at bay. Sorry, but the this is a distorted view of roman success, one adhered to by convention, and one inspired by people whose sensibilities parallel those of this roman period. Its a surviving element of victorian thought, that concept that the roman empire was more or less comparable to european colonialism.

 

Truth is, the Pax Imperium was a failure.

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Possibly you do, I'm not concerned in the slightest. The 'height' of roman civilisation as the Pax Imperium is described was nothing more than an artisitic phase sponsored by emperors amenable to it, emperors who more or less shunned the outside world, and emperors who relied on a frontier system that was increasingly left to run itself to keep foreign aggression at bay. Sorry, but the this is a distorted view of roman success, one adhered to by convention, and one inspired by people whose sensibilities parallel those of this roman period. Its a surviving element of victorian thought, that concept that the roman empire was more or less comparable to european colonialism.

 

Truth is, the Pax Imperium was a failure.

 

Hmm, this all sounds a bit revisionist to me, Calders. The Pax Imperium/ Golden age or whatever you want to call it was a period of political stability, peace and artistic flowering whatever way you look at it, and the frontier policy thus initiated kept the Empire together in broadly the same geo - political shape from the days of Augustus, until the 5th century. Far from running itself, the later emperors invested much time and effort on the frontier provinces, and some even died in those places. The Antonine period Emperors shunned the outside world because it had little to offfer in terms of the 'wealthy but weak' adversaries alluded to by Asclepiades, and apart from Parthia/Persia (wealthy but strong) expansion would only add vast areas of steppe, Taiga and desert to the Empire. These new provinces would be military obligations rather than assets, and I believe that abandoning the policy of unlimited growth in recognition of this was part of the political shrewdness which characterised the Roman mind from the Republic to the later Empire.

 

It was undoubtedly a success for many centuries - think of the 'Empires' which expanded without similar limits. Alexander's, Atilla's, the Ummayyad Caliphate, and the Mongol Empire - They all expanded without any sensible limits and became ungovernable due to ther vast sizes and totally disparate cultural groups.

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Hmm, this all sounds a bit revisionist to me, Calders.

Yup. It is, but I'm not disputing the elevated standards of the roman core, just its success (or lack of) in relating with the rest of the world.

 

The Pax Imperium/ Golden age or whatever you want to call it was a period of political stability, peace and artistic flowering whatever way you look at it, and the frontier policy thus initiated kept the Empire together in broadly the same geo - political shape from the days of Augustus, until the 5th century.

My point is that the golden age refers to a period of sponsorship of the arts rather than any meaningful contribution to roman society, which apart from some reforms carried on as always. In terms of peace (surely the bit about Pax is relevant here) the period was short, fifty years of no conflict with external powers and certainly no lack of internal upsets.

 

Far from running itself, the later emperors invested much time and effort on the frontier provinces, and some even died in those places.
The border policies created by Hadrian were short term solutions to provide a peaceful reign, neither he nor subsequent emperors made any effort to provide any stable relationship (if indeed that was possible). It wasn't so much the lands around had little to offer, it had more to do with increasing lack of will to deal with barbarians. The very same artistic leanings meant that attitudes toward nations less disposed to such things were bound to suffer. The romans were getting a bit superior and stuffy - whereas they had once done business with external barbarians as a matter of realism, from Hadrian onward there is a shift away from this and they simply turned their noses up at it.

 

It was undoubtedly a success for many centuries - think of the 'Empires' which expanded without similar limits. Alexander's, Atilla's, the Ummayyad Caliphate, and the Mongol Empire - They all expanded without any sensible limits and became ungovernable due to ther vast sizes and totally disparate cultural groups.

Which describes also the general decay of the western empire. Remember the romans got to the point of deliberately inviting barbarian tribes to settle in roman territory with the express view of exploiting their combat capability to defend it.

Edited by caldrail

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Salve, T.

It's a point that has been well attested to throughout history; a civilisation that has no competition will atrophy. It's sort of like the saying "It's not the destination, but the journey that matters". Once Rome had no real rivals, the civilisation became blas
Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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Salve, NN

...I believe that abandoning the policy of unlimited growth in recognition of this was part of the political shrewdness which characterised the Roman mind from the Republic to the later Empire.

 

It was undoubtedly a success for many centuries - think of the 'Empires' which expanded without similar limits. Alexander's, Atilla's, the Ummayyad Caliphate, and the Mongol Empire - They all expanded without any sensible limits and became ungovernable due to ther vast sizes and totally disparate cultural groups.

We agree; this is a point that has indeed been well attested to throughout history

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No, we don't agree. Its a distorted view written by people who admire the arts and hellenistic culture that the romans had adopted. They saw the stability of the city of Rome as opposed to its empire as of any real importance and because their own society held those cultural values as important they naturally interpreted the roman empire in that fashion. Taken as a whole, the empire was never as impressive as the city iteself, whose patrons and clients of this hellenistic culture were always going to be a wealthy minority anyway. The frontier of the empire was unstable and always had been, apart from some brief periods of respite, draining resources in rebuilding and security.

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No, we don't agree. Its a distorted view written by people who admire the arts and hellenistic culture that the romans had adopted. They saw the stability of the city of Rome as opposed to its empire as of any real importance and because their own society held those cultural values as important they naturally interpreted the roman empire in that fashion. Taken as a whole, the empire was never as impressive as the city iteself, whose patrons and clients of this hellenistic culture were always going to be a wealthy minority anyway. The frontier of the empire was unstable and always had been, apart from some brief periods of respite, draining resources in rebuilding and security.

Does that mean, then, that the prolonged internal and external peace enjoyed between the reigns of Nerva and Marcus Aurelius is an illusion, and that the Empire was threatened by barbarians and usurpers throughout this period?

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Salve, NN
...I believe that abandoning the policy of unlimited growth in recognition of this was part of the political shrewdness which characterised the Roman mind from the Republic to the later Empire.

 

It was undoubtedly a success for many centuries - think of the 'Empires' which expanded without similar limits. Alexander's, Atilla's, the Ummayyad Caliphate, and the Mongol Empire - They all expanded without any sensible limits and became ungovernable due to ther vast sizes and totally disparate cultural groups.

We* agree; this is a point that has indeed been well attested to throughout history

(* "We" = both of us)

 

Does that mean, then, that the prolonged internal and external peace enjoyed between the reigns of Nerva and Marcus Aurelius is an illusion, and that the Empire was threatened by barbarians and usurpers throughout this period?

Needless to say, it was no mere Gibbon's illusion, even if for Cassius Dio and the Historia Augusta the idea of Pax was always relative by nowadays standards; ie, as it was previously noted by Primus Pilus in a related thread, even Antoninus Pius had his own share of not always so tiny conflicts.

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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