Objects as History Week 3
“Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”-William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
Today’s discussion began with the ending of the Peloponnesian War.After the war, all the Greek states began to decline and the Greeks were slowly replaced by the Romans. I learnt the Roman government motto: S.P.Q.R- Senatus Populusque Romanus,meaning ‘The Senate and People of Rome’.Rome was also known as the City of 7 Hills. The founding of Rome was by two brothers – Remus and Romulus. Legend says that the two brothers were nurtured by a she-wolf, and upon reaching adulthood, decided to build a city. Romulus killed Remus, and being the last man standing, the city was built in his name. Thus Romulus became the first King/Chieftain of Rome.
I learnt about the Roman naming structure, with the most popular Roman name as example:
Gaius Julius Caesar
Own name-Father’s name-Family name
- The word Caesar has three meanings- A child birthed out of a C-section procedure, a baby with thick hair, and a man who had fought an elephant.
- The killing of King Tarquinius by Brutus fueled the ending of monarchy in Rome. A senate was built up based on the Athenian Principles of Democracy.Anyone with rights to sizeable property could become a member of the senate.
- Society was divided into 5 classes. Only the first four classes were eligible to get enlisted into the army(thus the haves) while the last category was considered undeserving of the same (have nots).This fifth category was called ‘plebeian’, predecessor of the slang word ‘Pleb’, defined by Urban Dictionary ( cause it’s obviously a trustworthy site) as: “Someone with very basic, boring, or generic taste. They have no interest in the artistic value of things.”
- We discussed the rivalry between Rome and Carthage. The only thing I knew about Carthage before this class was Dido waiting for Aeneas on it’s shores (cause Shakespeare’s brand promos), but I actually understood quite a bit about the geography of the place after hearing about the wars fought between the two nations.
- Hannibal was one of the soldiers from Carthage who was the only man brave enough to leave his mark on Rome and coming the closest to bringing it down.He swore to be Rome’ s enemy as long as he lived, and when he came of age, he raised a massive army, which he marched across The Alps( a route no one would expect, thanks to the harsh terrain of these mountains) and proceeded to fight a war that lasted 8 years.
- He was finally defeated by a man named Scipio Africanus. They then proceeded to destroy Carthage, and salted the soil to ensure that nothing would ever grow in their soil.
- Roman society was filled with politics. This was probably because everyone was hungry for power and a strict Roman moral code instilled pride in every citizen of Rome. Two such men, Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla happened to meet. One had money, the other had a power position. The two joined hands. Marius was a born leader, loved by the people and getting elected thrice in absentia. As he grew older, his appetite for power would not end. Sulla, being left out for years now, crosses path with Marius again, and the two fight. Sulla wins the fight and immediately declares dictatorship over Rome.
- Meanwhile, Marius marries someone from Julli descent, and thus Julius Caesar is born. Sulla declares the baby to be a threat, and Caesar is put away into hiding outside of Rome. By living in smaller kingdoms, growing up with poor families, Julius Caesar becomes a natural people’s person.It doesn’t take him too long to rise back to power. Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Licinius Crassus thus form the First Triumvirate of Rome.
- Caesar leaves Rome towards Western Europe, and begins conquering foreign lands(famously saying ‘Veni, vidi, vici’- I came, I saw, I conquered’) , building a huge army. Unrest grew within the senate, along with jealousy. Julius Caesar marched into Rome with his huge army across the Rubicon, and the senate had been scared out of their living daylights, fleeing to Greece.
- Caesar brought the entire empire under his control, reconstructing the senate, and kept the people happy.
- He had a very famous love affair with Egyptian ruler Cleopatra, and it was quite the symbiotic relationship. Cleopatra needed Caesar’s army to defeat her brother Ptolemy XIII, while Caesar needed her abundance of resources (and fertility) to march into Rome, and have a son.
- Of course, Caesar’s revolutionary way of ruling the empire was seen as treason by all of the senate. And jealousy can only last so long before it consumes and destroys us. Soon it’s 15th of March in Rome. The climax finally unfolds, Julius Caesar’s shocking assassination by members of the senate, ruthlessly taking turns stabbing him until one out of the 23 stabs plunged into his aorta, resulting in imminent death. I love how dramatic this is, and I always imagine it happen in slow motion with a good background score, ending with Caesar seeing Brutus’ face for one last time before closing his eyes forever, his one hand reaching out,croaking the legendary “Et tu,Brute?” / “You too, Brutus?”
- There was immediate political imbalance, fueled by Mark Antony’s speech at Caesar’s cremation. Thus begins a power struggle between Caesar’s right hand man, and his adopted son Octavian.
- Thus begins the second love affair, this time between Cleopatra and Mark Antony. The two committed suicide together when defeated by Octavian. By this time, Rome had transformed from an oligarchic city state to an autocratic Roman Empire. Several rulers can come and go, but none are as well inscribed in our minds as Julius Caesar, titled the Father of The Roman Empire.
- The last notable thing to happen to the Roman empire was a sudden spark called King Constantine, who would basically shake up their entire world. He had a strong claim to the throne, and had his own religion ready to launch, all along with a Terms and Conditions form. Romans were not a fan of this alien concept of Christianity. Constantine wins over the empire, implements a whole set of brand logos and brand language, and also changes the HQ from Rome to Istanbul, now renamed Constantinople.
- The decline of the Great Roman Empire has several speculations around it. Barbaric invasions, Tribal invasions (like the real life Dothraki, aka the Huns) and lastly their extensive usage of lead, which may have led to a lead poisoning epidemic.
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”-Seneca the Elder /Marcus Annaeus Seneca (54 BC – 39 AD)