Sunday, January 02, 2005

Rome at its Height

Rome at its Height - Part of the Lectures in Medieval History Series, by Lynn Harry Nelson at University of Kansas. Includes a map as well as an analysis of the Roman Empire at its peak.

From the site:

In many ways, the Roman empire remains the ideal upon which Western civilization has shaped itself. One need only look at the Capitol in Washington to see how extensively the founders of the United States followed the Roman model in fashioning a new nation. Because so many Roman principles are embodied in modern institutions, people feel that it is important to know why the Roman empire fell. question The answer might, after all, reveal a flaw or weakness in the Roman tradition that was passed on to modern Western civilization and which could eventually lead to the end of the centuries in which Western civilization has been able to expand and to dominate the globe. Much our of high standard of living has been a result of our ability to take what we wanted from the rest of the world, and the loss of that ability would mean that our lives would become significantly less comfortable and luxurious.

And so people are always interested in attempts to answer the question "Why did the Roman empire fall?" Every now and then, one sees a magazine or tabloid reporting the latest theory - all the Romans caught malaria and were sick most of the time; they were poisoned by the lead in the glaze of their cooking pots and went crazy; they started having orgies all the time and their moral fiber was weakened by their preoccupation with sex; their conversion to Christianity focused their attention on the next world rather than the present one; and so on. This question may or may not have an answer, but first we have to understand the nature of the Roman empire. You see, it was not so much a question of why it fell but what had kept it standing for so long. I'll state a proposition that will give you something to think about as you cover the next few lectures.

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