SPQR-The Legacy of Ancient Rome
by Tommaso Gambino
The overwhelming achievement of the Romans was their development of the foundation of our western civilization. The Pax Romana (Roman Peace) allowed for the elevation of the human spirit. Refinement, love of letters, law, art, science, religion, principles of life were established and enjoyed. How to live and behave with the ability to travel and conduct commerce in a lawful manner was spread throughout the vast empire. Many of these characteristics are still with us.
For example, the Roman twelve tablets written in 450 BC codified specific crimes and punishments. There were diverse Roman courts that dealt with different statutory offences that is common in the contemporary west of today. Rome applied the system of checks and balances over 2,500 years ago in their political structure. The American government was founded on this principle. Furthermore, the US Senate is modeled on the ancient Roman version.
The inscription SPQR (Senatus Populusque Quiritium Romanus - Senate and the People of Rome)
The Mediterranean Sea, known then as Mare Nostrum (our sea), became a safe conduit for transporting products and sharing ideas over a vast area. It took only seven days to sail east from Rome to Egypt and likewise seven days to sail west from Rome, caput mundi (world capital) to the straights of Gibraltar. Myriad coastal cities dotted the shoreline with storied names such as Alexandria, Constantinople (now Istanbul), Carthage, Ephesus, Ostia, etc.; many of which are still active today.
Carving of a trireme – an ancient Roman warship
“All roads lead to Rome,” and many are still in use. Via Appia, Via Flaminina and Via Aurelia are but a few of the 53,000 miles of famous roads that carried the life-blood of the Empire. It took six bumpy days to travel from Rome to Naples as compared with a leisurely 2 1/2 hour drive today on the modern Autostrada del Sole. The roads fortunately had rest places called missiones that were standard and spaced every 15 miles. Here the ancients could rest their weary bones after a long day of traveling.
A Roman road
Latin, was spoken on the shores of the river Tiber as well as on the shores of the river Thames. Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian are merely modern versions of vulgar Latin and are spoken all over the world. Over 60% of English is derived from Latin roots. The same poetry was read and the same rhetoric heard. A single coin was in use, and a common set of laws governed all. The current European Union is an example today of a political and economic union that in some ways reflects the Roman empire with its principles of many peoples united under one common market and set of laws. The Romans also adopted much of the Greek school of philosophy, art and sculpture, thereby ensuring that it’s been handed down to us rather than being lost and forgotten in the dustbin of history.
Thus, mighty Rome was the mother of us all, having given birth to our western civilization. The majesty and glory that is Rome shall last an eternity.
Our next posting, Trastevere-Beyond the Tiber, will appear in a few weeks. Bring along a good appetite as we shall visit a favorite trattoria.