Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Roman Empire versus the United States – Part III

Formalized Religion

Rome had a relatively tolerant religious setting, as long as whatever you worshiped at home didn't interfere with the official proceedings. Romans weren't exactly the deep spiritual type, but, if one of their precious ceremonies was disrupted even by a minor event (let's say, the official in charge made a mistake in reciting the text), everything had to be started all over again.

The military oath taken each year by the soldiers also had a religious form, irrespective of what the soldier actually believed in. A worshiper of Mithra, Mars or Glykon would take the same oath – very much like the oath taken on the Bible in courts to tell the truth and nothing by the truth – and Romans were completely puzzled when Christians suddenly had a problem with this formal arrangement.

Technology, rather than Philosophy

Technological advances are vital in dominating the world. Let the Greeks deal with frivolous subjects, like philosophy and theology; it's cement and catapults we need for now. It's quite obvious that the US rules the world from the technological point of view, either by direct contributions or by quick adoption of the developments made elsewhere.

The Senate

No point to make here, really, just thought it was worth mentioning. Plus, the whole classicist look of the Washington Capitol makes it really tempting to reference ancient history, though, as far as I know, the source of inspiration for the Washington building can be found in Paris, not in Rome.

Entertainment and Propaganda

The right mixture of entertainment and propaganda has eluded most governments in history. It's difficult to draw the line between being persuasive and being ridiculous, but usually the results are worth taking a shot.

We've seen Bugs Bunny and Betty Boop join in the efforts to support American troops in World War II. Romans employed a wide range of gods and mythical creatures, with the same effect.

The Family Issue

Both ancient Rome and the US share a common trend of viewing the family as the most important thing in a person's life, yet both allow a significant degree of freedom in personal choices, including the divorce. In Rome, as wealth increased and the lifestyle changed accordingly, divorces and families without natural children became more frequent, sparking outcries about the need to return to traditional values. They even passed laws to encourage families to have more children. Needless to say, the laws didn't help much, but society wasn't destroyed by the new, flexible family model either.

Go to:
The Roman Empire versus the United States – Part I
The Roman Empire versus the United States – Part II
The Roman Empire versus the United States – Part IV