Whenever we hear the word romans our mind instantly begins to brainstorm: war, laws, senate, republic, Julius Caesar, etc. It’s very well-known that the Roman heritage is vast and lasting. Many of their legacy still influences our life, however I’d like to focus my writing to the role of the Roman man and the influence that it has in our days. Do we follow their sketch of a good roman man? What made them so extraordinary?
Through this post I’ll be citing a lot from Polybius and his writings about the Roman Constitution. He did a brief summary of what a good roman should do, he wrote: ‘reverence to the gods, honor for parents, respect to elders, and obedience to laws that are traditional and habitual’ and he goes on ‘for the true test [of a roman] is the power of bearing with spirit and dignity violent changes of fortune’.
Even though Polybius did a pretty good summary, I want to emphasize certain things that, as far as I am concern, were important to the romans. First of all I’m going to discuss what, for me, is the most distinguishing aspect of the Roman men: their highly sense of citizenship. Polybius very accurately wrote: ‘they rated the interest of their country higher than those of the natural ties even with their nearest and dearest’ because they valued the safety of their country and a lasting freedom more highly than their own existence. Roman men were had a real and strong sense of duty to their country and that is what made them magnificent warriors.
Secondly, the romans were really good warriors. This was said to Aeneas several years before the foundation of Rome. It was written that Rome would have the best warriors ever in history. But going deeper, I found that being a good warrior for the roman men was not exclusively about physical strength, but also about defending your principles and beliefs. In the book VI of Polybius we find:
‘Carthaginians have their hopes of freedom ever resting on the courage of mercenary troops, the Romans on the value of their own citizens […] For, as the Romans are fighting for country and children, it is impossible for them to relax the fury of their struggle; but they persist with obstinate resolution until they have overcome their enemies.’
We can see through this passage the true character of the romans. Even when they faced defeat, they renewed the war with undiminished forces and with something to fight for. Their success wasn’t because of their strength, but because the heart they put on every war.
Even more, romans had a very well developed system of customs and laws (the two things fundamental to every state). They knew that ‘honour and punishment held together human society’. That’s probably why roman men were very severe with their judgments and punishments. Roman men understood that a private matter affected the whole people and so, they create this exemplary constitution; a constitution over which countries all around the world have based theirs.
Nowadays we can easily recognize the similarities that Romans had with the Greeks: the art, the myths, the architecture, some of their social structure, etc. Nevertheless, we also find great differences between them. Polybius wrote; ‘the most important difference is in their religious beliefs, it was the very thing that kept them together’. Roman men could handle material things while keeping their faith intact. That, as a matter of fact, maybe something we differ from the romans. We cannot easily separate material and spiritual things as well as they did. Even Polybius said it: ‘men nowadays are acting rashly and foolishly in rejecting the gods’.
I just want to conclude this post by saying that the Roman influence is going to be everlasting. We surely owe them a lot! They set the basis of every civilized culture that has been, that is, and that will be on this earth.
3 thoughts on “Roman men”
I like your insight about how the Romans could “handle material things while keeping their faith intact.” Though I do not agree that is what made them from the Greeks in general. During the time of Polybius, Greek society was different from early Greek society, as best seem by their sensuous art. So while Greek were falling from god during the time of Polybuis, Early Greeks, like during the time of Sophocles, were good about balancing faith and life.
I agree with you I also believe that in modern times, different from the times of the Roman Empire, we have a strong difficulty to separate spiritual from material things. We need to learn to know what things are spiritual and what things are material in order to decide what our priorities will be. It is like separation professional from personal lives. In our lives we should learn what learning how to balance our llives may be the key to success.
It’s interesting what you said about being able to handle material things as well as spiritual. I would concur that that’s not so easily done in our day and age. People have a hard time being spiritual while seeking the material. But, as we read in Jacob 2, if we first seek the Kingdom of God, riches, if we desire, will be added unto us. So long as we use them to do good and benefit others.