Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Europe’s Great Mistake: The Roman Empire

The Roman Republic was founded in 509 BC. It took the Romans about 300 years (by 218 BC) to consolidate their rule over just the Italian peninsula, and it took them another 350 years to reach the highest extent of their empire (under Emperor Trajan in 117 AD). Contrast the slow progress of Rome with the rapid expansion of other empires: The Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan and his descendants had amassed six times more territory than the Roman Empire in just 50 years. The Maurya Empire of India had become as large as the Roman Empire in just 5 years. The Spanish Empire became twice as large as the Roman Empire in just 30 years.

There is one important reason for the slow expansion of the Roman Empire. The Romans used to regard every tribe which lacked Greek and Roman traditions as barbarians. The Gauls, the Visigoths, the Goths, the Ostrogoths, the Avars, the Celts, the Saxons, the Burgundians, the Suebi, the Franks, the Alans, the Britons—all of them were barbarians, according to the Romans. It didn’t matter to the Romans that these tribals were not invaders from Asia, Africa, or South America—they were the original inhabitants of Europe. They were natives of Europe. 

Most non-Roman tribes in Europe did not want to be part of the Roman world because they never got any respect from the Romans. They fought the Romans for every inch of soil. With much of Europe pitted against them, the progress of the Roman Empire had to be slow. In the time of Emperor Augustus, the Romans tried to develop a policy of assimilating the barbarians by getting them to serve in the Roman military, but by then it was too late since most of Europe had already developed an anti-Roman ideology. 

The Colosseum, built by Emperors Vespasian and Titus in the first century AD, is a tourist attraction in Rome. Most of the gladiators who died in the Colosseum and other such arenas were the European barbarians who were captured by the Romans. In a single sporting season at the time of Emperor Trajan 10,000 gladiators were killed in just 123 days. No other culture in the world has turned the killing of humans into a spectator sport on the scale that the Romans did. Thousands of Roman citizens, including the intellectuals and the political elite, used to sit in the Colosseum (and other such stadiums) and watch gladiators being tortured and killed.

Try to imagine what the Western reaction would be if an edifice like the Colosseum had been built in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, India, or China. They would have held this edifice as the proof of the vileness and the bloodthirstiness of the culture which built it. They would have written hundreds of books and articles condemning it. But the Colosseum is regarded as a supreme example of Western art, architecture, and culture. The gladiators are mythologized in movies and books as the symbols of Roman valor.

If the Western intellectuals can sell the Colosseum as an example of sophisticated culture, and the gladiators as an example of bravery and valor, then they can sell any nonsense to their own people and to the people in other cultures. The Western version of history is an abortion in the womb of the past.

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