Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Is the United States following the same path that the ancient Romans trod? Maybe it is time for another history lesson. Facts for this post came from Erich S. Gruen, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 16, pp 436-449. The story of ancient Rome began on seven wooded hills along the Tiber River in central Italy. The first Romans were shepherds and farmers. The farmers worked their own lands, planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall. They fought in the army during the summer. These Romans sound much like many of the soldiers who fought in the American Revolution. Rome was located about fifteen miles from the sea, but was connected to the sea by the Tiber River. The distance from the sea protected Rome from pirates, and the steepness of the hills gave protection from enemies. Roman rule gradually spread over all the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. The Roman Empire eventually extended as far north as the British Isles and as far east as the Persian Gulf. The Roman Empire had many natural resources, fertile grain fields, rich ore deposits, thick forests, and thriving vineyards and orchards. At its height, the empire had from 50 to 70 million people with about 1 million living in Rome and 5 to 6 million in the rest of Italy. The people of the empire had many different customs and spoke many languages. Some of the conquered nations had cultures older than that of Rome, but people of other nations were introduced to a higher standard of living. Government officials and the upper class spoke Latin and Greek, but most conquered people continued to use their native languages. The people in ancient Rome were divided into various social groups. The most powerful upper class group consisted of members of the Senate and their families. Most Romans belonged to the lower classes and had little social standing. Most of the people were eventually given Roman citizenship, which meant protection under Roman law. There were no public schools. Most children ages 6-11 were taught reading, writing, and arithmetic at home, but some children attended private schools. Most students who received further education were from wealthy families. They studied Latin and Greek grammar and literature as well as mathematics, music and astronomy until age 14. Upper-class Romans who planned a career in law or politics went to higher education to study rhetoric, the art of public speaking and persuasion, and maybe to study philosophy and history. Few women studied rhetoric because women could not be in politics. In the beginning, ancient Rome was ruled by kings, each of which was advised by a Senate. Citizens voted on the decisions of the king and Senate. In 509 B.C., the Roman Republic was established when Roman nobles overthrew the king. The Republic kept many of the features of the earlier system. The Roman Empire came into being when the Republic was destroyed after 20 years of civil war. The empire lasted until the fall of Rome in 476 A.D. Under the Empire emperors had supreme authority. Republican institutions of government continued, but the Emperor nominated consuls and appointed new senators. The citizen assemblies had little power. Even though the Roman Empire consisted of people with many different religions, customs and languages, the empire bound them together under a common system of law and government. This remarkable accomplishment is admired even today. The empire began to crumble partly because it grew too large for Rome to govern all of it. The fall continued when the emperors stopped using the laws to govern and started governing with power and control. I previously understood that Rome fell because of the loss of morals. Could it be that morals go before the Rule of Law? Ancient Rome existed for over 700 years. Its greatest strength came when it operated on a system of laws. Now that the United States Constitution is being slowly destroyed, the Rule of Law in our country is changing to the rule of man. How much longer can the United States exist without the Rule of Law?