Pr02b2b_New Direction in Government and Society- Ancient Rome: The Republic (Slide by Slide Description)
Click on Pr02b2_New Directions in Government and Society- Ancient Rome: The Republic to view the slides that accompany these descriptions.
Cover Slide: “SPQR“. Represents republican Rome’s creed. As an acronym, it stands for “Senatus Populusque Romanus” => The Senate and People of Rome. Such a phrase/ acronym would be affixed at the end of official documents and public monuments.
Now we enter the Roman republican period. The period lasts ~482 years. It marks the toppling of the Etruscan monarchs by Rome’s citizens and the development of republican political ideals.
Slide #2: Traditionally, Roman history has pegged a deep hatred of ‘kings’ on the Roman citizenry. The absolute power monarchs exercised arbitrarily, and the Fasces represented, were an element of political rule that the founders of Rome’s republican government wanted to avoid. The Twelve Tables (12 Tablets) are sometimes compared to the first 10 amendments of the US Constitution (The Bill of Rights). Without going too deep into that discussion, it’s enough to know that the 12 Tables enumerated basic rights that all Roman citizens had and could not be deprived without due process. It’s primary role was to limit the power of the government. Along those lines, the republican government was structured.
Slide #3: Carefully analyze this diagram of the Roman Republican government. Notice the division of powers and the inherent checks-balances between ‘branches’ of government.
Slide #4 – 5: The next two slides highlights the importance of Cincinnatus. Legend has it that when the Gallic tribes ventured south and threatened the city of Rome, Cincinnatus (who was already retired and working on his farm) was approached by members of the Roman Senate. They asked him to assume the powers of the Imperator and lead Rome through this crisis. The Imperium was the power vested in the Imperator and symbolically represented by the Fasces. In English, Dictator is substituted for Imperator.
Always fearing anyone with too much power, republican Rome placed a limit of six months on anyone holding the title of Dictator. After the period expires, the Fasces is returned to the Senate if the crisis, which called for a Dictator in the first place, is over. If the crisis continues, the Senate may extend the authority of the Imperium or give the Fasces to another citizen who will then exercise that authority for another six months.
Cincinnatus’ story is special because he handled the crisis quickly then surrendered the Fasces voluntarily to the Senate before the six months term was over. Here is a man who willingly surrendered absolute power, choosing instead to return to his farm. The bronze statue of Cincinnatus you see in the image is located in the center of the US city that bears his name- Cincinnati, OH. The statue captures forever the moment that Cincinnatus surrenders the Fasces to the Senate so he can return to his farm (notice the plow behind him?).
While Arete represented the traits of the ideal Greek, the three Latin terms listed on the slide represent Roman ideals vested in Cincinnatus: Gravitas => Seriousness (Don’t joke around), Pietas => Piety, fervor to the point of Religiousness (Perform your public duties as if the State is divine or ultra special), and Frugalitas => Frugal (Don’t be wasteful).
Slide #6 – 12: 22 centuries of Roman civilization meant that there would be many crises to handle and learn from. In early Roman history, there was no greater threat than that posed by the Carthaginians. So combative were these two civilizations engaged in three wars (Punic Wars).
The word Punic comes from the Latin word for Carthage. Etymologically, ‘Punic’ is derived from the same word that produced Phoenicia. It is widely accepted that Carthage was a colony of the Phoenicians who sailed the Mediterranean Sea many centuries before.
No Carthaginian spread as much fear among the Romans as Hannibal. For a limited time, watch this video at home. It reveals just how much of a threat Hannibal was. Rome’s worst defeat (ever!) was at the hands of this military genius, at the Battle of Cannae.
The Carthaginian Wars proved to the Romans that changes needed to be made if Rome was to grow and dominate the region. Rome learned from many different crises and the military benefitted from some of the changes.
Rome abandoned the use of the phalanx and created the Manipular formation. Manipular => Maniple => ‘Hand’ formation. The maniple made Roman forces more flexible on the battlefield compared to the phalanx. It emphasized close-In fighting to take advantage of the superb Roman training, discipline, and weapons (Scutum, Pilum, & Gladius).
We have, therefore, three examples of how “learning from your mistakes” permitted Rome to excel in several fields: Political Emergencies– The 5th C. BCE invasion of the Italian Peninsula by a Gallic army. The Fasces was used to permit one person to plan a response and defeat the invaders; Construction– the ‘Dome’, an architectural feature immortalized by the Pantheon was made possible by the invention of Cement and Concrete; Military Science– The crushing defeats meted out by Hannibal, particularly at Cannae, forced Rome to abandon old methods of organizing and employing their army. The Phalanx is replaced by the Maniple.
Slide #13: Here is a riddle disguised as a poem. I adopted and adapted it from a popular fantasy that young and old alike may recognize. Among other modifications, I substituted “Fasces” for “Ring”. Can you guess the fantasy? Can you decipher the riddle as I’ve written it?