Top 10 Facts About The Romans

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Top 10 Facts About The Romans

The marriage of Greco-Roman cultures has served as the bedrock of Western civilization; in fact, it’s incomprehensible to imagine modern Western civilization without thinking about the ancient Romans. Even today, we look back to the Romans for guidance. Rome evolved from a small city to a metropolis to the center of an empire. Even the greatest movements of arts and culture referred back to the Romans. Muslims worked tirelessly to conserve Roman and Greek literature. The Umayyad and the Abbasid caliphates played crucial roles in preserving old knowledge and wisdom.

The Arabic translations of ancient Greco-Roman scripts elevated their worth in the eyes of the Europions. Before and during the Renaissance, Europe saw a resurgence of ancient Greek and Latin texts. Over the centuries, as more and more research was conducted on the Roman civilization and the lifestyles of the Romans, we learned fascinating things about them.

Modern Romans have invested their resources and efforts to uphold the values and artifacts of their ancestors. One only needs to visit  Florence to witness the local love for arts, culture, and wisdom that has been passed down the generations. Even today, archaeological research keeps unearthing valuable nuggets of information that continue to fascinate and inspire us. Here are some facts about the Romans:

Top 10 Interesting Facts About The Romans

10 A Wolf Raised the Founders of Rome 

The founders of Rome, Romulus, and Remus,  have been the subject of many conversations, academic and otherwise. Incidentally,  their tale warrants such interest. Rome came to life around 750 BCE, so the tale is somewhat obscure and surreal. The two brothers were born to a virgin and were left on the bank of the River Tiber by their uncle to die, as they were prophesied to challenge him in the future. The two children were suckled by a she-wolf that weathered them through infancy. Upon growing up, the brothers united with their grandfather and defeated their uncle. Then, they set off to build their own city. And, voila! Rome was born.

Although this did not take place without some heartache. The two men could not agree on where to set up the city,  and in the ensuing argument, Remus was killed.  In the words of the Roman historian,  Titus Livius, commonly known as Livy, “It is not without good reason that gods and men chose this place to build our city: these hills with their pure air; this convenient river by which crops may be floated down from the interior and foreign commodities brought up; a sea handy to our needs, but far enough away to guard us against foreign fleets; our situation in the very center of Italy.

All these advantages shape this most favored of sites into a city destined for  glory.” But Livy was not a fan of the origin myth, and rightly so. As far as historicity is concerned, modern scholarship veers away from the Romulus and Remus myth. In the words of Henry David Thoreau,

“The story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf is not a meaningless fable. The founders of every State which has risen to eminence have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild source. It was because the children of the Empire  were not suckled by the wolf that they were conquered and displaced by the children of  the Northern forests who were.” Nevertheless, it remains a powerful tale that was important in formulating ideas for an entire culture. 

9 Expansionist Policy

Expansionist Policy Unlike their Greek brethren, the Romans were not incredibly fond of arts and culture – at least initially. They were good at defending themselves, but they slowly expanded into other territories once they gained confidence in defending their borders. When they came into direct contact with the Greeks, they learned a good deal regarding ethics,  politics, philosophy, and literature from them. The Greeks had made their fortune by sea trade,  but the Romans took a different approach. With a great army at their disposal, they ventured out and took over the Mediterranean region. As they absorbed one state after another, they also began absorbing their values and traditions. 

8 Roman Citizens Were Not Necessarily “Roman”

The chronology of Rome could be divided into three parts: The regal era, which followed the creation of the city, the republic era, and finally, the imperial era. The Roman Republic and the Roman Empire are two different things. The republic existed as a democratic body, but  Augustus dismissed that system for the principate (similar to a monarchy) in 27 BCE.

The Romans continued to wreak havoc on their foes and take over their land. That land and those people came under the servitude of the Roman Empire. The people who had not been born in Rome had never lived there and had never seen it were now Romans, although obtaining actual citizenship differed according to the time period and many still identified as they previously had. However,  being Roman gave the people a common identity, and they still paid their dues just like an average Roman would.

The expansionist policy of the Romans helped them recognize the value of diversity, and it became their bread and butter. This policy helped them establish an empire the likes of which we have not seen since. 

7 Romans Derived Their Mythology  from the Greeks and Etruscans 

At the time, Greece was considered the peak of arts, literature, and culture. Romans began integrating those cultural ideas into their existing framework as they ran over cities and states. When their neighbors, the Greeks and the Etruscans, started mingling with them, their ideas started to gain traction with the Romans.  

The entire Roman mythological pantheon is derived from the Greeks and Etruscans. The Greek Zeus became the Roman Jupiter, Poseidon became Neptune, Aphrodite became Venus, and so on. Mercury has its roots in the Greek god  Hermes, as well as the Etruscan god, Turms. Most of the Roman mythological stories follow the same narrative as their Greek counterparts. The assimilation of diverse religious motifs allowed them to have hundreds of gods and hundreds of different interpretations for each deity.

These gods were not omnipotent and omnipresent like the Abrahamic God. They were complex beings who were just as susceptible to sin as they were to virtue. The twelve major gods, or Dii Consentes, underwent subtle reforms in keeping with the differences in cultural perspectives as they transitioned from the Greek tradition to the Roman one. In his work, The Decline and Fall of  the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon writes, “The various modes of worship which prevailed in  the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally  false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.” 

 

6 Among the First Cities in Recorded  History with a Population of One Million 

According to a census from the 2nd century BCE,  Rome was the first city to record a population of one million. Some people consider Alexandria to be the first city to reach the figure. Although we do not know exactly how many people inhabited Rome or Alexandria, archaeological finds have helped establish healthy estimates. There had been several examples of metropolises throughout ancient history, but the demographical statistics of Rome were unprecedented. Rome was an attraction, and people came from as far as Asia and Africa to visit and live there.

The modern notion of Rome being dominantly Caucasian is also misguided. Maybe the idea of every Roman being White has been lodged into the collective global subconscious by the images of White statues. Oh, those glorious works of sculpture! However, it’s interesting to note that the color of many columns and statues has simply worn off over time. The Romans were fond of creating different colors using organic materials like plants and minerals – not to mention that the Mediterranean has always been a center of trade and commerce, so exciting imports also arrived from the East.

5 Communal Baths 

Rome had aqueducts for bringing water to the city. The popular idea that aqueducts were the inventions of Romans is false, but the concept had never been executed on such a large scale. People would use the fresh water for drinking and bathing. The ancient city had almost 2,300 fountains and countless bathhouses; men and women had separate schedules for taking advantage of the facility.

The public buildings could host many individuals and would often do so. Eventually, the wealthier people of Rome were able to get water delivered directly to their houses through lead pipes. When Rome was the talk of Europe, bathhouses started popping up everywhere.  Though there are vague accounts of what went on in these bathhouses, archaeologists are still learning new information every day. 

4 Circus Maxims

Rome has always had two polar sides. There is the Rome of the beautifully carved stone and the breeding ground of statuesque men, and then there is the Rome of the underground – the trodden,  the poor, the souls who were lost in life. Gambling was a big sport in Rome; in fact, it was so popular that it turned into a bloody affair, leading it to be banned except for certain holidays. But when it was legal, everyone was hoping for that one bet that would drive them out of poverty and into the strata of higher civilization. After all,

it is impossible to think of Rome and not think of the Colosseum, the gambling hub of the city. But did you know that there was another center of gambling in ancient Rome? The trade of wild animals was a lucrative business in the city. The forum, Circus Maximus, is famous for hosting wild animal hunts. The animal hunts eventually shifted to other amphitheaters. This brings us to the most visible part of Rome: the structures. 

3 Amphitheaters! Amphitheaters!

In its heyday, the Colosseum was huge! Even in its current, half-destroyed form, it presents an imposing figure. The grand theatre was built in almost eight years and could hold  50,000 people (possibly even 80,000)! Originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre after the  Flavian Dynasty, it was the largest – but by no means the only – amphitheater of the metropolis.

Rome had around 230 amphitheaters that catered to the public. The large, circular structures with raised seating are still mirrored in sports stadiums today. The amphitheaters were used for gladiator combats, wild animal hunts, and chariot races, and they served as a common distraction from the pangs of daily life. 

2 Roman Inventions

As we said, Romans were crafty people. One only needs to look at their tactical and strategic abilities on the battlefield to recognize their creative potential. They mastered siege warfare and introduced the testudo, the tortoise approach that allowed their infantry to cover distances without suffering casualties. There is plenty of evidence of their creativity off the battlefield as well.

The Romans gave the world an organized postal system and normalized surgical tools. But their most important accomplishments were structural. The Roman civilization’s biggest gift to the world is the widespread use of concrete. Before the Romans, structures were mostly created from stone. The aqueducts, the large buildings, the amphitheaters, and the statues were responsible for urbanizing the city. They brought the people to the city and were responsible for increasing its population.  But people still needed to get to the city. 

1 All Roads Lead to Rome

Imagine a world without paved roads! It seems impossible, yet the world went on without them for quite a long time. Roads and trodden paths were not unusual, but they did not provide the ease and comfort of a smooth journey. Romans essentially reinvented the idea of roads when they started using stone, sand, gravel, and volcanic rock.

The Romans were so effective at connecting cities, towns, military bases, and other points of interest that many modern European roads were built upon the roads they built hundreds of years ago. These roads were created to offer convenience and withstand the brunt of time, which they did for a long time. They had drainage systems to resist the effects of rains and floods. Footpaths ran on both sides of the road to facilitate the walking crowds.

Like everything else the  Romans made, it had something for everyone. That is the legacy of Rome – it gave so much to the world that nobody could say no to its progressive and creative inventions. From the  East to the West, every subsequent civilization owes something to the Greco-Roman marriage that gave us the foundations for the modern world. 


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