Civic Virtue And The Legend Of Horatius Cocles

Civic Virtue

Civic Virtue And The Legend Of Horatius Cocles

According to the Roman legend, Horatius Cocles was an officer who taunted and single-handedly fought off the Etruscans led by Lars Porsena, while rest of the army demolished the Pons Sublicus (the only bridge crossing the Tiber). He then threw himself into the river and swam across in full armor, being treated as a hero who saved Rome.

It was the concept of civic virtue, moral excellence, community engagement and the values upheld by the ancient Romans that made Rome great. Unfortunately the idea of civic virtue and many of the higher moral values the ancient Romans held dear have since been lost in the modern western world.

The Roman history is full of legends celebrating heroism and superior moral values. But it is not as if the Romans were inherently superior to modern men. No. It was all because of a society that taught people the true masculine and feminine virtues, and to frown upon degenerate behaviour. To be strong and ambitious. These were the values that enabled Rome to expand and take control of most of the known world… until they too became decadent and degenerate by the time of the Late Republic and the Imperial era.

While Europe witnessed a rebirth during the renaissance, I would argue that we never truly surpassed the Ancient Greeks or Romans in terms of civic virtue, excellence, or simply righteous behavior.

The last 80 or so years have seen the worst change in the western society. In this brave new world, Horatius would be considered a sexist xenophobic right wing white supremacist extremist, with probable ties to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Indeed, anyone possessing any courage and higher moral values, and a love for his or her people would be labeled as such.

It is time to revive the Roman Republic and SPQR!

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Roman Technology – Watermill At Barbegal

Roman Technology - Watermill At Barbegal

Roman Technology – Watermill At Barbegal

The Ancient Romans are known for their feats in engineering and technology. Perhaps one of the most grandiose example of their sophistication is the Ancient Roman watermill at Barbegal. The complex is located just outside Arelate (modern day Arles, France) in the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis.

The Barbegal watermill dates from around the 1st-2nd century CE, and must have been an impressive sight indeed, being the cutting edge of Roman technology. The mill consisted of 8 huge pairs of waterwheels with grinding mechanisms attached to each wheel, milling grain into flour. The industrial scale of the mill represented a revolutionary advancement from small water- or animal-driven mills to huge feats of engineering capable of supplying around 4.5 tons of flour each day, enough to provide bread for the more than 10000 inhabitants of Arelate.

The city of Arelate was supplied with water by two separate aqueducts from the mountain range of Les Alpilles. The northern aqueduct originated near the village of Eygalières, while the southern (Caparon) aqueduct originated from sources near the village of Paradou. The two aqueducts met just north of the ridge above the watermill complex, diverting part of the water to power the gigantic water wheels. The joint aqueduct then curved west and supplied Arelate with drinking water, entering the city from the southeast.

The Ancient Romans were not the first to use hydropower, but they were first to use the technology on an industrial scale. The first surviving record of Roman use of a water wheel originates from Vitruvius in the 1st century BCE. The Roman use of water to power millstones is further demonstrated by a number of archaeological sites across the territories held by the Roman Empire.

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The Rise Of Rome

“Can any one be so indifferent or idle as not to care to know by what means, and under what kind of polity, almost the whole inhabited world was conquered and brought under the dominion of the single city of Rome, and that too within a period of not quite fifty-three years?”

– Polybius, The Histories

In the history of mankind few empires have expanded quite as quickly as the Roman Republic of the 3rd and 2nd century BCE. Understanding the rise of Rome is of paramount import in understanding the reasons of its eventual downfall. Understanding Rome on the other hand is the key to understanding modern western civilization. The west could either enter a new golden age, or a total collapse, comparable to the collapse of the Bronze Age in the 11th century BCE.

As legend has it, Rome was founded in 753 BCE by Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of Mars. After killing his brother, Romulus became the first king of Rome. According to ancient mythology Rome had in total seven kings of Sabine, Latin, and Etruscan origin.

The overthrowing of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus in 509 BCE marked the end of the monarchical period, and as a result, the Roman Republic was born. It needs to be noted however, that the date is highly suspect. It is likely, that patriotric Roman historians in later eras changed the timing of the event to slightly pre-date the establishment of the Athenian Democracy in 508 BCE. The Romans valued their democracy greatly, and as such had a hard time believing they were not first in establishing it. As a result they might have altered their history to out-do the Greeks. Unfortunately there are no contemporary sources available to us, as all primary documentation was destroyed in the sack of Rome in the 390’s BCE., so we have to trust the 509 BCE date.

Rome, in the first few hundred years, saw the establishment and refining of its institutions, wars with its neighbours, and the gradual expansion into Italy.

It was in the Pyrrhic Wars against King Pyrrhus of Epirus, which first brought Rome to the international scene. Despite suffering heavy casualties in a number of battles, the Romans refused to negotiate with Pyrrhus as long as his army remained in Italy. Many senators were at first inclined to accept peace terms proposed by Cineas, a trusted adviser to King Pyrrhus, but were swayed by the old, and by then blind Appius Claudius Caecus who gave his famous speech against Cineas and Pyrrhus, advising Pyrrhus to withdraw to Epirus and to make his propositions from there. Appius Claudius had been a censor, twice consul, and twice dictator, and held such authority that the senate unanimously dismissed Cineas, the ambassador and resumed the war.

The Roman steadfast resistance and eventual victory gained the Republic a reputation abroad, and spreading its influence as a result. The Roman attitude is most perfectly illustrated by Quintus Ennius (c. 239 – c. 169 BCE), who is considered to be the father of Roman poetry,

“The victor is not victorious if the vanquished does not consider himself so”

After forcing Pyrrhus to leave Italy, the Romans went on to fight a series of wars against Carthage, Macedon, and the Selecuid Empire. While Rome was at its greatest height in 117 CE, during the reign of Trajanus, and would enjoy a period of relative stability for a hundred years more, its core values had decayed long before.

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