Monday, October 21, 2013

Power is Persuasion

       This is my second year being apart of the Roman History Seminar with Mr. Dundov so going into the class I felt I had a pretty good understanding of what was discussed. Last year I remember I walked away feeling like I had learned some interesting things I hadn't known, as though I was walking from my World History class sophomore year, with an array of dates, names and events memorized. Nothing really stood out or made me think deeper about what I knew about Rome; just more textbook work. But this year was different in the fact that I now recognized a common theme in the building of and in some of the low points and even the fall of the empire: Power. Power in fear, information, religion, in numbers, and also the acquiring of power itself. The Roman Empire was so influential in history and lasted as long as it did because it was rich and powerful. But it also destroyed itself from the way in which power was abused and distributed.

       A key example of power in the building of Rome is found within the vastness of the Empire itself. Conquering and incorporating people of varying culture, region, language, and character allowed for an enriching wealth in numbers and resources for the empire. The fear used in offering people the comfort of waving the Roman flag and the protection of the military and government, but also a threat in denying and therefore leaving yourself privy to the inevitable annihilation, plundering, and destruction that would come to you
for not being apart of Rome. But how do you connect an empire so vastly spread across a continent and even a sea? Geographically, Rome was connected by roads and paths built for trade and moving the military from place to place, allowing for faster and more efficient movement for battle. The easier distribution of goods meant healthy trade and exchanging of resources between people of all regions, falling into a sense of one nation though the people may be so different. But just as the people and their goods are so diverse and different, so will their cultures and religions. Uniting the Roman Empire under one religion was decreed by Emperor Constantine, establishing a power for control by way of religion, and further unifying the people by a commonality. The Church went up and down over the course of history in abuse of power and the process of cleaning up their image. Christianity broke off into varying denominations as a direct effect of neglectful power of the church when people were granted pardons of their sins by the church, basically allowing people to buy their tickets into heaven. Threat and fear is what caused for Christianity to spread; word of mouth or either people who decided to believe what was said or just accepted what was put on them by the government.
       Power, if handled selfishly and by one person, can be extremely destructive. Caesar found himself with all the power and though he was supreme in his ruling, he was alone and then paranoid in his position, which made him irrational. What came of him was 23 stab wounds inflicted by his inferiors and those who really were supposed to have his back. With great power means someone is sacrificed, often the weak and innocent in order for power to be maintained. This is seen through times of compromise in war. For example, Caesar was attempting to starve out a city lead by a venerable general that would not join Rome. By building multiple walls around the city, the opposing military leader was supposed to think of the greater good of the city and  surrender, but for the sake of pride allowed for many women and children to be the sacrifice for the sake of holding power just a little longer. Ultimately he surrendered and was taken back to Rome to be publicly executed, but the sole fact of the amount of power that was within his hands and the power Caesar apposed made this stalemate an example of what power can do when nothing is as important anymore as the position of power one may have.
       These powerful and lasting events in history is what makes Rome so rich. Not just for the power it once possessed, but what came of these events and accomplishments to shape the history and influence it had on the rest of the world. The Roman Empire expressed a lasting impression on history the United States has not even begun to touch the surface of accomplishing. As of now, only being a 300 year old country, may never be realized in the instability we face already. This year's class gave me a much more expanded view on how to look at Roman History and understanding what was the strength and simultaneous weakness of what Rome. 

Simone Sheppard


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