Tag Archives: roman empire

The Rambler – History

As members of society and citizens of the world, we are one way or another connected to the past, present, and future. That is why history is a multidisciplinary study to understand human nature and learn lessons from the past. Listen to Winston Churchill: “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.”  Watching our nation’s leaders on T.V., dividing the country into splinters of dissenters instead of embracing them as one people of the nation, makes me urge the current political leaders of our country to read about what it means to be an intelligent and influential ruler who knows a thing about leadership.

Roman emperor Hadrian was of history scholar, specialized in ancient Greek history and mythology. He was affectionately known as a “Greekling” and endeared and admired by the Greeks whose land he made in the Roman Empire. The Greeks’ love of the Roman Emperor was inscribed in the Arch of Hadrian built in AD 131, an archeological wonder with the 59 feet high structure made from marble from Mount Pentellicus used for the Parthenon, that read: “This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus.” The Greek elation reached the pinnacle when their Roman ruler built the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s dedication to the king of Greek gods and goddesses’ splendor. He also made the legendary Library of Hadrian, containing 100 marble columns with halls with printed ceilings, alabaster walls, and great statues of the Olympians destroyed by the malice of fortune AD 267. Greek enthusiasm for their Roman emperor was no unreason for their willing submission to Rome’s rule, which they had once colonized. The site of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian in modern Athens

The Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian

Hadrian’s fascination with Greece developed from his learning under the tutelage of his cousin Trojan became a foundation of Pan-Hellenism to turn Athens into a new cosmopolitan cultural center for the Roman Empire. By way of acculturation, Hadrian hoped to stabilize the Roman Empire’s fractious eastern part and effectuate the colonials’ ruling. Hadrian followed what the antecedent Roman poet laureate Virgil in the Aeneid to solidify Greece and Rome’s cultural link. In this fashion, he succeeded in ruling the colony with glad acceptance by the governed, who even declared him a founder of new cosmopolitan Greece, intent on cutting ties with the mythical ancient past.

Hadrian’s motto of Pan-Hellenism reminds me of Macedonian predecessor Alexander the Great’s Hellenism, both of which proved work in incorporating different cultures into a dominant culture with respect and benevolence. Both Alexander and Hadrian had an eye for beauty in arts embedded in cultures they annexed to the dominion and knew how to rule wisely and effectively. It was acculturation of the native cultures on both sides, the ruling and the ruled. Yet, Hadrian’s way of exercising sovereignty over Greece is more accommodating and welcoming, even if the intention was not free from political ambition. The ancient Athenian historian Thucydides confirmed that history is the ultimate record of the events by recognizing certain commonalities between the past and the present that transcends the subject of times and applying it to our present situation. If our current political leaders take a cue about social integration to the same vein’s present social conditions, it might help the country stratified by race and class.

On Ovid: The Exiled Poet in Woe

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People tend to think that the books of antiquarian authors are far-fetched from the reality of our digital era, whereas our calendar years on the evolutionary scale amount to microseconds on the twenty-four-hour biological clock. Apart from a great divide of time, great writers of all time show us the wounds and mirth at the heart of humankind and stand observant of the anfractuous human lives as though to be seen through opera glasses. In this respect, Ovid, author of Metamorphoses, can be regarded as an ancient trailblazer of popular literature whose subject matters, such as cause and effects of love and devotion, are still appealing to readers.

Ovid first gained popularity with The Ars Amatoris (The Art of Love), a kind of self-help book for men on how to woo women and keep their love with practical tips under the guise of a formal didactic reference to avoid censorship. Heroines, a series of dramatic monologues centering on mythological women, including Penelope, Dido, and Ariadne, lamenting on their mistreatment at the hands of their men, earned him the sobriquet of best-seller writer of his time. However, what Ovid secretly and really craved was a learned readership vis-à-vis the reputations of his peers Horace and Virgil whose works were regarded in high intellectual esteem by the elites. Hence, Metamorphoses, a series of 250 stories of gods and immortals intertwined in a vortex of love, lust, grief, and terror, was his magnum opus, a kind of literary vindication of mass demotic literature. It seemed that Ovid as a man of flowering Roman letters arrived at his pinnacle of literary career until fortune’s malice overthrew his state.

Ovid suddenly fell out of favor of the emperor and exiled to Toms, a city on the Black Sea. Whys and hows of Ovid’s exile are still clandestine to this date as Ovid also never recorded any details about what caused the emperor to banish him to the backwater of the empire. As with many a conspiracy story, there are hypotheses of the cause of this unfortunate event: (1) Ovid had a love affair with Livia, Augustus’s wife, while married with children; (2) Ovid knew of an incestuous affair between the emperor and his daughter Julia; or (3) the error might have been of political nature because Ovid might have gossiped about certain political factions. But then any of the above can be a figment of imagination.

Notwithstanding the above, I like to think that Ovid is a great benefactor of mankind with his dazzling reworking of Latin and Greek myths and entertainingly vibrant guidance of practical love. In fact, he was far more gentlemanly in treating women regardless of their age and looks than any of our contemporary man writers. To Ovid asking a woman’s age was highly improper and telling a woman of good things about her are a must to keep her love ongoing. In light of the above, none of the aforesaid presumptions rings true to me, and it is my presumption that maybe Ovid’s jealous contemporary despising the well-deserved success of Metamorphoses conspired against him and pushed him to banishment in the outpost of Rome, the city Ovid loved so much.

Ballad of Dido and Aeneas

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Aeneas leaves Dido, courtesy of pinterest

From a land ravaged by a wooden horse with a golden apple for the fairest of the divine beauties appearing to a prince so young, so impetuous in judgment thereof,

There came a poor beautiful stranger destined for the supernal fate to rule the mortal to the diamond eyes of a maiden queen ethereal in beauty, graceful in act and hapless in love.

Blindsided by Juno’s machination, swept by passion growing strong, growing stronger for the stranger,

The queen bade him with tears and roses in succession day and night, in desperate attempt to keep his presence, his body and his soul, all but an entreaty so futile,

So forlorn, with a promise of her kingdom and her fidelity in return for nothing but his surrendering of himself to her and herself to him till the mortal fate was ended, till one had to cross the River of Styx.

Alas, but the queen’s to be thwarted, she’s to be abandoned by the divine plan forced by the arrival of Mercury, god of war whispering to the poor stranger for the imminent departure for destiny far more magnificent, far more supreme,

As dictated by Jupiter, god of all regions crossing death and life forever who put forward a divine plan over mortal feelings however pitiable.

Thus did the stranger set to sail the seas full of perils ever more.

The queen defied, she cried, she pleaded, but all ended in nought as the poor stranger was to depart cruelly with no tender words of love that’s planted, nourished,

And admired by the queen so now distraught by his betrayal of her love with her plea wreathed in tears and flowers.

Now her love became her poison consuming all of her ever more,

Now he became her foe ravishing all of her in surrender of love.

But what of it when all’s ended in a sea of heartaches thousand times, with no reason to reign as a queen without her lover by her side?

Nothing, nothing’s to remedy her spirit that’s broken thousand times, for nothing, nothing would console the lonely queen in cruel abandonment,

But the last will to burn her body and soul consumed in madness of passion on an ancient funeral pyre that engulfed every part of her whispering to her departing spirit that love would come never more – Nevermore!

 

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The Romans as close as you can be

Life in Ancient RomeLife in Ancient Rome by Lionel Casson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was a time when all the roads led to Rome that lasted approximately 1,500 years ranging from the era of B.C. to that of A.D. It was from this Roman world where the art of politics was crafted and exemplified; it was also from this grandiose empire where Christianity gained ground and dispersed Christendom/Christianity to Urbi et orbi. However, what piqued me most was the key phases of life in the Roman world; what life was like in the various spectrum of society, ranging from the slave to the aristocrat? How different was the life in the Roman world from the life in our modern world? This book by the erudite historian Lionel Casson presents elegant sketches of such aspects of the Eternal City, particularly during the first and second A.D.

Although Rome was the center of the Empire, its strength came from its provinces. For instance, the grain, wine, and oil came from Egypt, France, and Spain. The businessmen who traded such goods were largely provincials, so were the army recruits. Moreover, even slaves could achieve upward social mobility once they became freed through manumission which granted them Roman citizenship. In fact, it was this practice of incorporating into the state the communities it claimed and the populace it governed by bestowing upon them citizenship on the whole. To illustrate, Horace, the famous Roman poet, was a son of a freed slave who later became a wealthy farmer. Felix, who threw St. Paul in a jail, was himself a freed slave who rose above the planes of his melee. These nouveau citizens joined the citizen body and contributed their labor to the society.

Most girls married between the age of twelve and fifteen, and they must possess a dowry. If her husband died, or the couple divorced, it was returned, except a portion for the raising the children by the husband and penalty in case of her misdemeanor. No dowry, no husband in this paterfamily society. Also, the common law marriage was accepted, such as in the case of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher-emperor ruling Rome from 161 A.D. to 180 A.D. After his wife died, he lived with the daughter of his wife’s business agent as concubine. An upper-class woman could have a lover of humble status, even including a slave.

There are lots of other interesting facts that will surprise the reader with a feeling of closeness to these citizens of the Eternal City because they were not much different from the citizens of the modern world in many ways; the scenery changes, and the people change, but the human nature does not change as long as the humankind exists.