|The Roman Empire in 117 A.D.|
The Romance of the Romans
The Roman Empire took its time to disintegrate and we can argue about exactly when and exactly how, but let’s leave that for another day and place our vote for 476 A.D. , when Romulus, the last Roman Emperor, was overthrown by a Germanic leader, Odoacer. After some 1500 years, the Roman Empire was no more, but of course that includes the time the Empire was split into east and west. If you want to only consider the time it was what we think of as the united Roman Empire, then it lasted just over 500 years..
So, Rome is not worth thinking about, right? Surprise, surprise!! There are still vestiges of Roman life and Roman culture all around us.
Take the Romance languages for example that all emanated from Latin: French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Catalan. The widespread of Romance Languages means through the centuries, at least linguistically, Roman influence has stretched, not only around the Mediterranean region, but North and South and Central America, along with parts of Africa! Wait, I forgot to mention the Philippines. Yep, don’t forget Spain owned the Philippines for decades. I met a Filipina/American in Japan and asked her if she spoke Tagalog or Filipino and she said, no. “On our island we spoke only Spanish.”
“Oh yeah?” you say, what about English? Glad you mentioned that. Linguists say that English, although called a Germanic language, takes 65% of its words from French! Just one example: all the words ending in …ion are written the same in French and English, but pronounced differently. As the French Prime Minister George Clemenceau (1841-1929) famously said, “English is just badly pronounced French.”
But is there nothing more than language? Nothing more???? Are you kidding?
We still use the Roman Gods. Really? Yep. In the days of the week.
The Romans copied the Babylonians in naming some of the days of the week after heavenly bodies, which we still use today.
Monday – Moon Day (Luna)
Sunday – Sun Day (Sol invictus)
And the Roman threw in one of their own for Saturday. Saturn.
As you know from the phrase, all roads lead to Rome, the Romans built a lot of roads all over the Empire. Hundreds, if not thousands of them still exist and often are in use today, although you may not realize it. Some have been paved over. In all the Romans built over 250,000 miles of roads, with over 50,000 miles of them paved.
|Roman Roads in only one small part of Germany|
And not just the roads, but so much more. Go to Segovia and see the huge aqueduct that was in service and still moving water to the city until the early 1970s. Take a look at Hadrian’s Wall in the north of Britain.
|Aqueduct in Segovia, Spain|
How about place names? Rome, of course is still Rome, and Londinium we know as London, and look at the very name of Britain, from the Latin, Britannia.!
Parisiorm is now Paris. In Spain, Segovia is still Segovia. The list goes on and on.
Let’s not forget the foods and animals the Romans introduced wherever they went. If you missed it on a previous blog, read through the Romans in Britain and you’ll spot fruits and vegetables galore.
Did you know our own sense of the rule of law is based heavily on Roman law?
The rights of personal property.
The validity of contracts.
The right to vote.
The right to pay taxes.
The right to appeal and the legal status of corporations.
An accused person had the right to a defense and was innocent until proven guilty.
Here’s something dear to your hearts: Wine! Look along the Rhine and Mosel valleys in Germany, the notable vineyards in France (Bordeaux) and Italy and even Spain (Rioja). I haven’t begun to name them all. Romans believed wine was essential to life and everyone drank it, even the poor Romans and the slaves.
“There with the wine before you, you will tell of many things.” Ovid, Roman Poet, 43 B.C. – 17 A.D. Husbands and wives should remember this!
“The great evil of wine is that it first seizes the feet. It is a crafty wrestler.” Titus Maccius, Roman playwright (254 -184 B.C.)
Something you might not know about Rome:
The Colosseum was not called the Colosseum when it was built (between 72-80 A.D.), but Amphitheatrium Flavium after the two emperors who build it. Around 1000 A.D. the word Colosseum came into use, but even then it didn’t mean the building itself, but an enormous statue of possibly Emperor Nero. The statue has since disappeared.
The city has grown taller. If you visit some of Rome’s major sights of antiquity, you’ll notice you have to walk down. The Forum and the Pantheon are good examples.
Look around and you’ll soon find, the Roman Empire may have fallen, but many of the buildings, the language, and the Roman ideas live on.
Now I think it’s time to drink a little wine and think about that.