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Romans Are Warlike People Essay, Research Paper
In many modern books written about Ancient Rome and its people, The Romans
are often portrayed as brutal and unforgiving people who enjoy violence and though it is
amusing to see people being injured and killed to the point of obsession. It is my goal to
establish wheather this classification is justified or if it is simply an exaggeration of what a
small group of people enjoy.
While it is known that in Rome there were gladiator fights, public beatings and
slavery was legal and common. It is also important to understand just how advanced the
Romans were. The Longman Dictonary of the English Language Defines civilized as ?of
or being peoples of a nation in a state of civilization.? I think that by this definition, the
Romans were civilized, the educated being able to write and detailed records being kept by
The Romans also had written laws and government, including an assembly for the
poorer classes. In fact, Their system of law was actually quite advanced (even if it was
designed to help the rich). ? The idea was accepted that a man?s intentions ought to be
taken into account, and there was less importance attached to what he did and what he
meant to do. The next thing to become established was the notion that all men must be
treated equally.? This way of thinking was very advanced and not barbaric or uncivilized
at all, in fact the same notion that all men should be treated equally was not established in
America and other countries for many years to come.
It is know common knowledge that, in Ancient Rome, people often attended and
enjoyed gladiator fights to the death, wild beast hunts, naval battles and chariot racing, all
of which often had religious origins. During the reign of Caesar, thousands of men and
animals were butchered just to make a Roman holiday. The Romans Also enjoyed
pantomimes and plays which too were often very violent in nature. ? It was not
uncommon for a condemned criminal to be executed [on stage] as part of the play.?
Contemporary sources say that it is often portrayed that slaves were treated more
harshly than was actually the case. Slaves in Rome actually did have some privileges. ?It
is clear that slaves owned land, property, ships, interests in business concerns, even slaves
of their own, and that their rights were protected by law.? In most cases, slaves were
citizens of conquered lands who had been spared and put into slavery instead of being
executed. This in itself was a privilege. Often slaves were trained by their ?masters? in a
craft, giving them skills and again benefiting them. ? For a man from a ?backward? race
might be brought within the pale of civilization, educated and trained in a craft or
profession, and turned into a useful member of society.? Although this extract is clearly
written by someone not a slave, it proves that a slave may learn a lot and actually benefit
from slavery. In fact, Satrion of Petronius, who was once a slave actually said ?Thanks
heavens for slavery, it made me what you see today.? Although this only account of one
man, it shows that at least some people actually recognized the benefits that slavery
On the other hand, some slaves masters treated their slaves very poorly. In the
eyes of the Roman law, a slave was the absolute property of his master and he could inflict
any kind of punishment on his that he chose and beating, torture, and the murder of slaves
was common, and some slaves lived in constant fear of their masters. Often masters
would attack their slaves for the most minor of reasons, and often because they wanted to
take their anger out. ?Farm slaves often toiled in chain gangs, living like animals and in a
constant fear of the whip or the cross.? ?It was common in criminal cases for slaves?
evidence to be given under torture, and the law of the Imperial age was explicit on how to
? These poor, undersized slaves. Their skin was black and blue with bruises, their
backs covered with cuts from the whip. They were covered with rags, not clothes, and it
was hardly enough to make them decent. They had been branded on the forehead and half
of their hair was shaved off. On their legs they wore iron chains.? This was the
description of the harsh conditions at a flourmill, written by Apuleius.
Unfortunately, many slaves were treated very badly but there were many masters
that treated their slaves well and sometimes even respected their slaves. These particular
slaves were often more talented at a particular craft than their master. Many slaves were
often released by their masters. ?It was discovered that, the nearer the lot of a slave
approached a free man, the more useful he was.? This realization helped slaves invariably.
Although much of the evidence portrays the Romans as brutal, unforgiving and
obsessed with violence, we must look at exactly why this is though. When writers try to
prove that the Roman were obsessed with violence, they often refer to the gladiator fights,
chariot races, wild beast hunts, and mostly the keeping of slaves. However, when you
look at this list of ?enertainments?, you see that they are all similar to things that are being
done today. For example, boxing, although the rules are more stringent and the boxers
don?t fight to the death , they do beat each other, causing long-term damage to both. This
isn?t all that different from gladiator fights! Chariot racing is very similar to NASCAR
racing. As for the wild beast hunts, at least those animals had a sporting chance. Today
hunters are paying fees to hunt drugged animals in confined parks. Needless to say that
slavery continued well into the 19th Century. Although the Romans watch these events to
see violence and death. The same can be said for all of those people who slow down at an
automobile accident to see if you can see any blood.
Therefor, the Romans were no more violent as a society than our own. We have
the same sort of entertainment and enjoy the same violent things. I think that is unfair to
say that the Romans were obsessed with violence when the American people do the same
P Mantin & R Pulley, The Roman World: From Republic to Empire, Cambridge
University Press, England, 1992
KR Bradley, Slavery and Rebellion in the Roman World, Indiana University Press,
Bloomington, Indiana, USA, 1989
Longman Dictionary if the English Languages, WM Clowes Ltd., Beccles & London,
REC Burrell, The Romans and Their World, A. Wheaton & Co., Exeter, England, 1976
RH Barrow, The Romans, Penguin Books, Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England,
G. Alfoldy, The Social History of Rome, The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore,
Maryland, USA, 1991
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