It has been said of the British Empire at the peak of its rule that "the sun never sets on the British Empire". Does this mean that it was far greater an Empire than Rome ever was?
Well no.Watching that Jeremy Paxman program on BBC1 the other night on how he traces the story of the British Empire by examining how traders, conquerors and settlers spread the British way of doing things where ever they went, I have to say that to me Rome seem to have a serious title contender for being the greatest Empire ever.
It simply meant that the British Empire was so vast that at the time that in a 24hr day it would somewhere anytime on the globe still be daylight in their Empire.
French writer Voltaire once wrote this of the Roman Empire: "It was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire".
What makes a nation a great Empire or a Super Power? One thing you cannot take away from the Roman Empire is its longevity. It finally ended in 1945 after Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich goose-step through Europe got blasted out of existence by the Allied Forces.
Rome's most obvious strength was its military. The Romans had the best training and training facilities,the biggest budget and best armoury the world at that time has ever seen. Rome always made formal colonies as ruling consuls in other lands to press forward their Sovereignty.
Paul Kennedy,the author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers wrote:"The Romans understood that the world needed to practice imperialism, namely the art of winning wars and invading territories,[which meant] they also practiced and learned the political tricks that sustained their ability to stay in power of their territories during their reigning period". So it basically meant that the Romans understood the format needed on how imperial business got handled.
Everybody feared Rome's military might and therefore feared threatening Rome or its military power. What made Rome great too was its keen sense for infrastructure development. The Romans built roads,bridges,aqua ducts that were way ahead in engineering times. Partly due to its military having to move a lot quicker from A to B.
The Romans realize that for them to remain a World Power,they had to excel at both the art of winning wars and the art of winning the cultural battle that they so often found in political circles. Bearing in mind that the Roman empire spanned continents as well as vast cultural differences.
The Romans were good at seducing its subjects. With all their wonderfully hot Roman baths that included the massage rooms, gymnasiums, gaming rooms, places to eat and drink and the Roman central heating system,all for purpose of enslaving people to succumb to such wonderful seductions.
As Clement of Alexandria wrote: "The baths are opened promiscuously to men and women it's where they strip for licentious indulgence indeed.
The Romans had a model of Government closely tied in with capitalism where the principle of progress through the utilization of one's workforce was lured by the excesses of the good life as the end product. If this works and people enjoys doing it this way then why force yourself and your ways onto them. Its called "working" whilst others do the work for you.
So with all this then how did the Roman Empire fall? Simply put,its was largely due to lack of foresight. The Romans in later centuries just assumed that cultural, economic and social differences between themselves and other nations could be bridged by simply implementing the “Roman” way of doing things. Much like the British did in latter half of the 20th century and now as the Americans are trying to do in the 21st century.
The foreign policy that the United States employs today is similarly misguided as Rome's was. Implementing the “American way” in other countries that are so dissimilar to America and do not value the basic inalienable human rights laws is a case in point.
Eventually Rome,because of the delicate political dance it tried to play all over the Known World back then by forcing it “way of life” on vastly dissimilar cultures, resulted in its ultimate demise.
Rome did leave its cultural and architectural footprint on the world. From the Carcassonne in the South of France,the magnificent Roman Villas built like the one at Fishbourne in Sussex in Southern England,the exquisite mosaic floors and colonnaded fronts only reminds us of Rome's wealth and prestige.
It was Julius Caesar that led the first Roman invasion of England in 55 AD and it was Roman Emperor Claudius that went on to subdue the country 90 years later. And Londinium,better known as London today,was the port city the Romans created shortly thereafter at the river Thames or Tamesis' north end.
From some 400 years the Romans expanded trade with other areas of Europe and even imported luxury items from the Mediterranean,like timber from Lebanon. The Thames river was used to carry goods to London from inland areas, so that London, with its radiating system of main roads, soon became an important trading point of call.
The Roman philosopher Seneca wrote:"The vice-filled Roman World was one where men struggled in a mighty rivalry of wickedness. Everyday the desire for wrong doing is greater and the dread of it far less...it was a community of wild beasts maybe,but at least it was entertaining".
The Roman postal service elected men from the royal bodyguards to deliver any royal decrees and messages. Persian horses were used as they were faster and at relay stations or post,fresh couriers were lined up and ready to receive and take the post out.
They would do so in night or day, rain or sunshine regardless. A station was set up every few miles with more than 40 horses kept for this service at any given time. A roman postal worker or courier would normally travel around 160 kilometres or 100 miles a day delivering mail,bearing in mind the considerable speed post-horses covered. Mail was hardly ever late at any time anywhere in the Empire.
So yes the Colosseum,the Roman highways,the Praetorian Guard,the frumentarii,their artistic influences,philosophical and religious doctrines-Rome left an indelible mark on modern civilizations and simply has to be one if not the greatest super power the world has ever known.
3.Edward Gibbon, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" (1776-1788)