Why was Rome so successful?

Basically, the success of the Rome comes down to a few major factors which guaranteed it’s success. Ignoring the obvious points of military power and revolutionary Roman organisation we can observe throughout the epic history of the great power some themes which can be interpreted as key reasons for the success of the Romans.

The first such thematic – in contrast with Imperial Spain – is strong leadership. The nature of the Roman social system meant that the privileged were bound to the unprivileged and also supplied them with strong leadership, it was this trade off that secured the power of Rome could be invoked upon the whole of Europe. The system in Rome, which was consistent throughout it’s entire history, was one of a two tier social structure, strata if you would like. A class of nobility, the Patricians, acted as the suppliers of such leadership. The Patricians were mainly dominant in Rome itself, extremely rich aristocrats who controlled much of the trade going in and out of the capital, the agricultural and other production and of course the land. The lower tier was composed of the Plebs, which basically meant the common people, these were originally just the labourers etc, however in the Late Republic the social structure underwent radical reform under the era of Giaus Marius in the means of his legendary Military Reforms. The extension of military service to the landless poor, as well as this he established a permanent standing army whereby the state provided the weapons for the soldiers as well as pay, training all year round as well as a plot of land for the veteran soldier to return to when he had left the army. In this way Rome now had a near infinite supply of manpower, this would prove vital for the generation of mega-conquerers to come, namely Caesar and his adoptive son Octavian, who would become the first Emperor, Augustus.

Secondly we can observe the way that Rome handled it’s conquered lands as one of the major factors to it’s success and it’s continuation until the dark ages and beyond (The Byzantine Empire). Rome employed a tactic of systematic assimilation of the populace, in areas such as culture, language*, and general administration. Latin was learnt by the populations of the Roman Empire, this in fact deserved to be a point of it’s own such is it’s huge importance, where applicable the citizens would be instructed in Latin, and this would entrench as their second or even first language in some regions. The only real exceptions were in the Balkans and Greek City States due to the overall acceptance of Greek as a main language in the Roman Empire. It was said you only ever needed two languages, Latin and Greek, and you could traverse the whole of the Empire with incredibly little communication problems.

Furthermore Rome imposed it’s own cultural traditions upon the areas that it absorbed. Roman style games were held in key cities right across Europa, where there were  not such games as in the Roman Colosseum there were Greek style theaters which were further accepted into Roman culture.On top of this, until well into the Empire there was a practical Freedom of Religion within the expanse of Roman lands. Gods from Baal to Belenus were worshiped, and there was no economic or social jeopardies upon worshiping such deities. In fact, the population of Rome of Rome, during the time of the Republic, from one religion to another in sporadic movements, depending on which was in fashion at the time. We can look at this in a few ways; the fact that most religions were Paganistic and thus had little entrenched social expectations – such as prayer and formal services as in Christianity or Islam. Therefore we could view Rome as catching Europe before it’s people were captured under the thrall of religious fervour. Zealots were not prominent until the Republic had been long dead, and most of these were in fact Christians in Judea and surrounding areas.
Rome embraced other such freedoms when considering the vast amount of nationalities that were incorporated in it’s borders. They were allowed into the mass employer of the Roman Army, and Rome was extra tactful in this way by transferring the legions comprised of say Britons to the other side of the Empire where they could enforce Roman rule there, instead of threatening an armed insurrection. There was very minimal, if any, xenophobia towards the countries assimilated, they were fully accepted into the Roman Empire, and were gradually granted citizenship from the end of the Republic, most notably in the reign of Augustus. This we can attribute to the fact that the Empire didn’t really have a substantial national origin, as the land from which the expansion began from was in fact a small city on the river Tiber – the city of Rome – and thus it was reliant on these annexed nations to provide for the mother city. Finally we can observe cultural acceptance in the field of social mobility. Although there was a distinct divide between the two tiers of class this could be breached, for example Marius married into the Julii and thus became of Patrician status, and such a thing did happen occasionally. But mainly it was the ability of nationals to enter the city of Rome and establish themselves there without much regulation. This influx led to a population of over a million in the capital, which would not be achieved by any nation until the early period of the industrial revolution. Overall therefore there was much movement socially and besides the existence of slaves which we can disregard slightly due to the possibility of freedom from slavery by being released by kindly owners and also the fact that slaves were much better treated than in the era of worldwide empires nearly over 1500 years later.

The matter of general administration encompasses much, first and foremost the revolutionary organisation of Rome was employed on a massive scale when administering their vast conquests. The whole Empire was divided up into provinces for improved administration and Senators were alloted governorship of key provinces thus securing central control on the province while still allowing the locality to thrive. Secondly the currency of Denarii was commonly used across the Empire allowing secure economic relations across the Empire. Doubtless there are other factors that can be listed, but these are the main few which physically contributed to it’s success.

Finally we cannot of course neglect the role of technological advancement, Rome used iron whereas some of the older nations such as the Greek City states were still advancing from Bronze weapons. As well as this the actual tactics used by the Romans were unheard of and contribute to one of the sole reasons for Romes ultimate success. In contrast with Hellenic phalanx formation the Romans used mainly organised squares and rectangles with formal rows and columns allowing a high amount of flexibility within the ranks – this was one of the reasons for the defeat of Hannibal by Scipio in the Second Punic War; when Hannibal’s elephants charged at the amassed ranks of Roman’s they simply parted their ranks in a formal fashion and nailed the elephants as they passed between them. This allowed the Romans to use military tactics such as these as well as pincer movements, ambushes and flanking tactics which it used to pulverise a vast amount of nations which it encountered, even Pyrrus‘s  Greeks styled in the fashion of Alexander the Great‘s magnificent Macedonian armies.

In conclusion, the reasons summarized amount to; revolutionary Roman organisation, successive cultural assimilation, technological superiority and strong leadership. These factors are the absolute backbone of the far reaching successes of the Roman Empire, and can be seen adopted by successive Empires and nations throughout history. However, it is the fact that Rome combined all these factors to form arguably the most stable, powerful and successful Empires in world history.

The Roman Empire at it's largest


22 thoughts on “Why was Rome so successful?

  1. Mary Beard (University of Cambridge) is really worth reading. Try SPRQ. It ‘s a good read with a lot of detail and social history and very well written. She is top in her field.

      • Without the Roman empire, the west wouldn’t be as it is now. It was the most influencial time and much of what we do in government, education, law, roads, buildings, and etc., comes from the Roman empire. Reading about it helps you to understand your own society, if indeed you want to.

  2. This is very helpful, it points out many ignored facts on why the Romans advanced so fast. I have an history project due and this helped THanks

  3. i love to learn about this stuff your a genis and thank you for all your help it is justa so fun to learn about new things and be able to remeber stuff like this this is a nice web you got here again that in needed this info for work julius ceaser is just a great ruler until his friends killed him those friends are fake he could have done better i’d love to hear more -student

  4. A very interesting look at some of the less-often considered factors of Rome’s superiority! I’d love to hear more about the rulers; most history books will cover Caesar and leave it there, but I’ve never really heard about Giaus Marius, for example.

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