Showing all posts tagged: Roman Empire

All day I dream about the Roman Empire, like many others

18 September 2023

All roads, even Roman roads, lead to TikTok. Take any topic, no matter how obscure, how antiquated, and the subject will, it seems, surface, eventually, on the FYP tab of the ubiquitous video sharing app.

Last week it was the turn of the Roman Empire to trend. The Roman Empire. Antiquated: for sure. Obscure: certainly not. But the talk of TikTok it was. This after women were prompted to ask the men they knew how often they thought about the Roman Empire.

Some of the responses indicated this happened often. Several times a day, in some cases, apparently. Not bad for an institution that hasn’t existed in any real form for centuries. I myself still think about the old empire from time to time. I spent time in Europe once, and often encountered its remnants, even though I did not (somehow) visit Italy.

As a boy I was fascinated, obsessed more likely, by Rome. History teachers at school taught us about the Empire’s contribution to the world we lived in today, a contribution that was quite significant. In a sense we live, to a degree, in a scion of Rome. Of course we therefore think about Rome often: it’s very much a part of the fabric of our lives, a point Tyler Cowan underlines at Marginal Revolution:

I travel in the former Roman empire fairly often, usually at least once a year. I see pseudo-Roman architecture almost every time I go to Washington, D.C., which is maybe once every two weeks. There is a copy of the new Ovid translation sitting in the kitchen, and it has been there for a few months because I do not currently have time to read it. I see periodic Twitter updates about a Nat Friedman-Daniel Gross AI project to read ancient Roman scrolls. Christian references to ancient Rome cross my path all the time. Does it count to see Roman numerals? To write the words “per se”? To notice it is the month of August?

But I was thinking about the old Empire just the other week. In particular, the story of a short story, titled Rome, Sweet Rome, written by American writer James Erwin. In 2011, Erwin briefly serialised a story about a unit of some two thousand United States Marines who find themselves transported two thousand years back in time.

The Marines turn up in Italy with all of their munitions and equipment. Rome, Sweet Rome speculates on the outcome of a battle between the Marines, and the legions of the Roman Empire. The result seems like a foregone conclusion until it is realised the Marines have no way of replenishing their arms. Once they fire their last bullet, they’re fighting the Romans with swords and spears.

It’s no surprise — given how much Rome is still on our minds — that Rome, Sweet Rome garnered quite a bit of attention. At one point Rome, Sweet Rome was even optioned for film, with US production company Warner Bros acquiring the movie rights. Unfortunately for fans of the story, there has been little progress with a screen adaptation, following a re-write of the screenplay in 2013.

But who knows. Perhaps TikTok’s current interest in the Roman Empire might get the ball rolling again. TikTok has a certain power to open doors, if it can excite the interest of enough people.


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Romans once thought Hadrian’s Wall was built by Severus

24 September 2022

Hadrian, who was Roman Emperor from 117 until 138 CE, built Hadrian’s Wall, right? Why else name the famous stone barricade after him? But as this fascinating Twitter thread by John Bull points out, for a long time it was believed someone else was responsible:

So you know Hadrian’s Wall? Well for over 1000 years everyone thought it was built by someone else.

Severus, who was Emperor from 193 to 211 CE, was one person nominated by Roman historians:

Severus was a pretty safe bet for these Roman historians. Everyone knew he’d done a lot of campaigning in Britain. He’d definitely built a bunch of stuff there. Even died there. HE built the big wall, they said.

But no, it was Hadrian. To his credit however, Severus did strengthen the wall several decades after its construction.



Why didn’t the Roman Empire spawn the Industrial Revolution?

3 September 2022

The Roman Empire — which dominated the then known world for near on five centuries — gave us its trademark roads, plumbing, floor heating, a postal service, concrete, and surgical tools.

Had the empire — as a whole, rather than the partitioned east, west, entity it later became — remained at its peak a lot longer, we can only speculate as to what other innovations may have been spawned.

An Industrial Revolution perhaps? Possibly. But prior to the fifth century, Common Era? Not likely, says Bret C. Devereaux, an ancient and military historian at the University of North Carolina.


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