We all know how the Romans conquered many lands and vastly expanded its territory, but did you know that although Rome forcibly took over neighboring lands, the conquered lands also willingly wanted to be part of Rome as well? Neighboring citizens were envious of the Romans as they were a flourishing empire with “sophisticated, urbane, classical culture”. Being home to great architectures that stands even until today, having a flourishing economy and an astoundingly powerful military, everyone then wanted to be a Roman! Rome was a very colorful and successful empire due to the many developments in war, law, art, religion, literature, architecture, technology and language. Through the conscientious documentations of the educated Romans, knowledge and “learning lessons” of past failures in the various aspects of developments were recorded and passed down through the years, allowing Rome to rapidly develop and avoid such mistakes again. However, can Rome be said to be the most successful empire in its time? Here are some of the notable achievements of the Roman empire!
Doesn’t this look like a bridge today? These are Aqueducts, and instead of ferrying people, these bridges were purely used for the irrigation of water. There were over a million people living in Rome itself and these aqueducts contributed in ensuring an abundant supply of water, while sustaining numerous public baths all over the city. These aqueducts could be built over mountainous regions making it particularly useful because water was able to flow now, from a gradual gradient of high to low. This was a huge step forward for the Roman irrigation system as they conquered the ever-changing heights of mountainous regions that deemed impossible for other civilizations to receive a constant flow of clean water. Therefore, this enabled the Romans to tap on a constant source of water as compared to other civilizations. Having this comparative advantage brought about many benefits to Rome.
Like most of the other civilizations, Rome, too, got its main supply of water from groundwater, but it was of a low quality and undrinkable directly, hence there was a strong demand for these aqueducts to be built. In total, 11 aqueducts supplied water for the main capital, while hundreds of others were built around the Roman empire. Water played a pivotal role in the urbanization of Rome.
Conquering the Hearts of Men
Rome’s impressive Imperial army, stood at its greatest number of 450,000 in 211 CE. The well-structured army, consisted of 30 legions, and each legion consisted of approximately 4000-6000 heavy infantrymen. In legions, were cohorts that consisted of 480 legionnaires, of which when we group 80 legionnaires together, we get a century. (Imagine this as platoons in the modern day army) And for every 80 legionnaires, we had 1 centurion leading them. Here is a diagram to help you!
Apart from the whopping 30 legions of Roman soldiers, there was the volunteer corps called the Auxilia. Augustus formed this branch which allowed people to volunteer for a minimum of 25 years in the army, after which they were awarded the much coveted Roman citizenship, giving the individual legal, fiscal and social advantages. As neighboring citizens were envious of the Romans, this offered a great opportunity for them to be part of this noble empire, while enabling Augustus to further expand his military power considerably. It was a win-win situation for Augustus and the people! Scores of lives were saved as outsiders surrendered to the Roman empire even though the Emperor spent little to no effort to rope in the neighboring territories. This was how Rome conquered lands without violence, pretty cool isn't it!
The abundance of water allowed the Romans to experiment with different types of concrete, or opus caementicium, as they tried to build higher structures. Concrete was made from an aggregate, a binding agent, and water. The aggregate were chunks of stone and rubble, whereas the binding agent was usually mud and a mixture of these 3 components gave forth to concrete. Later on, the Romans used limestone to further strengthen the mortar until finally concluding that adding volcanic dust created the strongest concrete.
When concrete was used in another amazing Roman invention, the arch, this exploded the potential of Roman architecture. The creation of Roman concrete arches was far more impressive than the Greeks using stones to build enclosed areas as it allowed for ventilation. As Roman concrete used crushed chunks of stone, this allowed for very minimal wastage as compared to the Greeks shaping every block of stone and stacking the stones on top of one another. This special blend of concrete devised by the Romans meant that their buildings were stronger structurally than the Greeks’ stone counterparts. As a result, the Romans were able to build architectural marvels such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon. These arches allowed for buildings to be more sturdy, achieve greater heights than ever before and even provided air circulation in it. As other civilizations were unable to achieve these factors, they were deterred from building upwards and trying different building styles such as the dome roof of Pantheon.
The Romans have skillfully created an Empire and a culture of their own that was the envy of many during their time. The idea of building aqueducts to provide a steady supply of water definitely proved to be a pivotal role in the urbanization of Rome. Moreover, even though the Roman army was immense, it was still well-organized. Augustus’ willful policy in the making of the Auxilia, the volunteer army, also allowed Rome to expand rapidly while minimizing the deaths of their own soldiers. Through the hard work of the Romans in finding the best concrete possible, they’ve left us, the modern society, with beautiful structures that continue to stand until today. Hence, we believe the Roman Empire is the most successful empire in its time.