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What Is The Greatest Ancient Civilization?

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What is the greatest ancient civilization?  

370 members have voted

  1. 1. What is the greatest ancient civilization?

    • Greece
      178
    • Carthage
      3
    • Rome
      65
    • Mongol
      5
    • Babylon
      3
    • Egypt
      7
    • Asyria
      0
    • Persia
      5
    • Phoenicia
      3
    • Chinese
      14


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I voted for the Greeks. Tough choice between ancient Greece and Rome in their golden age. I second Free capitalist: Greek theory, Roman practice. We owe our philosophy, and science to Greece. But Rome spread it. I think Romans where better engineers, concentrating at practical matters like aqueducts and bridges. The organisation of the Roman state and Roman army is as close as you could get to a modern state at that time. Rome continued to shape history long after it was gone. Roman cities stayed strategically strongholds during the middle ages. The victories and loses of their legions determined the advance of the different tribes invading their territory, which fixed the geographical location of different European cultural families (Germanic, Latin, Slavic, Celt, Orthodox…). Heck even the Ottoman empire and Islam was influenced by Rome.

After the Greeks, Rome wins, hands down.

A word for the Mongols. They had much influence in Asia and founded a large empire. The Grand Moguls of India where Mongol descendants. China was ruled over a long period by descendants of Mongol kings. As to war, see also this article on pax Mongolia http://www.silk-road.com/artl/paxmongolica.shtml. It was said that at a certain period a girl carrying a pot of gold on her head could travel across their empire without being attacked.

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My second favorite civilization is Phoenicia because, unlike the Romans who were second-hand copiers of Greece, the Phoenicians were innovators in two areas crucial to the intellectual and moral development of the human race.

Intellectually, they invented the alphabet, an indispensable tool for communicating accumulated knowledge from generation to generation. Morally they were bold explorers[/] and prosperous producers and traders.

http://www.cedarland.org/phoenicia.html]The Phoenicians excelled in producing textiles, in carving ivory, in working with metal, stone and wood, and above all in making glass which they also invented. They even built the temple of Solomon and mined tin in Cornwall. Masters of the art of navigation, Phoenician ships of cedar ruled the seas, they were the first people of sail past the 'Pillars of Hercules' and discover Atlantic, another milestone in the history of man. The Phoenicians discovered the North  Star which the Greeks were to name the Phoenician Star in honour of those that discovered it. These ancient Lebanese founded colonies wherever they went in the Mediterranean such as Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Marseilles, Cadiz, and Carthage. Furthermore, their ships circumnavigated Africa a thousand years before those of the Portuguese. Amongst other evidence, Phoenician inscriptions have been found in Brazil to suggest that the Phoenicians crossed the Atlantic thousands of years before Columbus. With the establishment of  trade routes to Europe and western Asia, Phoenicia was to acquire wealth and position that rivalled Rome.

The Phoenicians were the great pioneers of civilisation. Intrepid, inventive, enterprising, they at once made vast progress in the arts themselves, and carried their knowledge, their active habits, and their commercial instincts into the remotest regions of the old continent. They exercised a stimulating, refining, and civilising influence wherever they went. North and south and east and west they adventured themselves amid perils of all kinds, actuated by the love of adventure more than by the thirst for gain, conferring benefits, spreading knowledge, suggesting, encouraging, and developing trade, turning men from the barbarous and unprofitable pursuits of war and bloodshed to the peaceful occupations of productive industry. They did not aim at conquest. They united the various races of men by the friendly links of mutual advantage and mutual dependence, conciliated them, softened them, humanised them. While, among the nations of the earth generally, brute force was worshipped as the true source of power and the only basis of national repute, the Phoenicians succeeded in proving that as much could be done by arts as by arms, as great glory and reputation gained, as real a power built up, by the quiet agencies of exploration, trade, and commerce, as by the violent and brutal methods of war, massacre, and ravage. They were the first to set this example.

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Betsy,

Phoenicians were fond of human sacrifice to their gods. Their theology was highly malevolent, sort of akin to the Aztecs, with cruel and sadistic gods requiring bloody and painful sacrifice of humans upon their altars. But unlike the Aztecs, Phoenicians sacrificed newborn children, most being a few months old.

In Carthage, the famous Phoenician colony, 20,000 urns with child remains were found from an estimated 200 years of this practice. Apparently, as the explanation goes, the original 'contract' between Phoenicians and their gods was the sacrifice of the rulers themselves to their gods. Queen Dido, Carthage's founder, killed herself in this fashion. Subsequent rulers were probably unwilling to kill themselves in like fashion, so they substituted their infants instead. At some points in time, animals were substituted for infants, but then some great danger to the city occurred; Phoenicians invariably interpreted their occurance as their gods' anger, and repented in their sins by performing mass sacrifice of hundreds of children at once.

Originally this form of aquiring blessing from the gods was limited to the nobles and royalty, but in 5th century (a century before war with Rome), Carthage became a democracy, and all people were allowed to do this, if they wanted to. And so we find many more sacrifices done in that time, as everyone now rushed to take advantage of this kind of blessing for themselves.

In the Ten Commandments thread I speak of the ancient Judaic customs of human sacrifice. This was a very common Semitic practice in those days, and Phoenicians were a Semitic people. Carthage has huge mass burial grounds with urns filled with child bones. Phoenician cities in modern Syria have similar burial grounds. Etc.

Greeks occasionally wrote of Phoenician child sacrifice as example of Eastern 'barbarian' mentality. They also report that a Persian king once deigned to have a treaty with Carthage, but he included two stipulations - that they stop eating the meat of dogs, and that they stop sacrificing their children. Romans report this too. In their treaties with Carthage, before the Punic Wars, they demanded the ceasing of this practice. After Carthage was destroyed at the end of the Punic Wars in 146BC, Romans made it very clear to Northern African Phoenicians that child sacrifice would not be tolerated. It was explicitly outlawed. In 200AD, however, Tertullian, one of the Christian fathers and no friend of Rome, wrote something like 'the shameful practice of child sacrifice was done in pre-Roman Carthage, and still continues to be performed here, although in secret.'

Just from this practice alone we can also find proof of evalution of Phoenicians as one of the most mystical civilizations in Antiquity.

--

In regards to Rome, why do you call them 'second-hand copiers of Greece'? Would you call Michelangelo's David a second-hand copy, although it is a Greek sculpture through and through? Greeks invented a lot, but they didn't know how to live in peace, and their peninsula was constantly miserable from wars and invasions. Please refer back to my quote from Plutarch, a Greek himself, where he writes that practically all wars the Greeks suffered were from and by themselves. If you only have to read one of my posts in this thread, then the Plutarch quote would be it. It really explains everything. I wouldn't want to live anywhere in Greece during its pre-Roman days, except perhaps in Athens. But even the Athenian radical democracy was rather rough, and they consistently punished and ostracized their greatest and most accomplished citizens. That's where the word 'ostracize' comes from, they invented it in that practice.

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Phoenicians were fond of human sacrifice to their gods. Their theology was highly malevolent, sort of akin to the Aztecs, with cruel and sadistic gods requiring bloody and painful sacrifice of humans upon their altars. But unlike the Aztecs, Phoenicians sacrificed newborn children, most being a few months old.

[...]

Just from this practice alone we can also find proof of evalution of Phoenicians as one of the most mystical civilizations in Antiquity.

Remember that the Phoenicians were pre-philosophical. Human sacrifice was a hideous practice, but a common one in primitive societies. (Slavery was also common in most cultures, including Ancient Greece and the pre-Civil War US, but both greatly advanced human life too.)

What I find valuable about the Phoenicians was that, even though they were pre-philosophical, they took so many steps in the direction of civilization and laid the foundation for philosophy and this-earthly accomplishments.

In regards to Rome, why do you call them 'second-hand copiers of Greece'? Would you call Michelangelo's David a second-hand copy, although it is a Greek sculpture through and through? Greeks invented a lot, but they didn't know how to live in peace, and their peninsula was constantly miserable from wars and invasions. Please refer back to my quote from Plutarch, a Greek himself, where he writes that practically all wars the Greeks suffered were from and by themselves. If you only have to read one of my posts in this thread, then the Plutarch quote would be it. It really explains everything. I wouldn't want to live anywhere in Greece during its pre-Roman days, except perhaps in Athens. But even the Athenian radical democracy was rather rough, and they consistently punished and ostracized their greatest and most accomplished citizens. That's where the word 'ostracize' comes from, they invented it in that practice.

This is all true.

I call the Romans 'second-hand copiers of Greece'? because they were not philosophical innovators. They took over the Greek culture -- the good and the bad. The Romans cashed in on some of the better aspects of Greek culture. With a good philosophical base, they advanced civil engineering and the law, both of which contributed to their decisive military victories and their civilizing influence on their colonies.

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Hi Betsy,

I've decided to split my one long post into two shorter ones, to distinguish them by topicality.

About Phoenicians:

Remember that the Phoenicians were pre-philosophical. Human sacrifice was a hideous practice, but a common one in primitive societies.

Yes this is true. But then again, Rome viewed this practice as horrendous, outlawed it throughout Phoenician lands, and civilized Phoenicians out of this practice by force, under severe penalties. Unlike Phoenicians, Romans weren't a primitive society.

Just because Phoenicians were traders and financial experts does not carry any greater moral weight than the fact that most Romans were farmers during the Republic. Moral weight comes from being a metaphysical trader, as you know, and a farmer can be that just as well as a merchant. In fact, the former will probably take this Trader principle closer to heart than the latter, because he has to physically deal with reality every day. The work is very difficult, bu the reward is worth it; he knows there's no leeway in escaping reality, that there's no possibility for him to cheat the land and get anything unearned; he knows he must always pay his due, by sheer necessity, and that reality will always pay its due to him in return. He lives in a simple but very moral universe. A merchant is never dealing with reality in this direct way, only indirectly through other people; oftentimes he can make them pay for his own violation of the Trader principle, and get away with it. This is why both the Greeks and the Romans generally despised merchants of all kinds, and held citizen farmers in greatest esteem. This is why Thomas Jefferson envisioned America as a country of farmers, not merchants, although the uncough modern biographers snicker patronizingly at that vision of his as hopelessly primitive and frankly pathetic. But I digress.

Remember that the Phoenicians were pre-philosophical.
What does that mean?

Every culture since the birth of time held and cherished some form of philosophy. That philosophy needed not always have been explicit for it to have influenced every aspect of that culture's development and progression. Phoenician philosophy, especially in the days of its most prosperous and influential Carthage, was always focused on a number of cardinal principles:

1) malevolent universe (manifested by their highly cruel and anti-man religion),

2) no civic virtue, no patriotism or love of one's country (manifested by the fact that the Phoenicians almost never sent their own men to fight, but instead hired nearby mercenaries to do the dirty work of defending their freedom),

3) little interest in anything concerning ideals, or morals

- Their art is some of the most crude and primitive art found anywhere in the Mediterranean; it looks like it came out of the Stone Age (and you know the profound importance art carries in gauging the culture's values). Only since the beginning of Roman occupation of Carthage do you find magestic aqueducts stretching for miles through mountains, magnificent cathedrals, sculptures worshipping the human form.

- Further manifestation of this disinclination to bother about ideals was the Phoenician fame (infamy), especially amongst the Greeks, as treacherous and unscrupulous merchants, who seeked no higher goal than to fatten their wallet at the expense of the other party. They were not known as moral merchants who would take a hit to their wallet in order to protect a city they loved, for example. The financial bottom line was known to be their goal, not the moral bottom line. And sometimes the two are very much in opposition.

- You speak of their inventions such as the alphabet. I will concede this, although I gather that this theory is still hotly debated by the scholars. Even with my concession, however, the fact is that their writing was invented for the purpose of writing down financial ledgers; Phoenicians didn't go around saying, 'we are contributing our part to spreading the glory of man'. The Greeks, an authority for you as much as for me, strongly criticized Phoenicians for this amoral (and sometimes immoral) approach to living a life. That's why I thank the Phoenicians for the alphabet, but don't admire them for it. There is no way they could have contained any love for man, as long as they worshiped their sadistic gods, and sent the innocent infants of their most accomplished citizens to be roasted alive. Talk about the altar of man.

Сompare their gods to the Greek theology which is highly benevolent through and through. When the Greeks had their inventions and described their highest ideals, spreading the glory of man was their aim. Phidias did not sculpt the giant statue of Zeus to get a large paycheck, though he undoubtedly got one. Roark didn't build skyscrapers for the large salary such contracts commanded. Both were moved to express the holiness of man in their respective capacities. Phoenicians were despised for lacking this idealism. This was yet another reason of why Eastern civilizations were classified as primitive/barbarian, despite the ancient origins of such cultures, and their far longer periods of existence.

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About Romans:

I call the Romans 'second-hand copiers of Greece' because they were not philosophical innovators.
I don't understand this point. Are you and I second-hand copiers of Ayn Rand because we are not philosophical innovators? I thought you would agree with me that an idea, taken in by the person and integrated by himself, is his, and no accusation of second-handedness is appropriate. The same goes for whole cultures.

In addition, as I said earlier and am sure you agree, all cultures have a philosophy, explicitly declared or not. Romans only got access to Aristotle after Cicero translated him in the 1st century BC, at a time when the ancient Roman virtue had already long passed away and the Republic was withering down. As I want to remind you, I am only speaking of the Roman Republic here, not the Empire. During the Empire the distinctions between the Greek and Roman civilizations ceased to be sharply evident, and that's why it is called a Greco-Roman civilization rather than anything else.

But for most of the 500 years of the Republic's existence (6th c. BC - 1st c. BC), contact with Greece was minimal and cultural exchange negligible. Only by the third century BC do we hear of some Roman politicians attempting to mix native Roman culture with new Greek customs. Only a considerable time later does the Greek culture actually take hold as an important aspect of the Greco-Roman civilization. And finally, only by end, by the first century BC, amidst the crumbling Republic, as Cicero was translating Aristotle into Latin only for the first time, at the end of the ideal that the ancient Romans built alone, a Greek was to say, "Conquered, we conquer."

What then was the philosophy guiding the Romans? Who wrote it down? As I'm sure you'll agree with me, a culture can operate by a philosophy for centuries, without ever having it written down. This is not the best form of transmission, and is certainly not permanent, but it is quite possible, and we have more than one example in history of this occurring. American civilization is one. Greek civilization was another, where for hundreds of years before the 4th century philosophers, the Greek philosophy was unstated in an exclusive and explicit form (if you don't count the Iliad), but still known by all because the culture as a whole was permeated by it. Roman civilization was another such example. For centuries, starting with the expulsion of kings when Rome little more than a village, the struggles of the new tiny Republic with other shanty towns nearby, the painfully slow growth of the village to a town, a town to a city, a city to a metropolis, with victories successively over large hordes of unrefined barbarians, terrifying and disciplined armies of the refined Greeks, hugely financed mercenaries of the effete Carthaginians, through this growth of a village into a center of all civilization, a very consistent and principled philosophy is evident in all actions, both of the generals and of the rank-and-file soldiers, of aristocratic Senators and of the simple farmer folk.

So what was that philosophy guiding the Romans? Who wrote it down, as I asked above? No one did. No one ever did. Oh sure, we have various statements, inscriptions, books, actions of famous men. In fact one of the best ways to learn about Roman morality and implicit philosophy is to study the history of the Republic, and the history of its leading men. As I've made it clear in other posts of mine, I've never found such a host of consistently heroic men in any other time, in any other civilization, Greek included. Even the Greeks conceded this (among other things they conceded were lacking in comparison to Rome).

The closest Greek counterpart to this implicit Roman philosophy is probably Stoicism, which is why that philosophy was so popular amongst the Romans; indeed it was they who made it a world-known movement, what was previously just a set of ideas authored by unknown philosophers. The Greeks weren't too interested in Stoicism, though it's highly compatible with Aristotelian ethics. In any case, when the cultural exchange between Greece and Rome became full-fledged, and when Greek philosophies were beginning to be well known in Rome, I think the Romans foun Stoicism to be the closest full-fledged systematic counterpart to the philosophy their ancestors held and practiced by custom, and they, their descendants, had abandoned. That's why you find luminaries like Cicero, Seneca, and emperors like Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, grasping for Stoicism in an attempt to recover the ancient virtue of Rome during the age when little virtue was possible any longer.

With a good philosophical base, they advanced civil engineering and the law, both of which contributed to their decisive military victories and their civilizing influence on their colonies.

Yes. Except this philosophical base was present long before the Greeks ever got there. In fact the Roman army was modeled after the Greek hoplite spearmen at first, but about a century after establishing the Republic they abandoned it and devised a wholly new military organization, to instill fear into the whole world in due time. This is not to say that the Greek military system was bad, far from it. While the Romans were perfecting their new military invention, Alexander took a modified version of a standard Greek army and conquered as far as the maps of the entire world could point him. But even his successors couldn't stand up to the Roman military juggernaut.

In any case, I have a feeling I'm writing too much, so I hope I've sufficiently answered the following charge of yours:

They took over the Greek culture -- the good and the bad.
Just to recap, 'took over' is a very strong word. Even at the height of mixture of Greco-Roman civilization, it was never solely a Greek civilization. This was not a Hellenic empire of Alexander the Great, who took over the culture of the Greeks wholesale and had nothing of his own to contribute (though even his empire is far from detestable). The Romans took some parts, and not others. They retained some parts of their native culture, and not others. But the overarching point is that the Greco-Roman civilization was only an issue during the Empire, when the distinction between what's Roman and what's Greek became impossible to be made.

But people forget that Rome was not always an Empire. At one point in Rome's history, there were no emperors who acquired power and ruled by virtue of military might. At one point, Rome was ruled by law, and by the ingenuity of civil due process; it had three branches of government: two consuls performing executive presidential duties such as being commanders-in-chief, 300 richest citizens performing legislative tasks and known as the Senate, and an electoral body of citizens who regularly exercized their right for self-government by electing and replacing their consuls every year, voting on pieces of legislature, and deliberating on matters of war and peace. Sound similar to any country you might know? :yarr:

Not even the great Athens could come close to this. Aristotle wrote wishfully about such a constitution, but complained that nowhere in Greece did he find anything like it, excepting Sparta only by a stretch. But the Romans did it, and they did it more than a century before Aristotle.

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This discussion of ancient Roman and Phoenician civilizations reminds me of a novel related to the subject that I read a few years back: Sophon of Carthage: Heroine of a Holocaust, by Richard Hardy. The book is set in Carthage before and during the third Punic war that ended in the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC. It features lots of historical information and some very memorable characters.

The author depicts Carthage as a very wealthy and commercially successful country, but also one steeped in mysticism and one that preferred to buy off and appease its Roman enemies rather than fight a war.

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My opinions of Roman culture are probably not very well informed since they are based on much less information than you have. I had the usual survey courses and two years of Latin in which I read Caesar in the original, but that's about it. I also had some rather heated discussions in sixth grade with a dear friend. We argued over who was better civilization with me always taking the side of the Greeks and he championing the Romans.

The only thing I really liked about the Romans were the lovely sculptures of their gods and goddesses, but the Greeks had them first. The Roman military exploits bored or disgusted me. As a result, I never developed an interest in Roman history or read much about it the way I did with the Greeks. I probably missed a lot.

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Betsy, the truth is that if I was only left with what was taught by my professors, I would never come admire Rome, or even Greece for that matter. Modern historians have a terribly spectacular ability to extinguish all idealism and hero-worship in a young person. The only way I escaped their influence was because my Rome class had been reading the original sources, that is the translations of ancient Greek and Roman historians themselves.

There's a book we had to read as our first reading assignment, "Rise of Rome", by Polybius. As I wrote previously, he was a Greek, writing for Greeks, explaining to his countrymen why the Romans were better. I'll let him speak a little for himself. He writes about his history in the Introduction:

Can any one be so indifferent or idle as not to care to know by what means, and under what kind of constitution, almost the whole inhabited world was conquered and bought under the dominion of the single city of Rome, and that too within a period of not even fifty-three years? Or who again can be so completely absorbed in other subjects of contemplation or study, as to think any of them superior in importance to the accurate understanding of an event for which the past affords no precedent?

There is this analogy between the plan of my History and the marvellous spirit of the age with which I have to deal (260BC-149BC). Just as Fortune made almost all the affairs of the world incline in one direction, and forced them to converge upon one and the same point; so it is my task as an historian to put before my readers a compendious view of the part played by Fortune in bringing about her general purpose.

Now up to this time the word's history had been, so to speak, a series of disconnected transactions, as widely separated in their origin and results as in their localities. But from this time forth History becomes a connected whole: the affairs of Italy and Libya are involved with those of Asia and Greece, and the tendency of all is to unity. This is why I have fixed upon this era as the starting-point of my work. For it was the Roman victory over the Carthaginians in this war, and their conviction that thereby the most difficult and most essential step towards universal empire had been taken, which encouraged the Romans for the first time to stretch out their hands upon the rest, and to cross with an army into Greece and Asia.

The fact is that no writer of our time has undertaken a general history. Had any one done so my ambition in this direction would have been much diminished. But, in point of fact, I notice that by far the greater number of historians concern themselves with isolated wars and the incidents that accompany them: while as to a general and comprehensive scheme of events, their date, origin, and purpose, no one as far as I know has undertaken to examine it. I thought it, therefore, distinctly my duty neither to pass by myself, nor allow any one else to pass by without full study, a characteristic specimen of the dealings of Fortune at once brilliant and instructive in the highest degree [meaning Rome]. For fruitful as Fortune is in change, and constantly as she is producing dramas in the life of men, yet never assuredly before this did she work such a marvel, or act such a drama, as that which we have witnessed in the history of the Roman Republic. And we cannot obtain a comprehensive view of this marvel and drama from writers of mere episodes and anecdotes. It would be as absurd to expect to do so as for a man to imagine that he has learnt the shape of the whole world, its entire arrangement and order, simply because he has visited one after the other the most famous cities in it; or perhaps merely examined them in separate pictures. That would be indeed absurd: and it has always seemed to me that men, who are persuaded that they get a competent view of universal from episodical history, are very like persons who should see the limbs of some body, which had once been living and beautiful, scattered and remote; and should imagine that to be quite as good as actually beholding the activity and beauty of the living creature itself.

But if some one could there and then reconstruct the animal once more, in the perfection of its beauty and the charm of its vitality, and could display it to the same people, they would beyond doubt confess that they had been far from conceiving the truth, and had been little better than dreamers. For indeed some idea of a whole may be got from a part, but an accurate knowledge and clear comprehension cannot. We must conclude that episodical history contributes exceedingly little to the familiar knowledge and secure grasp of universal history. While it is only by the combination and comparison of the separate parts of the whole -- by observing their likeness and their difference -- that a man can attain his object: he can obtain an understanding at once clear and complete; and thus secure both the profit and the delight of History.

That's just the introduction, and it really draws you in. Also notice how conceptually stimulating it is, seeking to unify history, finding common elements and a common story in seemingly disjointed history of the world, and berating previous historians for not living up to the task.

So if you were never told about books like this in college, especially about the ones about Rome, then I blame the modern historians, men who occupy the same profession as Polybius but can't hold a candle to knowing what being a historian really means. I'm really sorry that your introduction to Latin and to Roman history was through Caesar; although I gather he was a good Latin writer, he was not a good man, and he came to power in the very eclipse of Roman morality.

It's very easy for modern historians to cynically destroy and admiration for Rome, as they quickly point to something like gladiatorial sports as sign of Roman depravity. But did you know that during the age of Polybius there were no gladiators competing in sports arenas? That practice simply was not in demand. There were no 'bread and circuses'. But your Latin teachers probably never told you about that.

In any case, the Greeks we mostly agree on, 'coz I adore them just as much as the Romans. :)

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Concerning Roman ethics and values, some things are coming back to me from latin classes long ago.

I remember something called “fides romana”, roman honesty. Staying true to one’s word, honouring promises. When negotiating a peace treaty they would exchange hostages. Each camp would send some VIPs to live in the other camp. This ensured nobody would restart hostilities and showed trust in the other side. Hostages wouldn’t flee even if they had the occasion. I think “vir” which means manliness, but also strength and vigour was an important concept. I think their philosophy was one of personnel responsibility and of having enough moral and physical strength to do the right thing.

Maybe the Romans didn’t have any written formal philosophy as the Greeks but they had a moral code that can be found in their writings and in speeches. I vaguely have some image of Cicero bringing the conspirator Catalina to justice. Even Cesar had moral principles. In de bello gallico, he talked about his campaigns and what was acceptable warfare. Force, strategy and ruse where acceptable, treason was not. The decadent Rome came with the empire. Circus games are something foreign to Rome. It probably was something they took over from Iberian tribes. I’ve read that Roman circus games and modern day Spanish bull fights stem from one common practice.

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I will also add that much of the tradition behind the "just war" theory, that Yaron Brook decried in his Morality of War speech, can be traced back to the Greeks. They had highly ritualized form of warfare: the soldiers met at predetermined time in predetermined places, specifically designed to be far from civilian population, governed by all sorts of international laws and rules of conduct. If I remember correctly, you can see a little bit of that in the movie Troy, where the two armies create a temporary cease-fire to collect the dead from the battle. As another example of such rules, after a battle the victors rarely chased the losers. The former assumed their army to be superior and assumed that the losers would submit after such a loss voluntarily. Although the city-states always warred with one another, they rarely threatened the central metropolis of the opposing army. And finally, the purposes of war were rarely clean, and the moral difference between the two sides was rarely clear-cut. War was not treated in a be-all-end-all matter, but a kind of an exercise, a kind of ritual part of life for men of the city-state to go through.

The Romans, on the other hand, took war very seriously, and practiced the opposite of the "just war" theory, namely the "total war" theory. They never undertook wars lightly, and many attempts and much time of embassy negotations had to pass before the declaration of war was arrived at - every attempt was made to show that they were not aggressors, and that morality was on their side. But once war was inevitable, the entire Roman people were mobilized to put the combined efforts of the whole Roman state to the task of destroying the enemy, or of ensuring that he will not be a threat ever again. Nothing would stop them from achieving unconditional submission of the enemy. Their philosophy was, either you kill all of us, or we will keep coming after you until we get you. They did not believe in the Greek rules of war, that the defeated army meant surrender; they fought until their last breath.

As strict as the Romans were toward the enemy, they were even stricter toward their own soldiers. Only three things were punished by death in a Roman military camp, one of which was sleeping on guard duty. If a unit got scared and ran away during battle while the rest fought on, this unit would often be later rounded up, and every tenth soldier would be executed. This practice was called decimation (from the word 'ten' in Latin).

But Romans took peace even more seriously. One of the most incredible of their customs is that their Romans' own army was not allowed within the city of Rome. Since, during most of the Republic "the army" and "the citizens" meant the same thing, in order for the citizen men of Rome to become soldiers, to train, to organize into army units, bring out weapons and armor, etc, they had to go outside the city walls, to a field called Campus Martius, the Field of Mars. Even the victorious generals, awarded by the people to a triumphal procession through Rome, had to use wooden swords instead of real ones.

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wow free, you know your crap. I'm impressed

another note worth mentioning is that occasionally the Greeks would employ heralds to supervise the Battle and ensure that all the rules were being followed.

Rome has it's faults, and it's high points, but it's still one of the most fascinating subjects of history to me.

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But Romans took peace even more seriously. One of the most incredible of their customs is that their Romans' own army was not allowed within the city of Rome. Since, during most of the Republic "the army" and "the citizens" meant the same thing, in order for the citizen men of Rome to become soldiers, to train, to organize into army units, bring out weapons and armor, etc, they had to go outside the city walls, to a field called Campus Martius, the Field of Mars. Even the victorious generals, awarded by the people to a triumphal procession through Rome, had to use wooden swords instead of real ones.

The border not to pass with a legion was the river Rubicon. When Cesar dicided to cross, he pronounced the famous words "Alea iacte est", the dice is thrown.

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No, that'd be impossible because the Rubicon is in Northern Italy. Campus Martius, the place where the army resided in full readiness, was outside of Rome proper, but not too far from city walls, according to my memory. And besides, by the time of Julius Caesar, most Romans have ceased to adhere to such silly notions as honor and morals; from my understanding by that time Campus Martius had ceased to serve its ancient purpose and armies were all over the place.

The reason Caesar wasn't allowed to cross the Rubicon is because he was assigned the province of Gaul north of Italy, and the Rubicon is the border between Gaul and Italy. A general assigned to a provice was not allowed to lead his armies outside of it unless allowed by the Senate, which he wasn't. He especially wasn't allowed to lead his armies south toward Rome, which would obviously mean revolution. That's why they knew the intentions behind his crossing as well as he did.

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I think “vir” which means manliness,

Actually 'vir' just simply means man, or hero. You will find it a lot in common Latin usage for "man".

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Oops my mistake, I know there's a word resembling vir, which denotes force of character.

Heh-the word is "virtus". It means "manliness, courage, excellence" and is where we get the word "virtue" from.

That would be an interesting discussion eh? From manliness to virtue :).

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Heh-the word is "virtus".  It means "manliness, courage, excellence" and is where we get the word "virtue" from.

That would be an interesting discussion eh?  From manliness to virtue :(.

It would indeed. Virtue can also mean power, possibilty like medicinal virtues of a plant, virtues of a lifestyle. Men, in ancient civilisations where considered stronger then women. In ancient Rome men did the fighting etc. So it is not strange that manliness and virtue where designed by the same word. Saying of a man, what's his manliness could be like saying what his virtue in battle, his virtue for Rome?

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Gathering an understanding of cultural values from reading books is difficult, unless these values are stated explicitly. But from my reading of Classical texts so far, both Greeks and Romans viewed women as fickle, unstable, ruled by emotions, and untrustworthy with the decisions of the greatest importance. Manhood was viewed as the opposite - sturdy, reliable, stable, based upon solid foundation, rational.

Nobody claimed that all men were like this, but this was the ideal aspired to, and man's nature was seen to be predisposed to development of these moral habits. That's why, although it looks incredible to us, it's not at all strange that for Romans virtue and literal manliness were synonimous.

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Just a small addition to this, but one of Aristotle's primary virtues is "courage". The original Greek for it is "andrea", which literally translates as manliness, in the most obvious meaning of having to do with the male. So both the Greeks and the Romans narrowed down manliness as one of the the essential qualities in a virtuous person.

Edited by Free Capitalist

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Perhaps you could be a little more specific as to where? :) The ancients do talk of womanly virtues, but these are qualitatively different in many ways from manly virtues.

Edited by Free Capitalist

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