Roman Contributions to the Modern World – What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?
People often refer to the great Greek thinkers and their contributions to our modern ways of living. However, Roman contributions to the modern world, in both our thinking and well-being, are often overlooked.
Rome was founded by Romulus in 753 BC. In many aspects, Roman contributions to the modern world began at this time. They then continued throughout the time of the Roman Empire until its dissolution in 476 AD. This period of history saw accelerated thinking, enhanced creativity and increased social awareness taking centre stage.
In the following article, we look at some of the most influential Roman contributions to the modern world.
The Romans’ Contribution to Thinking
Newspapers, although now taking more of a second place to the internet, allow modern society to share important information about social and political happenings. In the UK alone, according to ABC figures, nearly 13 million people buy a newspaper each day.
The first newspaper was created in 59 BC on the orders of Julius Caesar. It was called the Roman Acta Diruna and shared news and details of upcoming events. The Acta Diruna was carved on stone or metal and displayed in public places, like the Forum of Rome. Scribes were often commissioned to make copies to be sent to important dignitaries. This contribution to written communication alone, changed the world for ever.
The Roman Republic and Legal System
The Roman Republic is widely believed to have started in 509 BC and ended in 27 BC, with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period of Roman history that the Republic expanded throughout Italy, North Africa, Spain, France, Greece and most of the eastern Mediterranean.
The Republic was led by two elected consuls and advised by a senate of appointed magistrates. Extremely hierarchical by nature, the Republic led to our current legislative structures and modern democracy and is arguably one of the greatest Roman contributions to the modern world.
The Roman legal system was laid out by Gaius during the Flavian emperors. It is still the basis for most European legal systems and laws. In theses systems, laws are listed by crimes in a series of books. In the UK and USA, Common Law is an evolved variant of the original Roman Law. In Common Law, judgements and punishments are based on precedent – the rulings made by previous judges and juries.
The Roman Alphabet
The Roman alphabet is the most widely used alphabet and writing system in the world today. This alphabet is the official script of nearly all Western European languages, some Eastern European languages and also some non-European languages. It has allowed us to communicate more easily and to standardise language and learning texts.
The alphabet was borrowed from the Greeks by the Etruscans before being developed further by the Romans. The Romans changed some of the sounds of the letters, omitted and added various characters and developed the concept of upper and lower case letters. In fact, modern day capital letters differ only very slightly from their original Roman counterparts. The Roman alphabet is probably the most widely used of the Roman contributions to the modern world.
The Romans’ Contributions to Well-Being
The Roman Aqueduct
One of the Romans’ most well-known contributions, and possibly one of the most beneficial to our well-being, is the aqueduct.
The first Roman aqueduct was constructed in 312 BC by Appius Claudius Caecus. It was called Aqua Appia and supplied a water fountain sited at Rome’s cattle market. In subsequent years, Roman engineers used the same principles to build many more aqueducts, bringing water into cities and towns. Some of the aqueducts are still in use today.
The aqueduct led to the creation of public toilets, baths, a sewage system and the supply of fresh drinking water. The introduction of thermal heating to the aqueduct system enabled the further creation of heated baths, central heating and floor heating.
We are all familiar with forms of mass entertainment in our modern world. Theatres, cinemas, music concerts and mass-spectator sporting events are all Roman contributions to the modern world. The Roman government recognised that a large group of poor, unoccupied people was a threat to their power. They developed mass entertainment as a means of keeping their citizens busy!
The Colosseum could seat 45,000 spectators, who enjoyed battling gladiators, fights between men and wild animals and executions of Christians involving lions. It was even sometimes flooded for theatrical naval battles.
The Circus Maximus could hold 250,000 people and was the scene of many chariot races.
The Campus was an old soldier drill ground in Rome that was converted into a sports ground. At the Campus, Romans could gather to compete in sports such as running, jumping, archery, wrestling and boxing.
The Three Course Meal
In ancient Roman culture, the main meal of the day was known as ‘cena’. The cena was an important focus of Roman social and family life – something still enjoyed by many of us today.
During the period of the Roman Republic, the cena developed first into two courses and then, later, into three. The first course was known as gustatio, the second as primae mensaie and the third as secundae mensae. Today, many people still consume their main meal as three separate courses – a starter, main and dessert.
These examples highlight only a few Roman contributions to the modern world. In fact, many of our current habits, traditions and systems can be traced back to Roman times. As a period of history, the Roman times are still highly influential on many aspects of our modern lives.