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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

many historians.

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

brought them.

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

do so.?

? 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


Work Cited

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,

England, 1984

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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