I am actually several chapters ahead of this but these normally take a while to format for WordPress. Enjoy!
In order to get any sense of what was lost and retained through the turbulent period of 367×410, it is first necessary to understand a little more about the origin point – Roman Britain. The island was never fully conquered, but by 43 C.E. part of Britain already had a governor. During the course of the second century of the Common Era the rest of modern England came under Roman rule. At the time this book opens, Britain had been influenced by Rome for three hundred years and indoctrinated into Roman government for over another two hundred. That is easily long enough for Roman conventions to become British conventions and for Roman traditions to become British traditions.
Roman influence should have been a stroke of fortune for the suddenly independent Britons. The Roman Empire had lasted for five hundred years, and its predecessor the Roman Republic for several centuries as well. Both organizations had survived so long because of the carefully laid foundations of Roman government and society.
At the core of society had been the Roman education. Romans did not follow the motto of “No child left behind” that has become politically correct. In fact, they were just the opposite. Like most civilizations up until the nineteenth century, the Romans did not believe in public education. The wealthy were able to buy tutors and the poor were not. In adulthood, the poor worked as farmers or craftsmen and the wealthy were expected to run businesses and participate in the government. An education equivalent to a high school diploma was a mark of distinction, a sign of elite status.
And this is where the writers of the Roman laws were brilliant. Knowing how valued schooling was, the government also offered state-funded education to the most intelligent children of poorer families. These children were given the same teachers and shared an identical curriculum with the wealthy children; the trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric until the age of twelve. If they did well enough, these students were then taught the quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy to complete their instruction.
Free education raised a child’s social status from laborer to white collar (or white toga) worker. In return for the enhanced prestige, these individuals were expected to spend their careers as government employees. Giving free education to the intelligent poor ensured that the lower government positions were always run by a competent group of persons whose loyalty was to the state.
The upper government positions were also left in the hands of the capable, though not necessarily to the most loyal; public service was also expected of the wealthy. The village/town/city elders were responsible for many of the same concerns as elders in our century; they allotted money for maintaining roads and buildings, ensured continuing trade continued, and organized all matters of education.
The difference between ancient Rome and the modern world was that a wealthy Roman concerned with public service was also expected to help pay for the building and maintenance of all public areas – including buildings, roads, and sanitation. This service, of regularly donating money for the common good, probably relaxed class tensions between the wealthy and the poor; there were few if any peasant revolts during the entire Roman existence.
Public service helped Rome more directly, too. Aqueducts kept Roman cities clean enough to avoid plagues. Roads were the life blood of the nation’s communications, trade, and military and because of this kept Rome closely connected in peace and war.
The Romans were especially attentive of their highways. Every fifteen to twenty kilometers (nine to thirteen miles) there was a mutatione or changing station. At a mutatione a traveler could hire a wheelright, cartwright, or veterinarian to service their transportation. Every twenty-five to thirty kilometers (sixteen to nineteen miles) there was a mansione or full-service motel. These required the passport of a government employee to use. Non-official travelers could use nearby cauponae, or inns. The prices for all accommodations and services were fixed to avoid gauging. Having official stations allowed for the efficient movement of traders throughout the empire, permitting even the most isolated provinces to have access to the most exotic items.
Their transportation system was part of the reason for Roman military success. Well-maintained roads allowed for the rapid movement of legions, supplies, messages, and information throughout the empire. No matter how large and unwieldy the empire became, it was always possible to move enough troops to a troubled area in time to neutralize a threat.
The military had its own advantages as well, of course. Roman armor was better than the legendary hoplites had enjoyed, they were lighter but just as durable because of an improved smelting process. Swords were a little better too because of the introduction of iron. Roman shields were designed to interlock much like hoplite phalanxes. Time and again this foresight proved useful against cavalry charges.
Improved smelting and the introduction of iron were benefits that some of Rome’s enemies had too. What gave Roman armies their best advantage on the battlefield was their adaptability. In the earliest armies, the smallest units had been legions of thousands. Roman Legions had originally been of 6,000 soldiers. They were divided into six cohorts, each divided into three maniples. Each maniple was under the direct authority of three centurions, who each commanded a century. It was these smaller units which gave the legions the flexibility to adapt instantly on the battlefield.
The centurion was what made the smaller divisions work. Chosen from among veterans of fifteen to twenty years’ service these intelligent, loyal, natural leaders were equivalent to modern captains. In battle they were responsible for maintaining order and discipline through example. Those who continued to prove themselves could be promoted to maniple and cohort commander.
One of the formations the Romans invented was the testudo, or tortoise. The configuration protected the front, sides, and top of a unit against bowmen or flammable weapons. The testudo also provided enough cover to attack a fortified stronghold. Other, more tactical arrangements made possible by the legion’s flexibility were the wedge formation, the Cannae tactic which had an intentionally weak center and strong wings, and the Zama tactic which could neutralize elephants.
Once the Romans were in control of a region, they made themselves easy to accept. Through trade they brought the most exotic items from throughout the empire to it. They built Roman roads, aqueducts, and baths. Incoming Romans brought wealth to the economy. Roman soldiers were legendary throughout the ancient world for their success in battle; their presence meant security.
They were also accepting. Roman governors not only kept whatever customs and traditions the natives had, they had a special officer whose sole purpose was to keep relations with the natives healthy and open. Provinces were also encouraged to accept Roman rule through a system of rewards which granted the province varying levels of status within the empire. The ultimate goal was to award a province’s people the title of full citizens. To help smooth the process, veteran Roman soldiers would be offered grants of land in frontier provinces as a reward for their service. Later, the same offer would be given to foreign soldiers as a part of their Romanization. The presence Romans in a population kept the empire from becoming a nameless entity and made it more interactive.
Rome’s biggest tool was its acceptance of religion. As far as the Roman Empire was concerned, all faiths were equal. The worshippers of Mars, Ra, and British Belatacudros were all just as welcome; taxed equally and without any form of punishment. In fact, one of the first things the Romans generally did when they were learning about a new culture was to equate the local gods with their own.
This policy changed a little in the early empire, when it became standard practice to deify emperors upon their deaths. It was then expected that all Romans would worship them in addition to whatever religions they followed. When the monotheistic Jews refused to obey, they were attacked and forced to disperse. They were the first case of religious intolerance.
The second instance was possibly the druids. We do not know enough about them, though, to be sure. They might have refused to worship Roman emperors on religious grounds, or their disobedience could have been a part of larger political insurrection. There might have been personal or political factors we are unaware of. We may never know.
The third time a religion was officially attacked was with Christianity. Like the Jews, Christians were unable to worship former emperors. Also like the Jews, they were hunted down and forced into hiding. How captured Christians were treated after that could be the subject of an entire book.
The Romans had a well-designed and beautifully executed government and social arrangement. By limiting education to the most intelligent and capable they made the best use of their resources. By providing those individuals with status throughout the empire along with a secure means of generating income they created a bond of loyalty with its best and the brightest citizens. It was these intelligent, publically funded individuals who ran the Roman government and kept it functioning through centuries of wars and inconsistent rulers.
By expecting and insisting that the economically elite to contribute time and personal funds to local needs, Roman policy muted internal dissension. Rome’s policy of religious tolerance made the assimilation of new cultures smooth by demonstrating respect to each conquered people.
Rome’s system of advancement and its flexibility made the legions the most adaptable and intelligently lead military units in the ancient world. By putting so much of Rome’s resources into the formation, maintenance, and ease of travel along its roads, the Roman people created the framework for an extensive trading network and the amazing mobility of its armies. By establishing such a solid foundation of government, education, military, and trade, Rome molded itself into one of the most stable, most influential cultures of the ancient world. If not for the limited technology of the time and centuries of internal conflicts, the Roman Empire might still exist today.