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The Roman world was characterized by ancient civilizations that transcended for many decades. They were the most influential nation in the early world, with a vast empire that dominated the western world for 1700 years, from the third century B.C. to sixteenth century A.D. They were very disciplined and valued feast of engineering than verbal images. They also valued warfare that was led by their powerful Roman army that was used to conquer and rule the neighboring kingdoms like the Greeks. The army was technically and tactically prepared, with ambitions to expand and subdue nations, and subjected people into slavery and military service. Currently, the cultures adopted in several nations have their origin and influence from the Roman culture, or were shaped by its historical civilizations.
Most of the Roman civilizations such as architecture, art, literature, dress, culture and religion were borrowed from other cultures like the Greek, Judaism and Egypt. The culture and architecture of the Romans was manifested in the city by the colossal and beautiful monuments that were erected and devoted to military victory, gods or a successful leader, were borrowed from Greeks who were assimilated by the Romans. For example the Pantheon which is a costly, rounded temple was constructed to honor the gods, the Nero's Palace, the Colosseum super arena where people would fight for entertainment and the Circus Maximus, which was the largest arena in the world during the ancient civilization period that hosted the famous chariot races and huge crowds. To have a clear picture of the Roman culture, this exhibit papers will analyze the foundation of Roman civilization through the Etruscans cities and tomb paintings, the dress of the ancient Romans, Aeneid Literature and its influence, the pilum used by Roman army, Religion with special focus on the Temple architecture and the ancient roman technology focusing on Roman bridges.
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Etruscan Cities and Tomb Paintings
Etruscans were indigenous people who occupied the area in central Italy that was between the Mediterranean Sea and the rivers Arno and Tiber (Parkin, 2003). They built cities during the period they ruled Romans. They had the practice of painting tombs in form of fresco representing different images like fish, birds, kitchen utensils, horseman, and types of dress, wrestling people among others.These paintings had cultural meanings to the Etruscan. For example a fresco painting of fish and birds images showed that the Etruscans were traditionally fishermen in the rivers and the Mediterranean Sea as well as bird hunters. Wrestling people painting showed that the Etruscans loved fighting and wrestling as a form of entertainment, the horseman painting pointed out that the occupier of the tomb was a hero among others.
The choice of the Etruscan cities and the painted tombs reveals the influence the Etruscans had in the foundation of Rome and Roman civilization. The Etruscan contributed to the line of Roman kings with the Tarquins until the period of Roman sack of Veii, in 396 B.C. Historically, the role of the Etruscans, was manufacturing, art and religion but not politics. Initially, Rome was a small pastoral village named Ruma that was on the banks of the river Tiber. Most of the first kings of Rome, specifically the Tarquins, were Etruscans. This made much the existing Etruscan culture, knowledge and skills to be the basis of the Roman education in religion and engineering. This is because the Romans assimilated most of the Etruscans including their territories. The Roman civilization culture in relation to paintings, architecture, engineering, merchant activities and learning were substantially influenced by the Etruscans way of life.
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Romans had different clothing fashions that transformed from the Republic era to the close of the Western Empire 600 years later. There were different tunic to be worn that differentiated people from different social class. For example, there were tunic worn by plebeians, who were the low social class people such as slaves and shepherds, tunic for patricians made of linen, tunica augusticlavi worn by magistrates and tunica laticlavi which had broad stripes worn by senators. Boys wore toga praetexta, while toga virilis was worn by men who were above age of 16 to imply their citizenship in Rome. Military wore shorter tunics with a breastplate, and there were special tunics for different occasion like during mourning.
This item clearly indicates that Rome had social segregation for easy identification of individuals based on the type of dress or tunic worn. In the later empire, clothing worn by soldiers and government bureaucrats were reformed to highly decorated tunics and heavy military belts. These Roman garment styles were later adopted by other nations like the Germans and the Persians. Dressing style is a strong indicator of a people’s culture, morals and religion. The choice of this item therefore, indicates the values of the Romans.
Aeneid is a literary work that was written by Virgil during the last ten years of his life (29-19 BC). This is an epic poem that included 12 books that describe the journey of Aeneas, who was a prince escaping the punishment of Troy to Italy. Other than Aeneid, Virgil wrote other Latin literatures like the Eclogues and the Georgics that were widely accepted by the Romans and had great influence on the western literature. This indicates that the Romans also loved literature work and contributed much to their civilization.
The choice of Aeneid is as a result of its acceptability and contribution to the history of Roman civilization. There have been several mosaic arts indicating the popularity of the Virgil work. Romans are culturally literature writers used as a means of passing information. Aeneid has historical importance to the Romans since it points at the battle of Aeneas with Turnus the Italian prince, as he struggled for his destiny and the emergence of Rome through Roman mythology. Because the Romans valued war, this was a great inspiration to the soldiers and the Romans.
The Roman Army Pilum
Pilum is a Roman javelin which is seven feet long and very light that is thrown by the Roman soldiers prior to combat, aimed at disarming or wounding the enemies. The top three feet is made of a sharp iron tip. The images of hoplite, triarius, hastate, velites and legionary Roman soldiers holding pilum in the exhibition indicates to the viewer that the Romans valued military conquering. It also reveals that the defense of their land was a priority through different ranks of the military. The hastati had bronze breastplates, wore 18 inches black and purple feather plumes on their helmets to add on their height and to look more frightening to the enemy especially when carrying a pilum. Velites are the mobile troops that sting the enemies with pilum while legionary soldiers could survive from their little resources for weeks during war.
The choice of pilum held by the Roman army in the exhibition is as a result of the value the Roman Empire bestowed on the military. Owing to the fact that Romans intended to conquer their neighboring nations, their military was part of the civilization that borrowed knowledge and skills from their enemies, such as the technology of manufacturing spears, ships, bridges and roads.
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The scutum was a large rectangular shield that was introduced by Camillus, to be used by the Roman army. This was made of bronze and had the ability to deflect the enemy swords, when used for self-defense by the soldiers. The images of scutum in the exhibition will affirm to the viewer the power of the Roman military.
The choice of this item also indicates the interest the Romans had in the army to be able to conquer and defeat their enemies. This was an improvement from the small round shield, thus proving the growth in civilization
Roman civilization in terms of religion was borrowed from the Egyptians and the Judaism. As the Roman Empire expanded, more people with variety of cultures, religions and worship styles were accepted, with Christianity the leading religion. The Imperial régime and the general public became tolerant to most religions and cults. Ceremonies were frequently customized to fit within the local culture and identity. The presence of the temple images, such as the images of the Pantheon and the temple of Bacchus in the exhibition will indicate to the viewer at a glance that Romans were very religious.
The choice of this item is as a result of the architectural civilization of the Romans shown by the gothic temple architecture that appeared in the Roman cities. Religion played a major role in culture assimilation for most of the people, because of their habit to tailor the worship ceremonies to their culture. The dominance of Christianity led into that shaping of the identity cultures.
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Technology for civil engineering, warfare, buildings, and roads built with durable stone slabs and bridges such as the bridge that was built by Julius Caesar over the river Rhine are some of the examples of ancient roman technological capability. Other examples include Corvus, which is a mobile bridge that is fixed to connect one end of the Roman ship and another end of the enemy ship during war to allow military combat. Such technological images that include warships, bridges and roads among others indicate to the viewer the specific areas where Roman technology excelled during civilization:
This item shows that Romans were skilled and knowledgeable people who were determined to improve the environment they lived in. Much of these technologies were copied from the Greeks who invented, but never put into good use. The choice of this item is as a result of the importance of technological inventions in ensuring military supremacy and the direct contribution of technology to Roman civilization.
The Roman society was shaped by the traditions and education of the people they assimilated after several military conquests. They majorly adapted several Greek educational principles to their own system and made homes to be the learning centers where children were taught Roman law, discipline, customs, and physical training, which was to prepare the boys for ultimate recruitment into the Roman army. Compliance to discipline standards was mandatory to all the children and was enforced by the fathers who were allowed to punish their indiscipline children even through execution. This discipline contributed immensely to the success of the Roman society. Girls were taught by their mothers on how to spine, weave, and sew.
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Education began at age six and for the next six to seven years, the children were taught the basics of arithmetic, reading and writing before learning grammar, Latin, Greek, and literature from age twelve, followed by training for public speaking to become an orator. During this ancient Rome, learning focused on teaching children respect for tradition and piety, where children were educated to be good citizens who were law abiding, while job skills were trained through apprenticeships, based on the interest of the father. This is because the early Roman government did not have a rule to have the children go through formal education system.
The Roman fathers were also very powerful. They controlled unlimited powers in their families, permitted by the later Roman law and had the power to execute their disobedient children. For example, the founder of the Roman Republic Junius Brutus, executed his sons for disobedience. Equally, the Roman fathers owned all property in their families including their children irrespective of their age. This power to rule the households that was enjoyed by the fathers helped them to maintain law and order, ensured stability in the society as well as ensuring high level discipline.
Maintaining of strict discipline in the family brought a sense of family pride to the fathers and the society in general. Every member of the society was keen in ensuring that members of their families are well behaved to the extent that their sons could be recruited into the prestigious Roman army. This was only possible by ensuring that the children underwent the informal education and were taught the customs and traditions of the Roman people.
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It was also apparent to the Romans that the manner in which children were signified in the material and literary arts during ancient times, demonstrated the love and pride that family and the community bestowed in them. The complicated depiction of children in poetry, literature, drama, novels, medical writings, biography and histories demonstrated the genuine affection and passionate pride that parents felt for their children. Equally, the Roman society placed a careful structure on the stages of childhood, by defining every stage with distinct rituals. The pride of every family was to ensure that their children successful pass through all the stages. The distinction between childhood and adulthood was also felt in all aspects of Greco-Roman society in relation to the sociopolitical, domestic, legal, civic, personal, and ritual activities of the society.
When the discipline and the morals of the Romans were lost, the strength of the Romans faded and eventually led to the fall of Roman Empire. It started by the decline in morals, particularly by the rich upper class members of the society and the emperors, who engaged in devastating, immoral and promiscuous sexual activities including adultery and parties. For example, Emperors like Tiberius maintained young boys for his pleasure, Nero forced a male slave to be castrated so that he could have him as wife and Elagabalus forced a Vestal Virgin into marriage. The decline in morals also spread to the lower classes including slaves and to the religious ceremonies such as Bacchanalia and Saturnalia, where sacrifices, vulgar songs, lecherous deeds and sexual immorality were practiced.Wickedness and other lusty sexually acts were displayed in the Colosseum arena to amuse the crowd and forced prostitution was encouraged. There was also pervasive gambling on chariot races, gladiatorial combats and enormous alcohol consumption.
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This level of immorality also spread to the families where women became more independent to the extent that they could easily divorce their husbands and engage in sexual promiscuity. The modern women stopped taking care of their children, but left them to the slaves and child-minders. Sons on the other hand no longer respected their fathers, but spent extravagantly on prostitution and wine. This degeneration in the Roman morals led to the social chaos during the civil wars that ended the Republic rule, after Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BCE. Sons were against their fathers during the violence.
There was also rampant corruption at the top social class to the extent that the military had the power to determine who was to be the emperor. At this point, individuals could corrupt the ruling class and the military to impose the non-deserving and non-qualified emperors who would support their ill deeds at the expense of the Roman public who deserved better ruling by qualified emperors. This seriously weakened the military power and eventually resulted into the collapse of the Roman Empire.
This assertion is true based on the history of emergence of the Roman power. The Romans were referred to as master stealers, who adopted ideas and technologies invented by other scientists outside the Roman territory and used them to their advantage. For example, the technology of road construction on the Roman roads was copied from their northern neighbors during the Roman Kingdom. Their toilets and culvert technology and religion were stolen from the Northern Africa and Greece respectively. Military dress design was borrowed from the Gauls, Christianity from the Judeans and art and education from the Greeks.
The prehistoric Greeks invented the use of technology in warfare, which became the power behind military supremacy during the ancient civilization of the West. Some of the inventions included; the Phalanx, which was used in the war against the Persians, advanced catapults developed by the Greeks in Sicily and invention of extremely fast triremes by the Athenians. Massive siege engines were also invented during the period of Alexander the Great who also introduced very fast moving army that could conquer within a short time. There were also inventions by the Greek Ptolemaic kings of Egypt, who created large ships that could carry goods and large number of soldiers during wars.
The Romans speedily adopted the Greek military technology inventions and established the most organized army structure that was used to silence the Greeks themselves who were the real inventers of the military artillery among other nations. This was as a result of proper planning and organization that the Romans exhibited during wars, and used the same technology supremacy to rule the western world for 1700 years, after the integration of the small city states of Greece into the Roman Empire. The Romans also borrowed the military dress, which they improved to special tunics with breastplates and durable belts that would protect their solders when at war. They also borrowed the construction of Roman bridges such as the Corvus’ which was a mobile bridge that was fixed to connect one end of the Roman military ship with another end at the enemy ship during war to allow hand combat.
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The Roman army also copied British technology when they invaded Britain in the spring of 43AD, and brought with them amazing technology from the native Celts. Thy forcefully managed to invade the Celts because they had better weapons that included; good spears, swords, and a number of machines that could throw missiles to far distances. One of the machines was the Manu-ballista which was a hand-cranked catapult originally copied form the Greeks that could launch a bolt with an iron tip at fast speed. The fired bolt whistled in the air at a speed of 50 meters per second, and carried a frightening blow that could go through armor, causing instant death.
The Romans used this copied technology to create an advanced repeating ballista that could automatically launch several bolts one after another. The ballista could throw eleven bolts a minute, which is four times the rate at which the ordinary ballista could operate. The Romans were also in a position to fire several ammunitions at an extraordinary fast rate. The Romans also copied the idea of prefabricated forts from the British and used the technology to reconstruct their Lunt Fort garrison, complete and fixed together on site for prompt defense. These copied technology which were later advanced by the Romans, made their army be very powerful and irresistible by their enemy.
Henry and John Russell also constructed the Roman waterwheel, a Wales’ technology that was borrowed from the remains of a wheel at Dolaucothi, which was used to pump water out of the gold mine. The remodeled wheel was twelve feet high and one foot wide, and when operated like a treadmill, it could lift a bath full of water around 150 liters per minute. This was a faster way of drawing water for the Romans, since the wheel lifted twice the amount that was initially lifted by the Romans. The Russell brothers also used the same technology copied from the Wales to build the most brilliant wine pressing machine, a Roman fire pump that could be used to extinguish small fire, and a Roman odometer, which was used to easily measure distance covered in miles along a road. This made it very easy for their surveyors to demarcate their land. The Romans also learnt about the first plumbing technology from the British when they borrowed the flushing lavatories technique that the soldiers used at House steads and at Bath in Hadrian's Wall. The Roman scientists were not as brilliant as the Briton to invent, but made use of the technology they brought with them to rule and occupy their territory for 400 years.
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This act of the Romans of borrowing inventions from the Greeks, Wales and the British and using them to their advantage in war confirms this statement that the Greek scientists and engineers during the ancient period invented the basic devices, but the Romans maximized their practical potential to their advantage than the inventors.
Roman civilization dates back to the third century when the Romans emerged and borrowed much of their culture, tradition, technology and religion from the neighboring nations like the Greeks, Judaism and Northern Africa. The foundation of the Romans was built by the Etruscans who built Etruscan cities and had a rich culture which included the tomb paintings that had several cultural meanings and were later adopted by the Romans. During the civilization period, the Roman culture could be identified through the Tunic clothing that differentiated people according to their social status, their literature, the Roman army that borrowed a lot from the Greeks and used pilum pear in war. Roman culture could also be identified by the gothic temple architecture and the Roman bridges. The success of Romans was attributed to its education, tradition and discipline. However, when they left their morals and got into sexual promiscuity and corruption, from the high social class people including emperors to the lowest in the society like the slaves, the Roman Empire fell.