Rome was once hailed as the greatest empire to exist and pretty much ruled the entire world.
Without a doubt, Rome pushed farther in every extent than any previous civilization had dared to do.
Rome dreamed of the impossible and then found ways to make the impossible happen. In government, military, infrastructure, and lasting impacts to society, Rome set the bar extremely high. There was no competitor. Rome was the stick by which the then-world was judged. Rome started small, just a city, grew to rule the world, and then crumbled in self-imploding chaos.
But what was Rome like?
The origins of Rome are somewhat murky but are definitely legendary.
The legend I choose to tickle my fancy is that of the two outcast twins Romulus and Remus who were raised by a she-wolf. I like that particular legend maybe because I’m a guy, maybe because I appreciate the absurdity of it, or maybe just because I enjoy the fable-like aspect of the story. In any case, the legend seems to contain a spoiler alert for it was through blood-shed that Rome was founded.
According to the legend, a shepherd and his wife helped to raise the young boys into men, and then these two men built a city. All is perfect until it came time to decide who would be the ruler of Rome. When no compromise was reached, the two brothers fought and Romulus became ruler of Rome after killing his brother Remus. Tragic, but it is the legend of Rome.
From there Rome developed into a republic governed by a Senate, probably the most advanced form of democracy in existence back then.
But the republic would not last more than a few hundred years. During a time of political unrest, an ambitious Roman general by the name of Julius Caesar marched his army across the Rubicon River and “Occupied Rome” taking control of the government and turning the republic into a dictatorship.
During the reign of Octavious, Julius’ son, Rome began to develop as an emerging world power and was eager to flex its young military muscle. After methodically conquering its neighboring enemies, Rome began pursuing a gangster form of diplomacy with the rest of the world – “join us and we will take care of you for a fee or we will just destroy and take you over anyway”. This approach proved to be rather successful and Rome soon stretched from “sea to shining sea” (a cliché reference, I know).
What most impressed me about the Roman era was the forethought and attention paid to infrastructure.
In today’s world, no country can become or remain powerful without first building a solid infrastructure, and Rome seemed to understand that. Rome’s public works projects included bridges, roads, water transportation, and major architectural structures. Through these projects, it seemed to show that Rome cared about its citizens and its long-term goals.
Many of the projects constructed way back then are in existence today – thousands of years later, proving that ingenuity combined with good workmanship can create long-lasting benefits. Bridges, roads, and the world-famous Coliseum were built during this time.
I wonder how the Romans felt about all of this as they went to and from their places of work. Did they realize that the new road they were traveling on by horse would one day be seen from people in flying airplanes? Did the people who built the Coliseum sans motorized equipment or computers realize that they would one day baffle the minds of college-educated engineers in the 21stcentury?
I have a rock from a road in Rome. It is one of my treasured collections. As I sit this evening writing this paper and looking at the rock in my hand, I almost feel a sort of connection to the rock. Some Roman worker put this insignificant rock into the road never once imagining that one day it would end up in the hands of a southern Californian “fellow construction worker”.
To me, Rome still exists in the form of this rock. Rome’s greatness cannot be forgotten.
Through the rock in my hand, Rome’s tattered remnants of glory still flutter in the wind, and I am mesmerized.