Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Ancient Republic of Rome Part 1: A Brief Essay on the Birth of Rome on Palatine Hill

My other blogs are:
A Brief Essay on the Birth of Rome
on Palatine Hill
The Ancient Republic of Rome Part 1
Ancient Rome! Who has not learned some of the grand history of Rome? Isn't it ironic that throughout their entire history Rome began as nothing more than a settlement of hick farmers who came together for the benefits of city life, yet even as they grew into the Thousand Year Empire they were always the same backwards-thinking farmers. In fact, a good way to describe them lies here in America: remember those odd farm folk who make you feel awkward when you meet them? That's actually a good way to describe who the Romans always were at heart: Simpletons yet oddly pleasant. However, they were never unsophisticated, as they just merely a simple life. This desire for simplicity evolved into a desire for an easier life, when they realized that returning to a farming way of life would never safely work unless the city of Rome remained. This is how it all began on Palatine Hill around 753 or 751 B.C., and although the debate ranges widely as to when "Rome" the city was born, the farmers had at least begun coalescing into this pre-Rome Kingdom on and around Palatine Hill at this time. They banded together for the benefits of city life, for just as Medieval Europe made special merchant highways for safer traveling between cities (before state identities developed), it was due to raiders, bandits, mountain men, and continual problems with those pesky non-Roman outsiders that no one liked which brought the greatest empire to ever exist.
And yet, little did these backwards farmers know that when they banded together to form the city of Rome that they would actually attract more trouble than they could ever imagine. As a group of farmers, they suffered bandit raids and other irritants, but as a flourishing city they faced invaders, conquerors, and wars. By about 510 B.C., Rome changed from a Kingdom into the Roman Republic, where a Senate comprised of elite Roman aristocrats, known as Patricians, ruled Rome in an ever-evolving "democracy" that wasn't really a democracy, for the lower class Plebeians had virtually no say in what went on in Roman politics, even though they comprised over 99% of the Roman population. Just as all cultures founded by birth-status classes (such as the Caste system), people who are aristocratic give birth to children who will become aristocrats, and plebeian children and their children's children are forever plebeian. The Patricians themselves held all the best rights, power, access to easy jobs, and wealth. On the other hand, the plebeians could not get any jobs beyond blue collar jobs, so to speak, had little access to any wealth, and had no political power. Boy, this sounds like the place I wanna live!
At this time, Rome consisted of the one black
dot near the bottom, while all the other dots
were Etruscan forts, villages, and cities.
How the Romans ever survived is beyond me!
From the beginning, the Romans suffered continual oppression, as the spot they chose to form the city of Rome was directly adjacent to the Etruscan territory, from which the city Tuscany derives its name. The Romans began enduring their first troubles with the Etruscans very early on in their new city. The Etruscans, who by living in Etruria of the Po valley, in Latium, and in Campania, actually seemed to engulf everywhere north of Rome. And according to historical evidence, the early Romans must have been dominated by them for some time. After all, the Etruscan possibly developed from the Villanovans, the first Iron Age settlers in northern Italy around 800 B.C., and had at least a 100 years head start on this new fad called "city-life" that was otherwise not well known to Italy, and keep in mind cities in this day were extremely small, comparable to small towns today. Up until the Etruscans and Rome, Italy itself was just a large area consisting of hick farmers spread out through the land. This is the original meaning of Pagan, which basically meant hick, but later came to describe the Pagan peoples and their religions once Christianity dominated Europe in later centuries.
Marcus Furius Camillus
So how do farmers fight people like the Etruscans? Trial and error, no less. For perhaps as long as 300 years the early Romans perfected their city life and continually attempted to fight off the Etruscans, but it was not until 396 B.C. that the Etruscans began a siege against the growing city of Rome, and so the Roman Republic elected a dictator, which was a single temporary emergency military general/leader (not a tyrant), and his name was Marcus Furius Camillus. Under his command, the Romans sacked/sieged the nearby Etruscan city of Veii in 396 B.C., who had also been laying siege to Rome for several days. According to the Roman writer Livy, the Romans dug a tunnel and emerged to quickly surround Veii (far-fetched), while others say that the Romans saw a running water source leading into the city and poisoned it, thereby killing the Etruscans and forcing their surrender. Either way, the Romans came out to Veii in what could only be described as a psychotic frenzy. They snapped finally, and won, gaining riches beyond their dreams.
Rome incorporated the Etruscans into their lives and began the official expansion of the Roman cultures beyond the city of Rome. By 1 A.D., Rome was a full-blown empire where through conquest and invitation, the Roman Empire spanned the entire Mediterranean and parts of Europe. Places like Greece decided to join Rome after Alexander the Great died, for the empire he once had fell into disarray with his sudden death in 323 B.C. Believe it or not, it was with great reluctance that Rome accepted foreign cities, where previously conquered societies were conquered only to end conflicts with her neighbors. Rome had many neighbors unfortunately, and the Roman Empire was born almost by accident. At heart, the Romans would remain the hick farmers they began as, and they muddled their way through this new empire of theirs. It is certainly ironic that Rome achieved virtually by accident what Alexander the Great fought tooth-and-nail for his entire (albeit short) life: an Empire that spans the world.
And if you liked this article, read some more of my other articles off to the right of the screen!

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