Roman Culture: characteristics and contributions

Roman Culture: characteristics and contributions

Roman culture is an integral part of ancient culture. In many respects, derived from the Greek culture, this wonderful culture was able to develop some of its achievements to introduce something new, inherent only in the Roman state.

At the time of its greatest prosperity, Ancient Rome united the entire Mediterranean, including Greece. Its influence, based on its culture, spread to a significant part of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, etc. The heart of this enormous state was Italy, located in the very center of the Mediterranean world.

General characteristics

Roman society through the centuries that make up its history changed profoundly. Contact with other peoples, migrations, conquests and invasions that characterized the different eras transformed the face of society from an economic and cultural point of view.

Classes of Roman society

Since ancient times, the division between patricians and plebeians is one of the main characteristics that distinguishes Roman society. The patricians were those Roman citizens who belonged to the privileged classes, the noble families and the ruling class. They enjoyed full civil and political rights.

They were small in number and were part of the patrician families that, during the monarchical period, were able to access the Senate, an institution that according to tradition had already been established by Romulus. Commoners made up the majority of the population: they were merchants, artisans, peasants. In the most ancient times of Rome, not all rights were recognized.

Roman Culture: characteristics and contributions

They did not enjoy political rights, they could not access the land distributions derived from the conquest of new territories, they could not marry patricians and they could not be elected as magistrates, although they paid taxes, fought and contributed their work to the economy of Rome. .

In the years of the Republic, wealthy citizens engaged in particularly profitable economic activities were part of this order. Over the centuries, they assumed increasingly important public positions. His main antagonist was represented by the noble senators of rich and well-known families of the patrician aristocracy, at the top of the social ladder. The equestrian order gradually disappeared during the 4th century AD

At the lowest rung of the social ladder were slaves: they were prisoners of war or people who had not paid their debts. They were the property of their master, who had life or death power over them and had no rights. In the event that a teacher granted them freedom, they became freed.

Even women enjoyed extremely limited rights: not only could they not vote, they could not even testify in court. They lived under the authority of the “pater families”, first the father and then the husband. The dimension they had was exclusively domestic and family: women had to take care of the house and take care of the children.

Culture in Roman society

Rome was a fundamental cultural center during ancient history. The greatness of the capital of the Empire was visible to its citizens and visitors by great public works, just think of the results obtained in the field of architecture and engineering with the construction of bridges, roads, amphitheaters, aqueducts.

Among the fundamental features of culture in ancient Rome is the contribution given in particular by Greece that influenced not only customs, but also philosophy, religion, literature, poetry.

Games and Shows

The Luddites have played a fundamental role in the life of the Romans since the years of the Republic. The public games and performances were organized by the state or by private citizens in the context of religious and civil celebrations and holidays. In fact, they were originally associated with religious celebrations; in imperial times, the ludi instead became a moment of celebration for the emperor himself and an instrument of consensus building and consolidation.

The games also allowed the population to be distracted from the problems of everyday life. For this reason, the poet Juvenal argued that the Romans intended to have only “bread and circuses”, that is, to emphasize how feeding the stomach and attending public shows had unfortunately become their priority.

At the same time, these shows allowed the emperor to give the illusion of closeness to the people, the emperor actually witnessed it, sitting on the same stage where the population congregated.

Legacy of Roman culture

Undoubtedly, the striking force of the Roman legions made it possible to export a complex, public and private system, as in few other cases in history. A winning system that is unrivaled in duration and influence. We owe many of today’s achievements to the ancient Romans.

Roman law

Roman law was not the first customary or even the first written, but it was the most organic. Roman law has regulated almost all the private relationships that we know of today and that of western countries is based on the principles of Roman ius. Contracts, property, civil unions are legacies of the Roman world.

The language and the alphabet

The current writing is based on the Latin alphabet, simple, complete, easy to learn, allowing millions of combinations all semantically relevant. Thanks to Latinos we have found an efficient way to write and communicate, in use in the common and commercial language.

Later, the language influenced some of the most widely spoken languages ​​in the world: Italian, Sardinian, Ladino, Romanian, French, Portuguese and Spanish (the latter also very widespread in the American continent) all descended from the language spoken in Rome. But their influence on the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic languages ​​is quite evident.

Civil engineering and inventions

The Romans were not great artists, perhaps they did not have the taste of typical Greek art, but they were practical. The aqueducts built two millennia ago still function today, there are amphitheaters that fill up every summer, but they date from the time of Augustus.

The art of military engineering was at the forefront. Facing Rome meant facing a technological powerhouse five centuries ahead of its enemies. The Roman roads allowed the opening of emporiums and markets and facilitated the expansion of contracts, merchandise, people and of course the soldiers in all the provinces.

Republican system

The Roman public law system, before the empire, provided for an executive power based on the consuls and minor magistrates, a legislative power based on the senate and rallies and a control based on the power of the tribunes of the plebs and the censors.

The charges were not cumulative, they only lasted one year and in the Silla constitution, to avoid the abuses known at the time of the Gracchi, they could not be exercised for two consecutive years. There were anti-corruption, traffic and waste laws. The fire brigade, central bank, treasury, peripheral and central taxes were created. A modern and very efficient bureaucracy.

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