Roman Contributions

The Romans #

Oscar Spengler recognises 8 Cultures that died out: Babylonian, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Classical (Greek / Roman), Arabian (Magian), Western (Faustian), Mexican (Aztec / Mayan)

The Egyptian lasted the longest, Ghenghis Khan built the largest, but it only lasted 70 years.

The Romans made the most significant, long lasting contributions to our Western Civilisation. Rome is sometime called the Eternal city, because it is one of the longest established ruling centre of the world. Rome is known as the divine city due to the myth of Mars seducing a Vestal Virgin giving birth to Romulous and Remus who are abandoned and suckled by a wolf. Remus later is considered the founder of Sienna.

Lasting legacies #

Art and Architecture, a diverse multicultural and multi-state empires – virtues such as dignity, humanity, honesty. Their enduring legacy includes Latin, one of the contributors to the English language, the absolute primacy of law to maintain order and harmony. We are linked to them through a great chain of human experience.

Law #

Rome founded its rationalisation of expansion as a means of spreading law and justice as a civilising mission to the barbarians. Some barbarians recognised that becoming part of the Roman Empire was a rise in status. It must be recognised that conquering the barbarians was a prolonged, brutal and costly. Spain took about 200 years to subdue, while Gaul and the Germanic tribes cost thousands of Roman lives over 100 years.

Rome laid down the foundation stones for the guiding principles of the law.

The law exists to resolve conflicts as the embodiment of the will of the state, representing the consensual will of the people, for the security of their freedoms. Any successful state comes into existence only by the consent of its people.

Specific terms such concepts as Authority and legitimacy are based, not on might or force, or arbitrary discretion, but on reason, which compels obedience for the common good. Legitimacy comes from acceptance by rational people as a vindication for peaceful order, venerating the God Jupiter, the god of light and order. The form of the law must be based on a good spirit.

Augustus delegated his legal authority to Jurists (lawyers) as a token to the restoration of the Republic.

The twelve tablets of law, etched on brass, were directly influenced by the laws of Solon whose laws descended from Moses, Phoenicia and Egypt and according to Cicero:

inculcated the soundest principles of governance and morals. How admirable is the wisdom of our ancestors.

A Locrian who proposed a new law stood forth in front of the assembly of the people with a cord around his neck and if the law was rejected, the innovator was instantly strangled. (Is the the origin of the neck tie?)

Justinian, in the sixth century AD, re-organised, re-coded and updated the laws into the Justinian Code, which influenced laws in the western world.

Cultural and Governance #

They give us a continuity of cultural constants in the experiences of life. Their imperialism demonstrates our most enduring urges of dominance – power, greed ambition, desire and love. Yet its contributions to their subjected states were enormous and timeless. Remnants of Roman infrastructure endue in their roads, theatres, aqueducts and buildings in Spain, France, Britain Constantinople and in many other territories. While conquering Greece, they adopted and integrated many aspects of Greek culture including their gods by simply giving them Roman names.

Half of Washington’s monumental architecture is inspired by Rome. The British Museum itself is Greek in style and Roman in scale.

The Romans gave us the institutions of government – the senate, republicanism, the rule of law. It gave medieval Europe a model to work toward a more ideal form of governance.

Rome is affectionately called “The Eternal City”. Greece was decentralised, with over 90 independent competing city states. The loose Delian League was insufficient to providing a unified force.

The Roman Empire succeeded because it was ethnically heterogeneous – not homogeneous. Greece had a different approach.

Augustus Caesar #

Augustus claimed he found Rome a city of mud, and left it a city of marble.

It was only after seeing the marvel of Greek civilisation, that the Romans realised the possiblity of building more grand cities and they built some of the most stately buildings in the world.

He was born Gaius Octavius, the grandnephew of Julius Caesar. He took the extended name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus in 44 BC after Caesar’s assassination. Though in English texts, he was often referred to simply as Octavian.

Then in 31 BC, he defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra to gain control over the empire. Finally in 27 BC, when he was named emperor, he was given the honorary title Augustus.

August, a word that means “inspiring reverence or admiration,” is the name of the eighth month of the year in our Gregorian calendar. It’s the sixth month of the ancient Roman calendar used by the Roman kingdom and republic. Back then, the month of August was known as Sextilus, Latin for “sixth month.” In 8 BCE, the month was named in honor of Augustus Caesar, the first Roman emperor. Augustus Caesar reigned 27BC – 14 CE. Since July had 31 days and Ausgust only 30, he stole one from February to become equal.

August can also take the form of an adverb (augustly) and a noun (augustness).

August also relates to augury, the act of divination (telling the future), particularly by the behavior of birds and animals and the examination of their entrails and other parts.

His legacy is conflicted, fairly well regarded by some, but realistically, the first and greatest pragmatic, enlightened despot who dismantled the Republic and consolidated dynastic unaccountable authoritarianism.

Though a sickly man with many near death experiences, his life-long strong arm, henchman, Marcus Agrippa, propped up his leadership, giving Augustus, the appearance of an overpowering dictator.

As the first emperor, Octavian, found himself navigating a careful balancing act of titles and epithets without ever assuming himself as Rex (king): from Princeps Civitatis (first citizen) to primus inter pares (first among equals), all with connotations of authority but not monarchical supremacy. He would settle on Augustus (the venerable one) as his official title. The end of the Roman Republic was never announced – despotism prevailed in the superficial likeness of the Republic.

Augustus adorned the capital not only with temples but also with election facilities. (And he showed up in person to vote, though the process was a charade.)

There were truth-tellers throughout Roman history, but as the centuries wore on, the telling of official lies became a recognized art form.

Amid this upheaval, the masses were manipulated with imperial cults and vanity projects and placated with bread and circuses. But still there remained a class of educated Republican aristocracy whose raw memories and ambitions had to be reined in.

Hoping to resonate with the disaffected Roman public, Julius Caesar had already intended ‘to make as large a collection as possible of works in the Greek and Latin languages, for the public use,’ as the Roman historian Suetonius wrote. Caesar was ultimately beaten to the task by a soldier and politician named Gaius Asinius Pollio, who, by 28 BCE – just a year before Octavian became the Emperor Augustus – used his war plunder to fund Rome’s very first ‘public’ library in the Atrium Libertatis, Rome’s census record building.

Augustus understood his gesture was laden with symbolic, even revolutionary, significance

Also, renown for the dark arts of ancient propaganda and Machiavellian power machinations to seize absolute power. Like Trump he was a deal maker; most ended up, through duplicity, to his advantage. He betrayed both Lepidus and Antony by not honoring his side of the bargain.

Antony was denounced as ”an enemy of the people”, Cicero was executed, Ovid banished, while Horace was offered sanction if he wrote propaganda for Augustus’ cause.

Gibbons wrote that the Romans had aspired to be equal; they were levelled by the level of their servitude when the dictates of Augustus were patently ratified by the formal consents of the tribes and centuries. Once he received strenuous opposition to a law which enforced the obligation and strengthened the bond of marriage. This was clamourously rejected by Prosertius, in the arms of Delia, who applauded the victory of licentious love. This project of reform awaited a more tractable generation. Ovid was banished to Tomis as a result.

According to Mary Beard, before becoming gods, emperors famously died in all kinds of different, often unsavory, circumstances. Caligula was killed in an alleyway in the palace complex by some of his closest advisers, in 41 C.E.; Domitian was stabbed in his cubiculum, or “private room,” in 96 C.E.; Caracalla was knifed while relieving himself on a military campaign in the East, in 217 C.E. These violent ends are partly explained by the fact that death was the only recognized way for an emperor to leave the throne. Apart from one bungled abdication attempt in the civil war of 69 C.E., no Roman ruler ever gave up his title willingly until the sick and elderly Diocletian, in 305 C.E. Many emperors died of illness in or near their beds, of course, but in general, if you wanted a change of regime, you had to kill for it.

Augustus and his successors tried to eradicate subversive writings, but the emperors soon learned that the memory of such works would outlast them.

Virgil composed The Aeneid (19 BC). This Latin epic casts a patriotic spell over its audience in its evocation of the foundation of Rome from the ashes of Troy to the glory of the Augustan Age. Unlike his poetic successor, however, Virgil is alert to literary censorship under the reign of Augustus (63 BC-AD 14), Rome’s first emperor, and carefully navigates its perilous terrain.

To raise money, over 2000 wealthy families were accused of treason, a process of proscription, declared enemies of the state, assassinated, their lands, wealth and other assets confiscated for the state. Proscriptions (Purges) had already been used by Sulla after he won a civil war (83-82 BCE) against Marius, who advocated for populist reform. Sulla summarily executed some 9000 Roman citizens, confiscated their property as the spoils of victory. Richard II attempted similar tactics against his uncle, John of Gaunt, when he dies, incurring the wrath of his son, Bolingbroke, who retaliates by usurping the British throne as King Henry IV, igniting the War of the Roses. Henry VIII used these tactics to raise money for his navy by seizing all the Catholic churches’ property. Hitler derived a lot of his ill-gotten loot by confiscating the wealth of Jews, Bosheviks, homo-sexuals, and other non-conformists.

More positive civic reforms statecraft legacies of Augustus, include: ending nepotism by appointing civil servants on merit, eliminating corruption, establishing a professional army loyal to the empire, rather than their commanders, criminalised adultery – for others – not his cohort.

When his messy family tree, as a result of divorces and forced marriages, died out, he simply named his successor.


“To impose the way of peace you must spare the conquered and subdue the proud.”

Even people at the periphery of the empire felt they were at the heart of the empire. Most young men from conquered territories were conscripted into the army to serve 25 years after which they became full Roman citizens with lifelong pensions. Spain took 200 years to subdue, but eventually produced Seneca, born in Cordoba, a Stoic writer and advisor to the Emperor Nero. It also produced two emperors, Trajan and Hadrian. Constantine was born in Serbia.

The Emperor Caracella in 212 made all free men citizens, simply so he could broaden the tax base. The Roman Empire succeeded because it was ethnically heterogeneous – not homogeneous. Greece had a different approach. In-breeding was always the privilege of royalty - and look what happened to them. Some of the most interesting people are miscegenous. Much of what we know of ancient civilisations is very recent. Most records were wantonly vandalised and destroyed by misguided religious vandals. Byzantine and the Moorish cultures managed to preserve and transmit some to future generations. More and more we rely on archaeological excavations for reliable artefacts to base our assumptions.

The Roman Empire lasted some 2000+ years giving us some salutary lessons on enduring cohesion and good governance. It gave us the model of integrating diverse people through tolerance and co-opting talent from across the empire. While the Romans certainly attempted to crush their conquered subjects when they failed to submit to their authority, they also attempted to integrate and assimilate the “barbarians”.

Roman thinkers and historian’s wisdom still applies today. #

There were truth-tellers throughout Roman history, but as the centuries wore on, the telling of official lies became a recognized art form.

Cato The Elder #

Marcus Porcius Cato, 234 - 149 BCE, was a Roman soldier, senator, and historian known for his conservatism and opposition to Hellenization. He was a strong supporter of The Republic.

Cato the Younger #

A Great grandson, Cato became an influential conservative Roman senator during the late Republic. His conservative principles were focused on the preservation of what he saw as old Roman values in decline. A noted orator and a follower of Stoicism, his scrupulous honesty and professed respect for tradition gave him a powerful political following which he mobilised against powerful generals (including Julius Caesar and Pompey) of his day. After Pompey’s defeat, Cato took his own life rather than beg or receive Caesar’s pardon. His suicide turned him into a martyr for and a symbol of the Republic.

“It is one of the great paradoxes of Roman history that Cato’s efforts to protect the republic unintentionally but directly contributed to [its] collapse”.

Cicero, (106-43 BC) #

55 BC, in his book, De Re Republica, noted that even the most carefully calibrated constitution, could be undermined in practice. He was suspicious of Julius Caesar and as a later advisor to Augustus Caesar, he observed:

“…the arrogance of officialdom needs to be tempered and controlled,….”

Cicero, as a philosopher, was sceptical about omens and superstitions.

He was one of the 200 people who were proscribed by Octavious, Antony and Lepidus and purged.

Anthony Everitt writes in Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician America’s founding fathers were careful to avoid constructing the Constitution as a direct democracy, since they were concerned that direct democracy would be tantamount to mob rule. Instead, citizens of each state voted for electors, who in turn elected the president. Senators were selected by the state legislatures – not the people. Only members of the House of Representatives were directly elected. The founding fathers looked to the past for guidance on how to construct a balanced government – one with carefully constructed limitations, and checks and balances – and no one influenced their thinking more than the Roman statesman Cicero.

Cicero was a critic of Julius Caesar, but became an exceptional advisor to Octavious, who changed his name to Augustus Caesar. Cicero based many of his ideas on Plato.

“Nearly two thousand years after his time, [Cicero] became an unknowing architect of constitutions that still govern our lives. For the founding fathers of the United States and their political counterparts in Great Britain, the writings of [Cicero] were the foundation of their education. John Adams’s first book and proudest possession was his Cicero.

“Cicero wrote about how a state should best be organized, and decision makers of the eighteenth century read and digested what he had to say. His big idea, which he tirelessly publicized, was that of a mixed or balanced constitution. He favored not monarchy nor oligarchy nor democracy, but a combination of all three. His model was Rome itself, but improved. Its executives had quasi-royal powers. It was restrained partly by widespread use of vetoes, and partly by a Senate, dominated by great political families. Politicians were elected to office by the people.

“This model is not so very distant from the original constitution of the United States with the careful balance it set between the executive and the legislature, and the constraints, now largely vanished, which it placed on pure untrammeled democracy. When George Washington, meditating on the difficulty of ensuring stable government, said, ‘What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal and fallacious’, he could have been quoting Cicero.” Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician Author: Anthony Everitt

Livy #

59 BCE – 17 AD

He began writing the history of Rome after Octavian had restored stability and peace by his decisive naval victory at Actium in 31 BC.

He was not closely involved with the literary world of Rome—the poets Horace, Virgil, and Ovid, as well as the patron of the arts, Maecenas. He must have possessed sufficient private means not to be dependent on official patronage. Indeed, in one of the few recorded anecdotes about him, Augustus called Livy a “Pompeian,” implying an outspoken and independent turn of mind. His lifework was the composition of his history.

Horace: #

Horace lived in volatile times where the rise and fall of fortunes was subject to that of those you serve. Horace had sided with Brutus and Cassius so when Augustus and Antony won the Battle of Actium in the year 34 B.C. he was in great danger. He was extremely fortunate that his poetic skills were valued and found favour with Maecenas, a patron of the Arts, Octavian’s rich and influential ally, who was fostering and patronising a talented literary circle in the emperor’s interests.

In Rome Panegyrists, like Horace, were paid performers, subsidized by those they celebrated.

As spin doctor, for celebrating the emperor and portraying his regime as the beginning of a Golden Age of peace and prosperity, Horace was rewarded with a large country estate called the Sabine farm. While appreciating his good fortune, he recognised the fragility of life and came up with the philosophy of Carpe Diem - of living for the moment. Dead Poet’s Society brings this alive here:

Horatian Satire chooses targets it cares about to gently mock or send up causing laughter to avoid offending the powers that be. For this reason, his satire needed to be more subtle. Example:

“Why is no one happy anymore? Oh, lucky traders! Moans the soldier, his once young limbs now busted up with combat. While the storm-tossed trader sighs in response, Oh to be at war! Where in one crowded hour, the whole issue is decided, for death or glory.”

From Horace’s Odes, the Latin saying:

‘Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori’ translates into: “Sweet and decorous (noble, becoming) it is to die for one’s country”.

Ovid #

Ovid was not as fortunate under Augustus’ template for dictatorship. He was banished by Augustus. His wrongdoings were, in his own words, carmen et error (“a poem and a mistake”). What irritated Augustus sufficiently enough to relegate the poet to the middle of nowhere was his perception that the Ars Amatoria made a mockery of his moral reforms.

Trained, in Greece, for a career in the law, the young Ovid faced his father’s disapproval for aspiring to become a writer. (“Even Homer died penniless!”).

Ovid revealed a deep sympathy for women’s suffering and a keen interest in female perspectives unusual for the time, going as far as to advising women on how to seduce men.

However when Augustus began a puritan campaign against adultery, ten years later, he banished Ovid to Tomis, on the northwest coast of the Black Sea, where he complained few people appreciated his Latin.

By this time he had already begun his major opus - Metamorphoses, another perspective, like Hesiod’s Theogony or Genesis, of mapping out the path of creation from chaos to order, passing through the stages of myth to history.

It was the savage, brutal violence that the immortals subjected the mortals to, that preoccupied Ovid and still causes many readers to demand “tigger warnings”. Ovid’s The Metamorphoses shows Arachne’s weaving, depicting nine rapes committed by Jove, six by Neptune, a few by Apollo and Bacchus, and one by Saturn, Jove’s father. Ovid questions the arbitrary violence of all deities.

Was Ovid subtlely portraying the creeping authoritarianism of the rule of Augustus, who declared his leadership for life and asserted the right to appoint his successor?

Virgil: #

The Aeneid (19 BC). by Virgil tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who fled the fall of Troy to Carthage before becoming the ancestor of the Romans. It is much more peaceful yet heroic tale more amenable to court favor with Augustus Caesar.

This Latin epic casts a patriotic spell over its audience in its evocation of the foundation of Rome from the ashes of Troy to the glory of the Augustan Age. Unlike his poetic successor, however, Virgil is alert to literary censorship under the reign of Augustus (63 BC-AD 14), Rome’s first emperor, and carefully navigates its perilous terrain.

Augustus claimed that he found a Rome city of mud, and left it a city of marble.

“To impose the way of peace you must spare the conquered and subdue the proud.”

Tacitus #

TACITUS 56 - 120 AD - Born In Gaul, Publius Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian and politician, regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians, writing in the silver age of Latin Literature.

The purpose of an historian is to:

“Standards of historical research and scholarship should be more than just glorified gossip. We have higher expectations - to commemorate great deeds and to bring to the attention of posterity the damage that evil deeds do and to denounce them”.

Shocking crimes committed on the unscrupulous initiative of few individuals, with the blessing of more, and amid the passive acquiescence of all.

”Misdeeds, once exposed, have no refuge but in audacity”.

A desire to resist oppression is implanted in the nature of man.

Reason and judgment are the qualities of a leader.

When the state is most corrupt, then the laws are most multiplied.

Abuse, if you slight it, will gradually die away; but if you show yourself irritated, you will be thought to have deserved it.

Tacitus was aware of the “pretences of freedom” long after it ceased to play any important role.

“It was a tainted, meanly obsequious age. The greatest figures had to protect their positions by subserviency; and, in addition to them, all ex-consuls, most ex-praetors, even many junior senators competed with each other’s offensively sycophantic proposals.

The Emperor Claudius maintained the senate should “transfer to this city all conspicuous merit, wherever found”.

Plutrarch #

46 - 119 AD

Greek biographer Plutarch wrote Parallel Lives. where he favorably compared great Greek heroes with Roman ones.

He paired:

Coriolanus with Alcibiades Caesar with Alexander the Great, Antony with Demetrius, liberating Greece

about Caesar he quoted: “I came, I saw, I conquered.” The phrase proved so catchy that we still remember it, centuries later.

Lance Morrow writes :

Ralph Waldo Emerson, writing in his journal, “Away with your prismatics. I want a spermatic book…. Plato, Plotinus & Plutarch are such.”

Certainly Plutarch’s Parallel Lives has been seminal; from its raw material, Western dramatists and poets—especially Shakespeare, of course, in Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra—have been extruding (er, stealing) plots and characters for nearly 2,000 years. Shakespeare’s Coriolanus is intricately filched from Plutarch, whose Lives were first published in an English translation by Sir Thomas North in 1579.

As for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, here is a line from Plutarch’s life of Brutus:

‘It is not,’ said [Caesar], ’the fat and the long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the lean,’ meaning Brutus and Cassius.”

Or as Shakespeare put it,

Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; he thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”

Plutarch said that he wrote biography as a form of moralism, to “arouse the spirit of emulation.” But his Lives were also a warning. Coriolanus, for example, has come down from Plutarch through Shakespeare as a caution against an arrogance so ruthless that it becomes savage narcissism.

“My design is not to write Histories, but lives,” Plutarch explained. “And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men, sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their character and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments….”

Most of the characters, Greek and Roman, who come to us in the Parallel Lives had too much of the complexity of human nature to be either saints or villains. Plutarch was far too intelligent and urbane not to see the crosscurrents of their natures. What makes the Lives entertaining, and true after so many centuries, is, precisely, their continuing, vivid life—and their capacity to surprise.

There are no inevitabilities for the connoisseur of character. If the moralist in Plutarch urges toward perfection, the mature realist delights in inconsistencies, even perversities, of personality.

Cato the Younger, that paragon of fierce austerity who tried to preserve the Roman Republic against power seekers such as Caesar, sometimes behaves pretty weirdly. Plutarch records that when Cato was made praetor (magistrate), “he would often come to the court without his shoes, and sit upon the bench without any undergarment, and in this attire give judgment in capital causes, and upon persons of the highest rank.” Perhaps by way of explanation, Plutarch notes, “It is said, also, that he used to drink wine after his morning meal, and then transact the business of his office.” Plutarch adds judiciously: “This was wrongfully reported of him.”

Plutarch’s voice is decent, tolerant, knowing—the voice of a grown-up. In his life of Cleomenes (III), Plutarch declares: “I write this…out of pity to the weakness of human nature.”.

There is a lovely moment in his life of Caesar:

“Cicero was the first who had any suspicions of [Caesar’s] designs upon the government, and as a good pilot is apprehensive of a storm when the sea is most smiling, saw the designing temper of the man through this disguise of good humour and affability, and said, in general, that in all [Caesar] did and undertook, he detected the ambition for absolute power.”

Cicero goes on: “But when I see his hair so carefully arranged, and observe him adjusting it with one finger, I cannot imagine it should enter into such a man’s thoughts to subvert the Roman state.” That “with one finger” is a little touch of narrative genius. Lance Morrow , (2004) an American essayist and writer, chiefly for Time magazine,

Juvenal #

Juvenal who lived about 100 years later, under Trajan and Hadrian, had already been exiled for criticising authority, so his writing is less subtle.

Juvenalian sarcasm tends to be stinging, cutting, bitter acerbic, even savage in its criticism evoking scorn, contempt and even hatred. Juvenal targets the evil or actively harmful aspects of society, and to attack them with serious intent to harm their reputation or power. He often attacks individuals on a personal level, its most common objective is social criticism.

He utilized the satirical tools of exaggeration and parody to make his targets appear monstrous or incompetent. While he occasionally utilized humor to make his point, Juvenal’s satire had more in common with the invective of a political pundit than the primarily humor-driven form favored by most modern satirists.

The primary weapons of Juvenalian satire are scorn and ridicule.

It was the Roman codger Juvenal who wrote of the people’s appetite for bread and circuses; we prefer the cheap nourishment of legal theatrics to real hard research for hard reliable evidence. He also coined:

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Translated, “who will guard the guards (themselves)?”

While he ridicaules the vaunted power of Xeres, Hannibal and even Alexander the Great, his tribute to Solon consists of four words: “eloquent Solon, the Just”.

Seneca #

Seneca: Born in Cordoba, raised in Rome, he became a learned stoic tutor to the unpredictable Emperor Nero.

Emily Wilson writes, In the ancient world, as is true today, navigating political chaos was a pressing dilemma. Philosophers were forced to decide whether to participate in, resist, or simply endure the political rulers of their time. He was a philosopher drawn into politics; he wanted to make a difference in the real world and then found himself in the court of Nero, trying to contain a wildly insecure, inexperienced leader who was deranged. A bit like Trump.

In accordance with the philosophy of the Stoics, Virtue (virtus) and Reason are the basis of a good life, and a good life should be lived simply and in accordance with Nature, which, i> ncidentally, didn’t mean you should eschew wealth.

Seneca’s advice to his mother to cease her grieving. “You are beautiful, with an age-defying appeal that needs no make-up, so stop acting like the worst kind of vain woman.”

At the whim of the paranoid tyrant, Nero, who suspected Seneca of plotting to kill him, Seneca, like Socrates was sentenced to commit suicide.

Lucius Cassius, regarded as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, “Cui bono”, ‘To whose benefit?’

The Emperor Claudius maintained the senate should “transfer to this city all conspicuous merit, wherever found”.

The Roman Empire eventually became composed of an enormously diverse base of people from different racial and ethnic groups. They developed a system of naturalisation that allowed citizens to maintain dual allegiance to their original tribe or ancestral place – Spain or Britain.

Edward Gibbon in 1776, claimed that high point of civilisation – when mankind was happiest and most prosperous was when the Roman Empire was at its peak.

(Excerpted from Luke Slattery and Rosemary Neill)