Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Pompous Romans

        Ancient Romans were a thriving civilization that grew centering the city of Rome about two thousand years ago.The early people of Roman civilization were from Latin tribe of Latium plains, who were successful farmers and traders. Since beginning it was a rich city and was ruled by the kings. In 509 BC, the Romans drove out their last king, Tarquin the Proud and became a republic. The republic was ruled by Senates. By the end of the Republic, Rome had conquered the lands around the Mediterranean and beyond. By passage of time their fear of being attacked by enemies and drive to conquer more neighboring countries contrived a society highly developed in military and political skills, which not only protected the city from the invaders but also expanded its power.  

In the Empire, Rome entered in its golden times at the hands of Augustus Caesar. Under Trajan, the Empire reached its territorial peak. The republican values started to decline in the imperial times, and civil wars became the common ritual. As the Roman Empire was much expanded than control it was divided as western and eastern Empire. The western Empire broke up into independent kingdoms in 5 th century and the eastern Empire was declined after a millennium by emerging Turkish Ottoman Empire

  In its centuries of existence, Roman civilization shifted from a monarchy to an aristocratic republic to an increasingly autocratic empire. It came to dominate Southern Europe, Western Europe, Balkans, Asia Minor, North Africa and parts of Eastern Europe through conquest and assimilation and become one of the largest empires in the world. The 
Romans also contributed greatly in government, law, war, art, literature, architecture, technology, religion, and language.

The Ancient Roman Society was carefully divided into two classes; the upper class most being the senatorial (political) and equestrian (economic) classes and the poorer lower classes. As Roman society was extremely rigid, the gulf between these two upper classes and the much larger lower classes was immense. The boundaries between the different classes were legally enforced. Even the members of different classes have to dress differently. Though slaves and freemen were given the permission to work in the homes of the upper classes, the classes were strictly defined. 

No matter how different there way of life is, they have some common beliefs and social norms. Unlike society in ancient Egypt, Rome did not regard women as equal to man. In any Roman family life, the head of the household was a man. Women were valued mainly as wives and mothers. Women were not allowed to be active in politics; neither had they got the opportunity to have education. 

      There were some common traditions that all Romans shared. An Integral part of daily life in ancient Romans was the baths, an obvious symbol or icon of Rome’s superiority to the rest of the world. It was most like leisure centers for people of all classes. It was not only a place to get clean and relax but also a place to meet with people and do business. 

    Though belonged to such a civilized and sophisticated society, the Romans deep attraction to extreme public violence had been a favorite entertainment for centuries. They liked to enjoy brutal Chariot races and fights between gladiators at theaters where the contesters fight to death. Such contest show was open to all class of people and the fees were mostly paid by the Emperors. 

Throughout the history of Rome, from the monarchy to the late empire, religion had played a great role in its society and was involved in almost every aspect of the life of the Roman citizen. The Romans were polytheistic and much of their lives were spent in a fervent effort to please their gods. To the Romans, religion was less a spiritual experience than a contractual relationship between mankind and the forces which were believed to control people's existence and well-being. 

Their religion was not like Christianity where one loves and trusts God. Romans worshiped their god out of fear. They participated in festivals, offered sacrifices and offerings, and created family religious practices in the home. The Romans did not build great mythologies like the Greeks; rather they believed everything had a spirit. That idea made the ancient roman religion known as one of the world’s first and most famous pagan religions. 

Religion was in the hands of state official's not individual people. There were about five religious posts in ancient Rome, which were: Pontiffs, Haruspexs, Augurs, Flamens, and Vestal Virgins and each one played a very important role in the organization. 

     Pontiffs were advised chief magistrates. They also established an early criminal code and created a calendar, fixing dates of religious festivals or special events and days of holidays. The Pontiffs were sometimes bribed by the politicians to create a fake month so that their term of office could be extended. The Haruspex was a priest that was highly thought of by the people. He was so important in telling the future that he outlived the civilization itself for centuries. Augurs supervised and interrupted auspices used to decide if the gods approved government action. Auspices were 'omens' sent by the gods and included looking at the color of entrails, lightning, and natural phenomenon. Augurs were nominated for life. Flamens were chief priests to who conduct different sacrifices. There were three major Flamens, those that represented Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus. Vestal Virgins looked after the sacred fire of Vestal (goddess of hearth) and made sure it burned. They were victims of physical/sexual abuse by senior religious officials as punishment if the flame was extinguished. 

There were some personal aspects of the religion within family too. In every Roman house there was a sacred fire and everyone in the Roman family participated in keeping the fire going. They believed it to have the power to bring them good health as well as protection. Whenever the fire went out, it was believed that terrible things could happen to them. To the Roman people the dead were considered sacred beings. The worship of the dead was another of the family religious practices. Every time a person in one of the families died they were worshiped like a god so they wouldn't be haunted for life. 

Rome was brutal in its enforcement of its religious views. As the Imperial system gained hold, it was common practice for the Emperors to accept divine honors before their deaths that led to sacrificial rituals as signs of loyalty. Several wars were fought with the Jews in order to try and get them to accept the worship of the deceased Roman emperors as gods. Not only that, as Christians refused to worship the emperor as a god, persecution of the Christians and conflict with the cult was a constant source of strife. In the early 4th century AD, Constantine either converted to Christianity or made it an acceptable part of Roman religion, eliminating the emperor deification altogether. 

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