In-Class Assignment: Unity in the Roman Cultural Matrix

By

Timothy Bullerwell and Rachel Totten Keith

The Roman Cultural Matrix is famous for its capability to maintain order and unity while aggressively and systematically conquering the Ancient Mediterranean World. The Roman Cultural Matrix is known for its two phases—the Republic and the Empire.

QUESTION: HOW DID ROMAN GOVERNMENT MAINTAIN UNITY AS A WHOLE?

The Roman Republic was defined by the rule of its citizens through elected representatives. According to Stan Rummel’s The Human Experience 2009, there “were the ‘patricians’ (rich, land-owning minority) and ‘plebeians’ (poor, peasant majority)” (Rummel 7.1). Harmony was maintained by the Hortension Law. Under this law, decisions made by the plebian assembly were “binding.” Rich and poor citizens alike must adhere to them all. The peace started to unravel however, during the Punic Wars, as a new upper-middle class of citizens emerged. The new middle class was not represented, nor subject to the Hortension Law, and this resulted in a destabilization of the existing harmony. Rummel states, “[t]he the Republic proved incapable of maintaining the balance among its classes, of being sensitive to the demands of conquered peoples, and of ruling a large empire efficiently” (Rummel 7.1).

Unity was ultimately achieved during the Empire. After successfully conquering all of the Mediterranean, Emperor Augustus united the peoples by restoring the belief that Romans were destined to rule the world. He also encouraged Roman culture (art and literature). According to Rummel, “[s]uch achievements laid the groundwork for nearly two centuries of the Pax Romana, a time of overall peace when Rome became ‘Hellenized’” (Rummel 7.2).

The long duration of Pax Romana and its inherent freedom expanded Hellenization and the inclusive Roman empire flourished. Ultimately, however, economic crisis, along with the geographic factor of sprawling land mass, and lack of orderly succession contributed to the downfall of the bloated Empire.

ELEMENTS OF THOUGHT

While considering the maintenance of unity in the Roman Cultural Matrix, we used two elements of thought: “stating the question” and “gathering information” (Paul and Elder).

We examined the question and restated it within the context of our reading. With regards to the question of how the Roman government maintained unity as a whole, it is somewhat of a misnomer. Yes, the government did maintain unity for certain stretches of time, but ultimately, like a roller-coaster ride, the unity would fall, then rise, then fall again. In the end, as it is with any amusement ride, the fun must end, and unity within the Roman Empire was no different. The question of how unity was maintained by the Roman government would have been better stated with a proviso that it ultimately cannot remain so. The question, as it stands, is misleading, it creates an illusion that unity was achieved, and remained that way.

The gathering of information helped to answer the question posed. Being that Stan Rummel is an expert in his field, we were assured that if we investigated his research and extrapolated conclusions, we would be on the right track. Other than primary sources, how do we ever know with certainty the accuracy of any particular historical event other than to seek out experts who shall guide the way? We felt that Rummel’s research and findings sufficed for the information we needed to answer the question.

Works Cited

Rummel, Stan. “Overview of the Greco-Roman Cultural Matrix”. TxWes. N.p., 2009. Web. 13 Nov 2015. <http://faculty.txwes.edu/csmeller/Human-Experience/Exp09Start2007.htm&gt;.

Paul, Ronald, and Linda Elder. “Critical Thinking Model.” Criticalthinking. The Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2007. Web. 27 Oct 2015. <http://www.criticalthinking.org/ctmodel/logic-model1.htm&gt;.

In-Class Assignment: Unity in the Roman Cultural Matrix