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The Empire

Naturally the most obvious achievement of the Romans was their vast empire, which spread over three continents. It lasted for a long, long time: from 625 BC - 476 AD (1101 years). If you include the eastern Roman Empire, which lasted until 1453 AD it would even be 2078 years! In comparison, the Unites States of America only exists since 1776 – less than 250 years.

Founding Fathers of Many Cities

Europe would not be the same without the Romans. All over the continent, they founded cities that still stand today. The great city of London, capital of the United Kingdom, was founded by the Romans under the name Londinium. Also the German city of Cologne (Colonia Agrippina) is Roman. In fact the list of towns and cities founded by the Romans seems endless.

The Great Builders of Old/Technology

No civilization is so identified with constructing and building things than the Romans. Aqueducts, roads, baths, walls, theaters, temples, arches, cities and palaces were some of the many things that Romans built. Not to mention their invention of concrete. They built a world from which people still benefit today. Some of their old roads are still in use today, as well as some of their great amphitheatres.

The Twelve Tables and the Justinian Code

The Romans developed many of the ideas of justice that we take for granted today; for example, the law that states a person is innocent until proven guilty. Already in 451 BC they created basic laws that governed them all, laying down what one could do and could not do. They wrote them down on twelve plates made of bronze, which became known as the Twelve Tables. These were the first examples of written law. Much later, the great Roman emperor of Constantinople, Justinian, refined many of the laws of the day and collected them all into one work. This is known as the Justinian Code. It was completed in 529 AD. These laws form the basis of all justice systems in the western world today.

The Roman Army

The Romans achieved world fame with their incredible army. It defeated pretty much everybody. The Roman Legion was perhaps the most powerful army ever. Sure, they didn’t have airplanes, tanks and battleships like today; but there were capable of defeating armies far larger than themselves, equipped with the basic weapons: shields, spears, and swords.

Latin - The Eternal Language

As the Romans conquered their empire, they brought their language with them. The language of their army was Latin. Latin was also the language of the governors and office workers in the provinces of the empire. Many romance languages developed from Latin such as: French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Rhaeto-Romantsch (spoken in the Canton Grison in Switzerland), and Rumanian. Some Catholic churches still speak and pray in Latin today.

Alphabet

The Roman alphabet is what most of us still use today in the western world. We have added a few letters to it, like W, but it is still much the same alphabet used by the Romans. Their numerals are not any longer in everyday use (we use Arabic numbers). But for inscriptions on public buildings and in written outlines, Roman numerals are still used.

I =1 V=5 X=10 L=50 C=100 D=500 M=1000

Letters are placed before or after each other to decrease or increase their value.

IX=9 MXI=1011 IIMM=1998 MMX=2010

The Roman Highways

Roman Highways were built so straight, flat, and resistant that some are still used today (for example Via Appia). Many modern European highways follow the old Roman highways, as they used the most direct route to connect cities.

Spectator Sports

The Greeks invented the Olympic Games and stadiums, but the Romans gave us the idea of mass entertainment. Everyone was allowed to attend the gladiator battles in the Colosseum and the chariot races in the Circus Maximus.

The Julian Calendar

Named after its inventor (Gaius Julius Caesar), the Julian Calendar is almost identical to the modern Western calendar reformed by Pope Gregory 1600 years later and still used my many national Orthodox churches. It had all the current months, whose names have meanings in Latin: January, from Hanus, god of the beginning of times; February, from Februa, a Roman festival; March, from Mars, the god of war; April, from Apire meaning “open,” referring to the blossoming of spring; May, from Maia, goddess of fertility; June, from Juno, goddess of women and marriage, hence the expression “June Bride”; July, named after Julius Caesar himself; August, from Emperor Augustus; September, “7th” because March was the first month at that time and September was the 7th month; October, “8th, and so on.

Aqueducts/Sewers

Aqueducts would bring drinkable water from hundreds of kilometers away. They were designed with just the right incline that the water would not run too fast and erode the stone; nor too slow and evaporate or become muddy. Combined with canalization and sewers, they enabled a city like Rome to sustain a population of over one million people.

The Republic

The Roman Senate was supposedly founded by Romulus 2756 years ago. The Republic is 2514 years old, but it deeply influenced modern democratic states. The Greek idea of democracy is probably further from the current “democratic” system than the elitist Roman Republic.

Bloody Games in the Circuses

When Romans went to the circus to watch the games, it was to view a brutal spectacle. Chariot racing was perhaps the least murderous event, although many drivers were injured in crashes. For more gruesome entertainment, Romans watched while beasts tore each other apart. Sometimes gladiators fought exotic beasts from far away countries or the gladiators fought each other to the death.

Ordered Suicides and “Proscription”

If an emperor wanted rid of a particular senator, he would simply write him a letter, ordering him to kill himself (or else he would send someone round to kill him). Emperor Nero ordered a great many such suicides. The dictator Sulla during the time of the Roman Republic invented the “proscription” as a way of disposing of his enemies, by which he would just announce whom he wanted dead. This would be read out loud in public places and he would then reward anyone who would kill that particular person.

Insane and Cruel Emperors

Some Roman emperors were maniacs. The most famous was Nero, but there were many others. Sometimes even the good emperors needed to be utterly brutal at first, in order to take power. Brutality was often the order of the day, more so of course when mad or just particularly cruel emperors came to power. Mad emperor Caligula ordered his legions to collect shells on the beach in order to prove that he had “conquered the sea.” Nero killed his mother and his wife. The cruel emperor Septimius Severus had the body of his dead opponent Clodius Albinus laid out before him so that he could ride over it with his horse.

Religious Persecution

Rome was brutal in its enforcement of its religious views. Several wars were fought with the Jews in order to try to get them to accept the worship of the deceased Roman emperors as gods. The fighting was so fierce that the great city of Jerusalem was destroyed. Most famously, the Christians were thrown to the lions by Emperor Nero, who blamed them for the Great Fire of Rome. Later, after the empire had been Christianized, the believers of the old Roman gods were equally persecuted by the Christian emperors.

Slavery

The Romans kept slaves. The hard work all over the empire was mostly done by slaves. They worked the farms and cleaned the sewers. They were servants in the wealthy houses. They were people who belonged to people (their owners) as though they were animals. Just like animals, they could be bought and sold, punished and whipped by their masters.