Talk:World History Lecture Four

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Julius Caesar was not an emperor as stated in the Other Reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire section. The highest title he assumed was dictator (for life).


There are some factual inaccuracies about Roman History in this articles that I'd like to correct. And because I can't edit the page, I'll have to make them here and hope anyone using these lessons as study aids sees this. Let's start at the very beginning:

Early History of Rome

Rome was not ultimately founded by Greeks fleeing Dorians. The wording of the first paragraph is slightly confusing in this respect. It was actually founded by Trojans who fled Troy during an attack by Greeks (the famous 'Trojan Horse' incident). Aeneas received a message from the gods telling him he was to sail to another land and found a new city. After many years of travels (chronicled in Vergil's Aeneid, he sailed to the settlement Latinum in modern day Italy and married a local princess. His son Iulus founded the city Alba Longa, where Romulus and Remus would be born. Their grandfather Numitor was ruler of Alba Longa, and their mother, Rhea Silvia, was a Vestal Virgin. Vestal Virgins (obviously) were forbidden to have sex, so she created a great scandal when she gave birth to not one but two babies. Rhea claimed that the father was the war god Mars, but she was nevertheless buried alive, as was the punishment for Vestal Virgins who strayed. Romulus and Remus were placed by their uncle in the Tiber River to die. But they were rescued by a she-wolf (and in some stories, a woodpecker) who nursed them until they were taken in by a Shepard and his wife. They later decided to found a city, but argued about the location and Romulus ending up killing Remus with a shovel. He founded the city on the Capitoline Hill, populated the city with outlaws, criminals and kidnapped women, and made himself the first king. Upon his death, he was deified under the name Quirinus.

Rome was not conquered by Etruscans. The word conquered implies force, which did not occur. Etruscans simply assimilated into early Roman society, and three of them became kings (Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius, and Tarquinius Superbus)
The revolution that started the republic began when the son of Tarquinius Superbus, Sextus, raped a noblewoman, Lucretia. This was the last straw, and the people could no longer stand being ruled by kings. Junius Brutus and Lucretia's husband lead the revolution and began the first two consuls.
The article claimed that Antonius had Cicero put to death. This is untrue. In actuality, it was Octavian who ordered the proscription of the famous orator, although most historians believed that Antonius put him up to it.
People have already made arguments considering the whole "Romans did not believe in truth" thing, so I won't discuss this, other than to say I find it a baseless, irresponsible claim.
Caligula (a name that means "little boot" and would have resulted in your immediate death if you said it to his face) was truly an insane man. He attempted to name his horse a Senator and operated his own personal brothel from the palace.
Despite what it says in this article, Romans were actually quite tolerate of other religions. The people in the territory they conquered were allowed to continue their worshiping their own gods as long as they acknowledged the Roman gods as well. The Roman problem with Christianity lied mostly within their calling of Jesus as King. In Rome, the emperors were kings, and the Christian philosophy of considering Jesus the one and only king displeased them.
And not worshiping the state gods, or any gods the romans recognized--SeanS 19:55, 4 October 2011 (EDT)
Evil people like Caligula are not insane simply because their depravity is extreme.--Andy Schlafly 23:36, 6 October 2011 (EDT)

Intellectual Achievements

"The Romans are not known for their intellectual achievements." I beg to differ. By definition, the first 4 centuries of the development of Christian thought and the organisation of the Church were by Romans. The whole intellectual base for both secular and canon law that was to underpin society during the middle ages and last into modern times was Roman. From Roman poets and philosophers, historians, theologians, lawyers, we walk upon the shoulders of Roman intellectual creativity. AlanE 16:41, 19 February 2009 (EST)

For nearly 1000 years of domination, I hope you can come up with something more specific than that. In a fraction of the time the Greeks achieved infinitely more intellectually.--Andy Schlafly 17:09, 19 February 2009 (EST)
Yes, they did, I agree. The Athenian half-century is unique and wonderful and completely unchallenged as a period of intellectual achievement. Beside the Greeks, everyone is left behind for so much packed into so little time. But we can't say that the Romans had no intellectual achievements. The work of St Augustine, of Gregory the Great, of Justinian, to name just three, have had as big an impact on European thought as Plato or Aristotle who did not gain much traction until the Renaissance. There are as many copies of Cicero, Ovid, Tacitus, Boethius, Marcus Aurelius, Pliny, Horace, Catullus, on shelves (mine anyway) as there are of the Greeks. The whole intellectual weight of the Medieval western church rested on a Roman intellectual base, in its organisation, its ecclesiastical laws, its language and, of course, the centre of its authority.
I am in no way meaning to denigrate the Greeks, just to argue that there is a recognised intellectual component in the Roman Empire that is alive today - especially noticeable in the development of the Christian Church and the Law. AlanE 18:00, 19 February 2009 (EST)
I don't think the Romans even had the concept of "truth".--Andy Schlafly 23:07, 19 February 2009 (EST)
Then what is veritas? As in veritas vos liberabit. AlanE 00:19, 20 February 2009 (EST)
I find in vino veritas to be a more of a "true" statement ;) An interesting article on veritas is here.--Recorder 12:07, 20 February 2009 (EST)
This inevitably depends on definitions of truth. Without wanting to put words into Mr Schlafly's mouth, I presume he is referring to a higher truth than the simply truth/falsity of a statement; this could be compared to the difference between 'faith' used as a synonym for any form of belief, and the specific theological concept of faith. Also the Romans of Augustus' day were very different, culturally, from the later, Christian Roman empire.--CPalmer 12:19, 20 February 2009 (EST)

We have now moved away from the question of Roman intellectual achievement (which I say is great because, if nothing else, it is the foundation on which is built the whole edifice of law and jurisprudence under which we all live, no matter which oceans wash our shores) to one of the philosophical or theological import of a word. In both of them perhaps Andy should have made clear whether he was talking about Christian or Pagan Rome; and whether he meant Rome the city, or Rome the Empire. On the original discussion, might I just say that my life would have been poorer without the translations of Virgil, Horace, Catullus, Ovid, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Caesar, Pliny and Tacitus (all pagans) that have accompanied me at times through life. (And maybe I should add Plutarch who although Greek, lived within the Roman culture and wrote about Roman lives as much as he did Greek.)

On the subject of truth, this higher truth, Cicero discussed it more than once. In "On Fate" he discoursed on man's use of free will and the role of truth within it.AlanE 14:50, 20 February 2009 (EST)
Pontius Pilate, who was no dummy, had no understanding of the concept of truth. Can you quote something that you think demonstrates Roman appreciation of the concept of truth?--Andy Schlafly 15:17, 20 February 2009 (EST)
  • For nowhere does a man retreat into more quiet or more privacy than into his own mind, especially one who has within such things that he has only to look into, and become at once in perfect ease; and by ease I mean nothing else but good behaviour. Continually therefore grant yourself this retreat and repair yourself. But let them be brief and fundamental truths, which will suffice at once by their presence to wash away all sorrow, and to send you back without repugnance to the life to which you return. (Marcus Aurelius.
  • For there is one Universe out of all, one God through all, one substance and one law, one common Reason of all intelligent creatures and one Truth. M. Aurelius
  • One thing here is of great price, to live out life with truth and righteousness. M. Aurelius
  • Time discovers truth. Seneca, Moral essays
  • The language of truth is simple. Seneca
  • Enhance and intensify one's vision of that synthesis of truth and beauty which is the highest and deepest reality. Ovid
  • The first duty of a man is the seeking after and the investigation of truth. Cicero

AlanE 15:59, 20 February 2009 (EST)

I'd like to learn more about Roman philosophy, but my impression is that Ancient Rome was stronger in government than in philosophy. I can't think of a single Roman philosopher - unless he's more famous for his theories of government. It is rather Ancient Greece which produced the best known, most influential philosophers. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Archimedes, etc. (note that I include scientists because in those days science was philosophy.)

Anyway, Pontius Pilate didn't do anything to help Jesus when the Jewish leaders rejected him and wanted him executed as "The Passion (movie)" illustrates so well. My hero rather is Socrates, who died for the truth. --Ed Poor Talk 17:38, 20 February 2009 (EST)

Ed, yes it was stronger in government than philosophy, but I don't think anyone here has tried to insinuate in any way that it had the edge over the Greeks, especially Socrates, in pre-Christian thought, but no list of great philosophers would be complete without Cicero and Marcus Aurelius to name but two. The quotes I supplied above were in direct reply to Andy's request for Roman appreciation of the truth. Bringing in Pontius Pilate - especially the Mel Gibson version - doesn't quite work. We know next to nothing about whether he was a fair representation of a Roman governor and whether any of them were chosen for there ability to philosophise. AlanE 18:04, 20 February 2009 (EST)

There were no significant Roman philosophers, and the reason is obvious: philosophy is the study of the truth, and Romans didn't even recognize its significance. As to AlanE's list of quotes above, they lack dates. Aurelius, for example, was post-Christianity. By his time Christian insights were widespread in Rome, though not official yet. Perhaps I should have been clearer: I meant pre-Christian or non-Christian Rome.--Andy Schlafly 18:05, 20 February 2009 (EST)

  • Yes, Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic philosopher whose Meditations were written in the late second century. Can we assume that all his beliefs were coloured by the nascent Christianity? It may be so, but not necessarily.
  • Seneca, who died in AD65 was also a Stoic and is recorded as having died one Many of his statements are so "Christian" in nature that some have tried to insist he may have become so. He was Nero's advisor and did not live a Christian life. He committed suicide.
  • Cicero died in 43BC
  • (And one that didn't make it from my word document to wiki earlier was Ovid (died AD17) who wrote: Enhance and intensify one's vision of that synthesis of truth and beauty which is the highest and deepest reality. AlanE 18:44, 20 February 2009 (EST)
The point is that the ancient Romans were known for conquering the known Western world and producing the civilization which Arnold Toynbee said gave birth to modern Christendom. They made notable achievements in engineering, and produced some famous writers on history and civic virtue. Andy's not saying they were dullards. But when you think about intellectual contributions, the Pythagorean theorem comes to mind (see right triangle). Then there's Aristotle's formal logic, which 25 centuries later has not been improved upon in the slightest. "Euclid" is synonymous with geometry. I'd say the weight of the balance is largely tipped toward ancient Greece in terms of intellectual achievements.
I have no desire to put down Rome. Instead of debating here (or merely debating here), let's add all the points we've brought up in this most fruitful discussion to the relevant articles. Remember, we're all here to learn as much as to teach. --Ed Poor Talk 19:01, 20 February 2009 (EST)
And let's not forget their only invention....cement. :-) AlanE 20:32, 20 February 2009 (EST)
Greek ... philosophy.
Roman ... engineering.
Euclid's Elements are as intellectual as you can get: pure abstract math. But how about those Roman aqueducts? Enough comparing as to who was 'better' in which area. Time to start writing some paragraphs about what each actually did. --Ed Poor Talk 20:53, 20 February 2009 (EST)
Once you've done one arch, you've done a thousand. An aqueduct is but an arch replicated as many times as the distance necessitated. The trick was getting the gradient right. What Rome was best at was building on the work of others. It took the innovations of the past and improved them. But it had the nous to take the philosophy of the Greeks and the Stoics and meld it with the new Christianity to make a Church that would withstand the tribulations of the centuries far better than its own institutions could hope to. AlanE 00:23, 21 February 2009 (EST)
Yes, after 300 to 400 years of (often deadly) persecution. Whether this is an intellectual or political achievement is anybody's guess. Can you write about the history of early Christianity? --Ed Poor Talk 09:16, 21 February 2009 (EST)
Mornin' Ed. A big subject for a miniaturist like me. Getting the strands together would be interesting. I'll look at it but won't promise. AlanE 14:23, 21 February 2009 (EST)

Hagia Sophia

There is a mistake in the lecture... the Hagia Sophia was not built by Constantine the Great. He died in 337, and the church was constructed decades later, and not completed and dedicated until 360 AD, under the reign of Constantius II. This should be corrected in the lecture (I see some students in their homeworks even said that Constantine the Great is their favorite Emperor partly because he constructed that cathedral, which is simply false and misleading). --JKeeting 16:14, 1 October 2011 (EDT)

Thanks for your insightful comment. I'll review this further.--Andy Schlafly 23:44, 2 October 2011 (EDT)
"Hagia Sophia was an early basilica erected by Constantine at 325 and restored many times since then." [1]--Andy Schlafly 00:10, 3 October 2011 (EDT)
Your source looks somewhat dubious: I couldn't find a valid source for the date 325 - the year is important as Constantine summons the First Council of Nicaea in this very year. In the 4th century, Socrates of Constantinople said that Constantine II build it as late as 346, attributing it to Constantine I seems to be an idea of the 9th century, and propagated in the 12th century bo Eusebius of Nicomedia.
Without any doubt the most iconic building - the current structure - was mainly built under Justinian I.
Constantine built a new Christian capital in the East for the Roman empire that would be safe from the German invaders, and he called it Constantinople. , I'd prefer something like Constantine chose Byzantium as a new Christian capital in the East for the Roman empire that would be safe from the German invaders, and he renamed it Constantinople.
AugustO 15:40, 3 October 2011 (EDT)
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