FAMOUS SONS OF ROME
by Tommaso Gambino
In order to better appreciate the full impact of ancient Rome on our civilization of today, we need to visit a few of those Romans who changed the world completely and forever by their participation in critical historical battles. There were innumerable emperors, consuls, generals and other actors for us to choose from who had a significant impact on the course of Western civilization.
Our first great Roman is General Publius Cornelius Scipio (236-184BC) the victor of the seminal battle of Zama (202BC) It was here that the fate of the Mediterranean world was decided. Known as the Second Punic war, the armies of the fearsome Carthaginian General Hannibal (247-182BC) charged the Roman line with 80 war elephants in the lead. The clever Romans maneuvered the beasts into human alleyways and confused them by making loud noise. The battle raged all day until the Roman cavalry attacked to the rear of the Carthaginians.
By nightfall, the Roman Eagle was triumphant and Scipio, in honor of his victory, was named Scipio Africanus. At this point in time, our history would become Roman and not Carthaginian.
No story of Rome can be imagined without the imposing personality of Julius Caesar (100-44BC). His soldiers considered the great general and politico a god. They would often shout out while going into battle “Caesar leads: we fear nothing”. Likewise, the masses adored him. Among his myriad accomplishments one stands supreme. That was the crucial battle of Alesia that took place in Gaul near modern day Dijon, France, (52BC). The heavily outnumbered Roman legions (60,000) fought the barbarian hoard (300,000) led by King Vercingetorix (75-46BC). The decisive Roman victory marked the end of primitive Gaul and the beginning of the Romanization of what is now the France of today.
Another exceptional game changer was the Emperor Constantine (272-337AD). After the Apostles, he was arguably the most historic mortal responsible for the success of Christianity. Until his appearance on the world stage, Christianity was considered nothing more than a minor exotic eastern sect. What Constantine did, by the edict of Milan 313AD, was to elevate the religion by giving it state status.
“In hoc signo vinces” (in this sign you will be victorious) Legend has it that Constantine saw a cross in the sky above the battle he was about to enter against his rival for the throne. (Ponte Milvio 312AD). He believed that it was God that gave him the victory and hence Constantine’s grateful elevation of Christianity to an official state religion. The net result is that we have now in the world approximately 2 billion Christians, 1 billion of which are Roman Catholics – a truly remarkable outcome.
We have visited the exploits of only three of the great Roman history makers. It is astonishing, considering that there were hundreds of emperors, orators, philosophers, poets, architects, historians, physicians, astronomers, engineers, and religious and military leaders of the first order that impacted our world. The Italians sprang from this extraordinary civilization, forged by these outstanding individuals. Bravi!
We will see you in two weeks for some sightseeing in Rome. Be sure to wear some comfortable shoes!