There’s very little time left in this year, but just enough, thankfully, to let you experience some of the gruesome qualities of the ancient Romans.
The BBC website describes the Romans as “ingenious but brutal”. I think this is a succinct and accurate description. The Romans built superbly designed roads, triumphal arches and aqueducts and administered a massive empire for hundreds of years, but despite their brilliance in many fields they certainly had a brutal streak.
The Romans are remembered for many qualities, not all of them pleasant. They are of course famous for their military conquests. They are infamous for their cruel punishments, such as the one inflicted on Jesus and the thousands of slaves they executed for rebellion along the Appian Way. The blood sports in their amphitheatres were a feature of their civilisation; by all accounts they bayed for blood and got it. They are also renowned for the decadence they displayed during their huge banquets. These are just a few examples.
Nevertheless, their influence on the modern world has been immeasurable, like that of the ancient Greeks. Most modern languages have many words that originate from Latin. The script used by the Romans is the one used in most countries for writing today. The administrative methods, architecture and engineering of the ancient Romans have been admired and emulated ever since their empire finally collapsed.
The Western Roman Empire officially came to an end in 476AD, a date that is usually considered to mark the end of the ancient period and the beginning of the medieval period. This depends on which historian you read, of course.
Even though they were warlike and vicious in many ways, they imposed an enforced peace upon their large empire. Even in the midst of all their decadence, the learning and ideas that flourished during that time of peace – known as “Pax Romana” – provided a basis for later civilisations to build upon.
Our family friend, John Bayley, took this shot of a reenactment of a Roman chariot race during his visit to Jordan in 2009. I hope it gets you in the mood for gladiators and blood sports.
Reenactment of a Roman legion in formation, also taken by John Bayley.
Click HERE for the Gladiator: Dressed to Kill Game from the wonderful BBC website if you haven’t have played this game already. (You can also click on the pic below.)
Roman Mosaics: The Romans loved to make pictures with small tiles. Click HERE for some pictures of Roman mosaics to inspire you. Then try making your own by clicking on my mosaic below to go to a site that lets you design one online.